Terms and Definitions

Below are ways these struggles related to focus, task initiation, sustaining attention and related items are often defined.  It is important to know that no one has a 'perfect' set of executive function skills.  We all have stronger and weaker areas of natural abilities.

Executive Functioning System of the Brain

Executive functions are cognitive skills that help us problem-solve and get things done.  These skills develop over one’s lifespan, from infancy into adulthood.  They include the ability to:  manage time and attention, set goals, plan and prioritize, organize, switch focus, adjust and refocus, attend to details, develop timelines, complete tasks efficiently, manage stress and anxiety, collaborate effectively, maintain clutter-free space, control and regulate attention, emotion and motivation.  You can strengthen these skills by increasing awareness of when and how you use them, changing habits and routines.  

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

ADHD is a neurobehavioral, genetic syndrome that leads to structural, chemical, communication and arousal differences in the brain that subsequently impact what is called the executive functioning system of the brain. 

ADHD, predominantly inattentive presentation

People with this subtype of ADHD present mainly with great difficulty getting going or starting things (even when they want or need to), disorganization, forgetfulness, distractibility, zoning out, misperceiving time, feeling emotionally dysregulated.  Hyperactivity and impulsivity are less of a struggle as for those with other subtypes of ADHD.  Some tend to be under-active (vs. hyperactive). 

ADHD, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation

People with this subtype struggle a lot with hyperactivity.  They struggle also with inattention, but their main challenges are related to hyper-arousal and trouble ‘putting on the brakes’.  They can have difficulty sitting still, waiting in line, holding back impulses to act and speak.  They can be fidgety and feel a constant need to be ‘on the go’ or have an inner sense of restlessness.  They can struggle with impulsivity and may have experienced a lot of negative consequences from uninhibited behaviors, hasty comments and rash decision-making.  

ADHD, combined presentation (both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types)

People with combined subtype have aspects of both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive presentations.  Women with combined presentation often describe experiences similar to those with the inattentive subtype, also with being overly talkative, prone to interrupting conversations, making impulsive decisions and physical or mental hyperactivity. 

*ADHD definitions taken from Solden and Franks' book A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD

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