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ADHD was previously defined as "disruptive behavior disorder of childhood". Today there is new research and understanding and is now defined as "development impairments of the brain's self-management system, it's executive function". Some experts say it isn't a deficit of attention as much as it is a deficit of attention regulation.  Below is a breakdown of the adult ADHD executive function symptoms compiled from the work of Doctors Barkley, Brown and Tuckman. 


Needless to say, adults affected by ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans, managing their emotions, thinking before acting and developing self-awareness. Whether you are diagnosed with ADHD or not, no one is operating at 100% capacity of all executive functions. So depending on the severity of your symptoms and the number of areas affected, you might experience complex life organization issues is one or more of these ares.

For those affected by ADHD, building life structures that are unique to their struggle is crucial. 


Your brain's ability to keep track of information and things

  • You have trouble organizing your thoughts, emotions, tasks, schedule, finances, home and most everything else

  • It's excruciating to manage anything that is tedious and boring

Impulse Control

Your brain's ability to stop and think before acting

  • You seem unable to make yourself do the things you hate to do

  • You have no tolerance for boredom

  • Tedious, menial tasks make you feel like you want to die

  • You're controlled by the "now" - who cares about the future?

  • You think too fast, react too fast, drive too fast, speak too fast and act too fast

Planning & Prioritizing

Your brain's ability to come up with steps to reach a goal

  • It's impossible to prioritize because everything feels important

  • It's hard to make a plan because you can't stop, think and self-talk

  • Everything around you seems chaotic

  • There is little method or system to why or how you get things done...or not

Emotional Control

Your brain's ability to manage

your feelings

  • You often get more upset than is "normal" for the situation 

  • You can be explosive and unpredictable

  • You seem to feel things more intensely than the people around you

  • You get frustrated easily

Task Initiation and Completion

Your brain's ability to get started on something

  • You seem unable to do things just because you "should" do them - you need a deadline or major consequences (and even then sometimes get done

  • You have a hard time motivating yourself to get started

  • You struggle to finish tasks that aren't interesting 

  • You can't resist the urge to do something more fun when you're supposed to be working

Working Memory

Your brain's ability to hold visual and verbal information and use it to complete a task

  • You forget to do the things you say you're going to do

  • You leave most projects unfinished

  • You get started on something, get distracted, and never remember to go back to it

  • You can't remember your goals long enough to stick to them

Flexibility Control

Your brain's ability to roll with

the punches

  • You hyperfocus on one task and forget about finishing others

  • When circumstances change, you struggle to adapt


Your brain's ability to keep track and evaluate your performance on regular tasks

  • Goals? What goals? Most goals you've set have either been forgotten or total failures

  • You seem to make the same mistakes over and over, nothing seems to improve even when people ask you to change

  • Your time zones are "now" and "not now"

  • You cannot accurately estimate how long a task will take you

  • You are always running late

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