How Executive Dysfunction And Depression Are Related

Updated May 19, 2020

If you suffer from depression or you know someone who does you're probably curious about just what it could actually mean. You're probably wondering what type of symptoms there are and what they mean for your future, right? Well, when it comes to executive dysfunction and depression you're definitely going to want to know a whole lot more. After all, your executive functions are extremely important to keeping you living your life to the fullest. If you're not paying attention to the ways that they can be affected by depression or anything else, you're setting yourself up for problems.

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What Are Executive Functions?

First, let's take a look at what executive functions actually are. These are the skills that you use when you're trying to pay attention, multitask or remember information. They're responsible for allowing you to plan, organize, strategize and manage your time better. For most people, these skills start to develop somewhere around 2 years of age and by the time you reach 30 years of age you've pretty well fully developed them. As you can likely tell, each of these skills is going to be extremely important for your quality of life.

What is Executive Dysfunction?

When you suffer from executive dysfunction it means that you have difficulty actually doing any number of these things. You may have trouble with only one or two different aspects of executive function or you may struggle with all of them. For those who do have these types of difficulties it's often called executive function disorder, though this isn't considered an official mental health disorder under the DSM. Still, there are ways that executive dysfunction can be treated and ways that you can continue to work toward gaining these skills or improving them.

What About Executive Dysfunction and Depression?

One of the reasons that you may suffer from executive dysfunction is because of depression. That's because depression affects a number of areas of the brain and one of the areas could definitely be the part that controls these skills and responsibilities. If you have damage to this area of the brain, either through injury, a birth defect or depression, you could struggle to develop these skills at all or you may have trouble getting them to the level that they should be. That's why it's important to find out more about where the problems have started.

If you've struggled with executive dysfunction for a long period of time, you may have an injury or some other reason that you've never been able to accomplish these types of tasks. On the other hand, if the dysfunction is relatively recent and you've been diagnosed with depression it's entirely possible that the two are linked. In that case, working through your depression may allow you to regain some or all of your executive function and get back to the life that you want to live with all of the skills you are meant to have.

Do I Have Executive Dysfunction?

There are a number of different ways that you can learn more about whether you actually have executive dysfunction. You may experience any combination of these, for example, or you may experience something else entirely. Because every person is different, the ways that you experience executive dysfunction are going to be different as well. Talk to your doctor and a mental health professional if you find yourself struggling with any combination of these and you may be able to start working on improvements quickly.


  • Trouble managing your time effectively
  • Difficulty keeping your things organized
  • Continued loss of items
  • Lack of ability to deal with frustration
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty recalling information
  • Lack of ability to monitor emotions and behavior
  • Misplacing items constantly

If you feel like these things describe you and like you're constantly falling behind on things that you used to be able to do then it's possible that you're being affected by this disorder. Combine that with some of the symptoms of depression that we will discuss in the following sections and you may see drastic improvements if you seek out a mental health professional.

What is Depression?

Depression is considered chronic, persistent sadness or loss of interest, which negatively affects the way in which you act, think and feel. There are several different types of depression and many different ways that it can affect you in your life, but we'll talk about some of the symptoms here, which you may be experiencing in any combination. In order to be diagnosed with depression, an individual must exhibit a combination of several of these symptoms that persist for at least two weeks. A mental health professional will be able to make an actual diagnosis and let you know if depression is the most likely reason for the symptoms you're experiencing.

  • Intense sadness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Increase or decrease in appetite or weight
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Lack of energy
  • Purposeless activities
  • Slowed speech
  • Feelings for worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

As you can tell, some of the symptoms of depression actually overlap with those of executive dysfunction, which is one of the reasons that the two are so closely linked in many ways. Because of the depression and the lack of interest or motivation that goes along with it, it's entirely possible that you could start to experience a type of brain fog that makes it difficult to think.

Want To Learn More About Executive Dysfunction And Depression?
Speak With A Board-Certified Mental Health Expert Online.


In order to make a diagnosis, a therapist or mental health professional will also look at a number of different aspects of your life and health condition to make sure that there is no other reason for the symptoms that you are experiencing. Brain tumors, vitamin deficiencies and even thyroid problems can result in some of these symptoms and these will be evaluated as possibilities as well, before treatment will be started in any form. We'll talk about the combination of therapies and treatments that are commonly used to treat both of these disorders in the next section.

Treating Executive Dysfunction and Depression

If you're looking for treatment, the best thing that you can do is seek out a mental health professional. Therapy is one of the best methods of treatment for both of these disorders, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on your behaviors and the way that your thinking can control them. When paired with medications, this type of therapy has seen tremendous results and can greatly improve the chances of your getting back to the type of life that you want to live again.

With this combination, it is entirely possible that you will start to recognize improvements in your life and in the way that you perform different functions as well. Keep in mind that your mental health professional may prescribe you different types of medications to help treat these disorders. If you're looking to get help, however, you're definitely going to want to work with the best remedy and make sure that you're using your therapy sessions to the best possible ends as well. After all, medication without therapy is not successful.

Finding Your Help

If you're looking for professional help the first thing you should be looking at are the therapists that are able to treat the disorders that you're currently suffering from. You won't have a formal diagnosis until you talk with a professional, but if you know the type of symptoms you're experiencing, you can get an idea of what you're struggling with and who you're going to want to talk to. From there, you can start narrowing it down even further to who has the experience level and the training that you feel most comfortable with.

You're also going to want to look at something entirely different than you might expect, online therapy. When you're only looking in your hometown you're going to be severely limited about what you can actually do and who you can actually interact with. So what are you going to do? The best thing you can do is look online and find a much wider range of different therapists that will be able to help you. This gives you more freedom and also provides you with more options for who you're going to feel comfortable with.


BetterHelp is one way you can get the online help that you're looking for without having to worry about going to a physical office for your therapy. You'll be able to reach out to a mental health professional and you'll have no problem communicating with them from a place where you feel completely comfortable, your own home. No matter where you are or what you're doing, all you're going to need is a mobile device of some time and an Internet connection and you'll be able to connect to your therapy session from absolutely anywhere. That's definitely going to make it easier and more convenient for you to get in a session whenever you feel like you actually need one.

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