Tag Archives: cognitive

Executive Dysfunction After Narcissistic Abuse

Have you ever heard of executive dysfunction?  As the name describes, this is when executive functions don’t work properly.  Executive functions are cognitive & mental abilities that enable us to accomplish things.  They help us by directing & controlling our behavior, planning, prioritizing as well as giving motivation.

Executive functioning is higher level cognitive functioning.  Some examples are:

  • Emotional regulation, such as working through anxiety.
  • Impulse control.
  • Attention, such as directing attention where it is necessary to accomplish things.
  • Planning such as creating & following a schedule.
  • Self assessment, such as making sure you’re taking a reasonable amount of time on the task at hand.
  • Using working memory, such as following directions or reading.

Anyone can experience executive dysfunction periodically, in particular when overly stressed or tired.  That is entirely normal.  It becomes abnormal when executive dysfunction interferes with daily life.  Difficulty with decision making, concentrating, organization & low motivation are some examples.

Executive dysfunction is often caused by brain damage.  Traumatic brain injuries, dementia & Alzheimer’s disease are known causes, but mental illness can cause it as well.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression & Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are known to cause it as well. 

PTSD is another mental illness that can cause executive dysfunction, & that is the reason I felt it necessary to discuss executive dysfunction.

May of us who struggle with PTSD or C-PTSD also struggle with executive dysfunction, yet are unaware that was what our problem is.  It doesn’t help that those in our lives call us lazy, tell us we need to get out more often or offer other equally useless & unsolicited advice.  Useless or unsolicited, it still can take a toll on the self esteem especially since it’s already been so damaged thanks to the narcissists in our lives.

Those of you who have been down this road, I want to let you know today that you aren’t lazy!  There is something wrong with you & it’s not your fault that you have this problem!  Your brain has been broken due to the trauma or traumas you have experienced.  Brain damage in any capacity is no joke!  It’s a horrible thing! 

Brain damage is also not something you can fix easily, like a broken bone.  Brain damage may heal completely or it may not heal at all, no matter what you do or don’t do.  The brain is a very unique organ & very unpredictable in how it responds to injury, trauma & even healing.  I’m not telling you this to make you lose hope.  I’m telling you this so you can be realistic in what to expect.

With the symptoms of executive dysfunction, you can learn ways to work with your symptoms. 

Set up a routine & stick to it.  Not so much you become rigid about it because there will be times you need to change it.  Even so, having a set schedule takes some pressure off because you know what you need to do each day.  It becomes a habit, so it’s easy to remember over time, too.

Use a calendar app on your phone to help you remember appointments & tasks that are out of the ordinary.  One with alarms is especially helpful.

Utilize sticky notes & to do lists to help you to stay organized. 

When motivation strikes, use it!  There tend to be more days without it than with, so when it happens, use it to the best of your ability.

Executive dysfunction isn’t easy to live with I know, but you can learn ways to cope!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health

About Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance describes the very uncomfortable feeling of learning that something you believed was true is indeed not true.  Imagine living your life always believing the sky was green.  It never crossed your mind thinking it was anything but green.  Suddenly one day, someone tells you the sky is blue.  You know the person who told you it is blue wouldn’t lie to you.  You also see for yourself that it’s blue.  You now have to accept this new fact that that the sky is blue.  That awkward feeling of struggling to accept the new reality is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a very common problem among those who have survived narcissistic abuse.  Narcissists lie about pretty much everything, especially to their victims.  They have no problem lying & do it constantly.  Anything to get them what they want.  Because of this, victims often struggle with cognitive dissonance when they learn the truth.  I’ve been there many times.

Most recently, I’ve experienced cognitive dissonance upon learning after my mother’s death that my parents loved me, in some way (just not a normal, healthy way).  As a child, I just assumed they did, because that’s what children do.  As I got older, I didn’t think they did due to their abusive ways, & worked hard to accept that painful truth.  Then after my mother’s death, in the process of clearing out the house, I found they had saved cards & things I’d given them, school projects & other things that they wouldn’t have saved if they didn’t love me.  Talk about difficult to accept & rectify in my mind!

Experiencing cognitive dissonance can be very difficult & painful.  Learning some truths can be downright excruciating.  There is also the fact of learning that someone you love lied to you.  That broken trust can be very painful.  There is also the subject matter of the lie.  That can bring up sadness, anger, hurt & all kinds of unpleasant emotions.

When facing this distressing & challenging situation. as always I recommend beginning with prayer.  Ask God for whatever you need, such as help in getting through this, strength, courage.

Consider the evidence facing you, too.  Is it clearly the truth?  If someone has told you something that is causing this cognitive dissonance, is that person trustworthy?

Always remember that there is no shame in believing something wrong.  We all have done this!  The only problem would be if you were unwilling to be open to new perspectives & beliefs.

There is also no shame in that you trusted someone who lied to you.  This is something every single person has done at some point.  It happens!  it doesn’t mean you are foolish or naive or anything else.  It means you’re human!

Also think about this: the person who is willing to challenge their beliefs, to learn & grow, is brave & intelligent.  Many people prefer to stay in their own little box.  They are content with not changing, learning or growing.  The person they were five years ago is the same person they are now & will be in five years.  Actually, if you think about it… that describes flying monkeys.  They accept something as truth (such as the narcissist being a good person) & refuse to change their minds even when faced with evidence to the contrary, like when the narcissist shows their abusive ways.  You aren’t like that, though!  You’re willing to face truth no matter how painful it is.

Humility is another thing that shows when you are dealing with cognitive dissonance.  Being willing to change your perspective shows that you realize you don’t know everything.  That is a very good quality!

Don’t let your experience with cognitive dissonance make you feel badly about yourself.  Everyone has experienced it at some point.

You will survive this painful time with your sanity in tact, even though it may not feel like it at the time.  xoxo

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism