Okay so I see some posts about executive dysfunction that kinda misrepresent what it is, so I wanted to clarify.
Executive dysfunction is not: laziness, lack of motivation, lack of willpower, lack of self-control, bad attitude, an excuse to not do something
Executive dysfunction is: an actual deficiency in the function of the frontal lobe that can be seen and measured in an MRI scanner, associated with neurodivergencies such as autism and ADHD, and mental illnesses
When you can’t do something because of ED, it’s not because you aren’t motivated enough or lack self-control. It’s because your brain literally isn’t running the commands needed to make your body move and do the things you need to. You may be hella motivated and determined to do something and you still won’t be able to because you don’t know where to start or how to proceed to the next step or what to do at all. You may be very hungry, know that you have a frozen pizza in your fridge, yet not be able to do the “fairly simple” steps to cook that pizza because of ED.
Executive dysfunction cannot be helped with more motivation, rewards, hard work or whatever. The part of your brain that is supposed to break the task into steps and guide you through them isn’t working right now, and no amount of rewards or discipline will make it work. The only things you can do is accommodate for the lack of this function: either ask someone near you to guide you through the steps of your task, or have a list of steps prepared beforehand, while your frontal lobe was more merciful. Shouting, crying, blaming, punishing yourself, etc won’t do one bit to help it.
And for people who don’t know what it’s like to have ED and have people around them who do have it, here’s the thing: instructions have to be very precise. I know you never pay attention to this because you don’t have to, but here’s the deal - even the smallest steps have to be akwnoledged. For example you may think that an instruction to make tea looks like this:
1. Fill the kettle with water and boil it.
2. Put a tea bag in your cup.
3. Add sugar if you want
4. Pour hot water into your cup
5. Take the bag out after a minute or two
6. Enjoy your tea
But it has many, many intermediate steps that a typically functioning frontal lobe will figure out, but a person affected by executive dysfunction won’t be able to do. So instead that instruction will look more like this:
1. Open the kettle
2. Open a bottle of water/turn on tap water
3. Fill the kettle with water
4. Turn off the tap water/close the water bottle
5. Close the lid on the kettle
6. Push the button to turn it on
And so on. So that one step in the first instruction is actually six steps in the second instruction. And giving a person with executive dysfunction the first instruction probably won’t help them at all. And btw this is might be the reason that person in your life leaves the lights on or doors open or products out of the fridge all the time - their brain just doesn’t guide them through it.
So, things to remember:
1) Executive dysfunction is a real thing and it’s not the person’s fault
2) It cannot be helped with motivation, self-control, discipline, rewards or punishments
3) It can be helped with careful, thorough instructions prepared by yourself beforehand or by someone else without ED
4) It is very difficult and frustrating for the person experiencing it first and foremost
5) If you have ED, be kind to yourself. Learn ways around it. Rest from time to time. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. And be honest to yourself about whether you can or cannot do the thing yourself. Trust me, it will help you in the long run.