Can PTSD Cause Executive Dysfunction?

Health & FitnessCancer / Illness

  • Author Robin Akins
  • Published December 27, 2023
  • Word count 525

Can PTSD Cause Executive Dysfunction?

Did you know that about 6% of the US population suffers from PTSD? This amounts to about 15 million adults! If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms after trauma, you're far from alone.

One thing that you may have noted since the trauma is the emergence of executive dysfunction. But can PTSD cause executive dysfunction? Read on to answer this question and learn more.

Can PTSD Cause Executive Dysfunction?

PTSD can cause executive dysfunction in many cases. This is because the frontal lobe of the brain is affected by trauma, whether that trauma is psychological or physical.

The frontal lobe is responsible for planning, reasoning, problem-solving, idea generation, insight, and awareness. All of these are required for concentration on daily activities.

This means that adults who functioned perfectly well prior to the trauma may have issues with focus and memory post-trauma. Since executive dysfunction stops those suffering from it from completing even the tasks that they want to complete, it can affect all areas of daily life.

What Do PTSD and Executive Dysfunction Have in Common?

PTSD is a disorder stemming from trauma that impacts the brain. It is the underlying cause of many symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, and impaired memory.

Executive dysfunction is a direct symptom of PTSD and other mental health issues. It stops people from being able to carry out daily tasks and causes them frustration since they cannot complete these tasks. It is not a disorder with multiple symptoms like PTSD.

However, both of these issues impair daily life. They can cause poor school or work performance and strained social relationships. The good news is that they also are both usually treatable.

Is One More Likely to Be Transitory?

Transitory diseases are not permanent but rather fade over time with treatment and help. PTSD is transitory in many cases and can fade over the course of a couple of years with therapy and expert exercises. The exception to this is in cases of complex PTSD (cPTSD), which is more likely to be lifelong than not.

Executive dysfunction is also transitory in the sense that its common causes are treatable. Medications, psychoeducational, occupational therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can decrease the symptoms of executive dysfunction. 

What Happens When PTSD Causes Executive Dysfunction?

So, will lessening the symptoms of PTSD also lessen or eliminate executive dysfunction?

In most cases, it will! However, executive dysfunction can be caused by many factors and some of them may coexist with PTSD. One common cause of executive dysfunction is ADHD, which frequently co-occurs with PTSD. To eliminate symptoms, one then would also need to treat the ADHD.

Learn More About Living With PTSD or Executive Dysfunction

So, can PTSD cause executive dysfunction? The answer to this question is a definite "yes." While they don't always go together, executive dysfunction is one of many common symptoms of PTSD that you should keep an eye out for.

If you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with PTSD, it's important to better understand the ways that this disorder can affect daily life. Contact us with any remaining questions about PTSD and its symptoms.

Robin Akins is the founder of Cogentica, LLC, a disability advocacy and information site founded in 2015. Dr. Akins is a quantitative psychologist with over 40 years of experience in business, government, and education with substantial teaching experience at the college level. He received his doctorate at Temple University in 1992.

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