Your To Guide Executive Functions: Emotion

by | Feb 12, 2020

executive functions

Executive functions: emotion.

Managing emotions with ADHD has been a major topic of conversation in our private membership.

Many of us struggle to handle anger, frustration, insecurity and a variety of other emotional and mental health issues. ADHD doesn’t usually travel alone.

Being a woman and a mother in the age of The Real Housewives, and expecting ourselves to be a modern-day June Cleaver doesn’t help the issue.

Emotional management is something that we develop as we mature. Developing an inner voice is part of how the brain operates.

Executive functions are difficult for all of us, and emotional management is no exception.

your guide to executive functions: emotion

See Dr. Russell Barkley’s website for a more in-depth look at verbal and non-verbal working memory.

Emotional management, or lack thereof, is the center of what makes life with ADHD so difficult.

executive function: emotion

Dr. Thomas Brown’s description of emotion: (the best one I have seen so far.)

“Although DSM-IV does not recognize any symptoms related to the management of emotion as an aspect of ADHD, many with this disorder describe chronic difficulties managing frustration, anger, worry, disappointment, desire, and other emotions. They speak as though these emotions, when experienced, take over their thinking as a computer virus invades a computer, making it impossible for them give attention to anything else. They find it very difficult to get the emotion into perspective, to put it to the back of their mind, and to get on with what they need to do.”

Emotional distress has a way of taking over your life when you have ADHD.

Whether we feel we have been rejected, criticized or even complimented we have a hard time processing any of it. So we perseverate. We go over and over a short conversation in our mind.

The problem with this type of hyperfocus is that we tend to neglect other things and people in our lives.

Learning how to weather the emotional storms is the only option.

Verbal and Non-verbal working memory

According to Dr. Russell Barkley, “non-verbal working memory is the capacity to hold information in the mind through our senses.” And it allows us “to engage in visual imagery.”

Our working memory is impaired and so we have trouble recalling past events, predicting future events and deferring gratification.

Verbal working memory is described as, “the ability to converse with yourself and have a sense of yourself.” This type of working memory allows us to plan ahead solve problems.

Lacking the ability to filter our own self-talk we live reactively.

People with ADHD have trouble following rules (both internal and external) and setting goals and standards for themselves.

Having these impairments to both non-verbal and working memory affects us on a pretty deep level. A lifetime of criticism and internal conflict takes it’s toll.

Tips for emotional management

  • – Check out my article on emotional management, I wrote it a while ago but it’s worth reading.
  • – Analyze some of that negative self-talk. Really think about where it is coming from.
  • – Practice replacing negative self-talk with more affirming thoughts.
  • – Talk to a cognitive behavioral therapist about the emotional muck.
  • – Journal, learn how your brain works and the people and situations that impact you.
  • – Meditate, or at least take some quiet contemplative time each day.
  • – Take your medications as prescribed and keep an open mind.


Finally, learn as much as you can about managing emotions in a healthy way.

Life is hard enough without flogging ourselves over every little mistake. Use the ideas above to hit the ground running.

You are capable of managing your emotions but it takes a lot more self-awareness and effort when you have ADHD.

Get to know other women living with ADHD and working together toward a calmer, more satisfying life with ADHD in the Enclave.

It’s amazing and I’m not afraid to say it!


I have included a link to Dr. Barkley’s book for your convenience. See my disclosure and privacy policy.