Executive functioning refers to the self-regulation skills and mental processes that allow us to plan, remember instructions, focus attention, and successfully juggle multiple tasks. The brain needs this set of skills to filter distractions, set and follow-through on goals, prioritize tasks, and control impulses.
Difficulties with executive functioning may vary from person to person, but some of the most common struggles are:
Working Memory: The ability to retain information over a brief period of time, such as remembering a list, or the steps in a series of instructions.
Mental Flexibility: The ability to sustain or shift attention in response to varied demands, as well as the ability to apply different rules in different settings.
Self Control: The ability to set priorities and resist impulses.
Children are not born with executive functioning skills, though they are born with the potential to develop them. They learn them through practice, example, and structure that helps them to develop these skills. Chronic stress, neglect, and abuse can all hinder children’s ability to develop executive functioning.
Adolescence is a period of rapid changes and development in the brain. Adolescents’ brains are still developing, and executive functioning is not yet fully developed. This is an important time to consolidate executive functioning skills gained in childhood, and to further develop the skills and habits that support strong executive function.
Helping teens develop good executive functioning can be challenging, because adults must balance teens’ need for independence with their continued need for modeling and accountability to support their executive functioning.
Although not classified as a learning disability or learning difference in itself, struggles with executive functioning are almost always evident in the learning profiles of kids and teens with ADHD. These struggles can also be seen in many individuals who do not have ADHD.
Risk factor for substance abuse
Deficits in executive functioning have been found to be both a risk factor for substance abuse in adolescence, as well as a consequence of substance abuse.
Decreased self-esteem, academic performance, and social isolation
All of these can put adolescents at greater risk for substance abuse. Therefore, it is important that in treating substance abuse in teens, executive functioning is assessed and if necessary, addressed in treatment planning
Aware of consequences
Teens should be educated on the ways that abusing substances can hurt their executive functioning abilities, which have a strong correlation with future success.
Here are some tips and methods to address different areas of executive functioning struggles.
If your loved one struggles with abusing substances like marijuana or alcohol, and you also suspect that executive functioning deficits may be keeping them from achieving their full potential, it is important to seek qualified help.
Sandstone Care’s holistic treatment program assesses all aspects of a person and their family and develops an individualized treatment plan that takes into account each unique client’s strengths and weaknesses.
We offer a full continuum of care for adolescents and young adults, including Transitional Living Program, Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient, and Outpatient programs to treat substance abuse, addiction, and co-occurring disorders.
Our virtual IOP program offers the same programming that we offer in person, all online – this is ideal for those who live too far to drive to an addiction center, have transportation issues, or have health concerns that make in-person treatment challenging.
Our commitment to our clients’ lasting success and recovery helps us continually exceed licensing standards of care throughout the industry.