Struggling To Start And Finish Tasks? This Could Be The Medical Reason Why

There could be deeper issues at play.
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Constantly losing your keys? Always forgetting about that crucial meeting? Struggling to start, let alone complete, tasks in your day-to-day life?

It might be a sign of executive function disorder – a behavioural symptom that disrupts a person’s ability to manage their own thoughts, emotions and actions, according to The Cleveland Clinic.

Commonly associated with ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and more, it can have a big impact on a person’s life.

So, we thought we’d explain the symptoms, share the conditions that can cause it, and explain what to do if you suspect you have it.

How can I tell if I have executive function disorder?

The condition is usually a symptom of another, underlying issue; but no matter what causes it, it means that either your organisation or regulation skills are affected in a way that regularly disrupts your life.

Executive functions are especially useful for regimented environments, like work and school – but you might face issues with your relationships too if you struggle to manage yours.

Organisation skills include your ability to “pay attention to details, plan and strategise, solve problems, and think abstractly,” according to Healthline.

Meanwhile regulation skills cover your ability “to regulate behaviour and emotions, monitor thoughts and input from your environment, reason and make decisions, manage time, and control impulses”.

Signs that you could be struggling with one, or both, of these areas include:

  • Losing important paperwork or valuable items;
  • Problems with organising, planning or completing tasks;
  • Struggling to multi-task, schedule, or stick to plans;
  • Forgetting appointments;
  • Struggling to “get going” on important tasks;
  • Finding it hard to keep your home or office tidy;
  • Having a tough time managing frustration or setbacks;
  • Struggling to remember or follow instructions;
  • Finding it hard to regulate your emotions, mood, and impulses;
  • Struggling to put your thoughts into words.

What causes executive function disorder?

As we said earlier, the condition is actually a symptom and not a cause in and of itself.

Medical News Today suggests that the symptom can be associated with ADHD, depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), autism, Tourette’s and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The publication adds that traumatic brain injury and more acute causes, like exhaustion, stress, and consuming substances like alcohol, can induce executive function disorder.

In other words, there are lots of causes for it – which brings us to our next point.

Seek professional advice if you’re worried

”Executive function issues can affect everything from how a person interacts with other people to their ability to learn and work,” says Medical News Today.

It can seriously affect your day-to-day, so if you’re worried that you might have the symptom, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor or psychiatrist.

NHS Cumbria offers a self-assessment quiz for executive function disorder if you’d like to try screening yourself at home first.

“Diagnosing the cause of executive function issues can help identify treatment options, such as medications and therapy,” Medical News Today adds.

Help and support:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on