Your Brain on ADHD

Jump to:

Your brain on ADHD might not be the most interesting topic to read about, but it is an important one. Learning about your brain and how it functions can help you to understand your ADHD better and show you that it’s not you, it’s your brain.

Executive function is a series of mental processes that help us with our daily lives. Most happen automatically without our notice and even though there are 6 different facets to executive function, they often overlap and work together.


The six facets of executive function are:

  • Activation
  • Focus
  • Effort
  • Emotion
  • Memory
  • Action

Activation is basically getting started. It involves planning, organizing, prioritizing, and time management. This is where our procrastination kicks in big time, even when we need to get started on something important. Perfectionism also plays a part here.

Focus is pretty self explanatory; it’s the ability to focus, stay focused, and shifting focus from one thing to another.

Effort includes staying alert, speed of processing information, and continuing to stay alert for the length of the project. When you have problems in this area, you may find it hard to turn off your brain at night. As a result, you might stay up later than you should and have trouble getting up in the morning.

Emotion involves managing your frustration, anger, disappointment, and others. It may be hard to put the emotions aside in order to concentrate on what you need to do.

Memory is another self explanatory one. People who have ADHD often have poor working memory as well as difficulty in retrieving information when it is needed.

Action involves regulating our behavior. It can include impulsive behavior, talking too much or interrupting, and hyperactivity. It also applies to social skills such as noticing body language or other signals such as boredom from those around us.

You may find that you have difficulty in many of the areas, but not all. At least 90% of people with ADHD have noticeable executive functioning impairment.

For a more complete discussion of executive function see Dr. Thomas Brown’ site. For a checklist of difficulties associated with executive function, click here. Note that this is a checklist for parents but it can easily apply to adults as well.

Picture of Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

Read More