Reducing Executive Dysfunction With Life Skill Building

Reducing Executive Dysfunction With Life Skill Building

According to Drug and Alcohol Review, between 30% and 80% of individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) experience cognitive impairments. In addition, mental health disorders are closely associated with functional impairment. Whether your challenges with functional impairments stem from SUD or other mental health challenges, they impede life skill building. Your ability to engage in life skill building is a vital part of living a quality life. Therefore, increasing your awareness of life skill building and executive function can support lasting recovery.

At Driftwood Recovery, we recognize that an important part of sustained recovery is community integration. Through community integration, you learn how to live in your community and build a meaningful life without substances. Moreover, the process of community integration supports your abilities and encourages life-skill building. When you continue to invest in life skill building in recovery, it allows you to continue to learn and grow. Therefore, understanding what executive functioning is can support sustained recovery.

Yet, you may question what executive function is. How does executive function relate to life skill building in recovery?

What Is Executive Function?

According to "Executive Function & Self-Regulation" from Harvard University, executive function is a set of skills. Specifically, executive function and self-regulation are skills that help you plan, focus your attention, remember instructions, and balance multiple tasks. Moreover, the life skill building born from executive function requires:

  • Working memory
    • Controls your ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information across short periods
  • Mental flexibility
    • It helps you maintain or shift your attention to respond to multiple demands and apply different rules in different settings
  • Self-control
    • Allows you to set priorities and resist impulsive actions and or responses

The skills that come with executive functioning help you manage a variety of important processes:

  • Filters for distraction
  • Helps prioritize different tasks
  • Control impulses
  • Set and achieve goals

Thus, executive functioning is vital to success at school, work, and life, as well as cognitive, social, and psychological development. Although you are not born with executive functioning skills, they can be learned. As noted in “What Is Executive Function? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?” from Harvard University, executive functioning skills are developed through experiences and practice. Typically, you start building executive functioning skills in infancy, like playing peekaboo. However, executive dysfunction can impede your ability to engage in life skill building for your well-being.

Understanding Executive Dysfunction

As noted by the Cleveland Clinic in “Executive Dysfunction,” challenges with executive dysfunction are often a symptom of a variety of conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and depression. Executive dysfunction is a disruption in your brain that impairs your ability to control your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Challenges with executive dysfunctions can be detrimental to your ability to function in your daily life.

For instance, executive functioning is important for problem-solving, critical thinking, and planning. Now, you may wonder what executive dysfunction looks like in your daily life. Executive dysfunction can manifest in a variety of ways because it impacts many different areas of the brain. Some examples of executive dysfunction include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Unable to move from one task to another
  • Difficulty planning and managing time
  • Unable to express thought process out loud

With increased awareness of executive function and dysfunction, you can understand the significance of life skill building for functioning. Understanding the importance of brain function can help highlight the impact substance misuse can have on life skill building.

Substance Use Disorder and Life Skill Building Impairment

It is commonly known that both the use and misuse of substances have an impact on your brain. As stated in Learning and Memory, impulsivity and maladaptive decision-making are cornerstones of impairment born from addiction. The loss of control over functioning due to substance misuse is a product of changes to neural signals in the brain.

Moreover, substance misuse disrupts and changes the reward centers in the brain, which increases the craving for those reward feelings. The challenges of SUD impede life skill building for both cognitive and emotional processing, like emotional control, decision-making, and building new skills. Further, as previously mentioned, challenges with executive functioning and life skill building are also tied to mental impairments.

The Impact of Mental Health Disorders on Executive Function

Functional impairment and mental health disorders are synonymous with each other. The entanglement of impairment in life skill building with mental health disorders is due to mental health as a component of being that encompasses your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. More specifically, your mental health impacts how you think, feel, and behave concerning your experiences and interactions.

Further, as stated in the Iranian Journal of Public Health, severe mental illness (SMI) is a mental, emotional, or behavioral condition that leads to functional impairment that greatly restricts or interferes with your life and everyday activities. Many of the symptoms of SMIs, like bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), contribute to impaired functioning through emotional dysregulation, low self-esteem, and interpersonal conflict. Despite the functional impairment that comes with mental health disorders, treatment and continued support from alumni help reduce and manage your symptoms.

Alumni Life Skill Building at Driftwood Recovery

It is never too late to work on life skill building to support a quality life. Through the fostering of life skill building, you can improve multiple areas of well-being such as:

  • Communication
  • Self-awareness
  • Resilience
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-care
  • Goal setting

At Driftwood Recovery, we know reintegration into your everyday life is best supported with access to knowledge and skill building interventions. Through an active and vibrant alumni program, you have access to services and resources that support life skill-building for sustained recovery. With guidance and support, you are reminded of your strengths and skills to be a productive member of society. Whether you need help building your social skills or tools for finding gainful employment, our peer-driven network can support you in building a purposeful life.

SUD can lead to changes to your brain that increase your risk for executive dysfunction. Moreover, challenges with the symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and bipolar disorder can contribute to functional impairments that disrupt your daily life and activities. Functional impairments can include difficulties with decision-making, emotional regulation, and completing tasks. Therefore, investing in interventions that support life skill building can support symptom reduction, relapse prevention, and life satisfaction. At Driftwood Recovery, we are committed to providing a robust and vibrant alumni program where you can continue to build on your life skills through access to resources like the lived experiences of your peers. Call us at (512) 759-8330 to continue building skills for your sustained recovery.