How neuropsychology can help with bipolar disorder


How neuropsychology can help with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition based on extremes that can have a significant impact on an individual’s mood. When people with bipolar disorder experience an episode, this can either be in the form of depression or mania. During a depressive episode, symptoms can include feeling very sad and lethargic, and having a loss of interest in usual activities, for example. However, during a manic episode, individuals may feel energised, overjoyed, not needing sleep or food, and making decisions that would usually be abnormal for them. Both episodes can understandably be distressing for the individual experiencing them and can have a significant impact on daily life. Episodes can last for several weeks or months, and some people may experience more depressive than manic episodes, or vice versa.

Following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you may feel slightly relieved that you have an answer for the symptoms you have been experiencing, sometimes including problems with memory, concentration, planning, problem solving. You might also feel apprehensive about the impact the condition could have on your life; however this is where we are able to help at the London Neurocognitive Clinic. We are able to perform a neuropsychological assessment that looks at your cognitive functioning, and as a result, can provide a treatment plan to benefit you. There is an area of our brains called the prefrontal cortex, which is important for executive functioning, which allows us to plan, focus attention, remember things, and multi-task, among many other jobs. The prefrontal cortex is also closely connected to the limbic system, which is an area of our brains important for regulating emotions. Therefore, when there are problems in the prefrontal cortex, these can affect the limbic system, which could be an explanation for some of the symptoms experienced in bipolar disorder.

By coming in for a neuropsychological assessment, we can assess your level of executive functioning, which will allow us to gain an insight into specific strengths you have, as well as areas that are potentially weaker in performance. When we have this understanding, our clinicians can create a tailored, individualised plan that can target the areas you may be struggling with, through neurorehabilitation. This can be in the form of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT can teach you how to address unhelpful behaviours and replace them with more helpful ones. It can also help you establish routines that are better for managing day-to-day life. As the episodes of bipolar disorder can impact relationships, family-based therapies can sometimes be helpful too, providing an opportunity to help build communication skills within your close network, which can be very useful during an episode.

Therefore, although the symptoms of bipolar disorder can feel very overwhelming, through having an assessment and establishing a neurorehabilitation plan, you can learn to understand, make sense of, or find meaning in your bipolar disorder, as well as developing strategies to cope with symptoms, episodes, or triggers.

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