Cycle of cognitive impairment in bipolar disorder

Cycle of cognitive impairment in bipolar disorder

Many people go through extreme mood swings, ranging from depression to mania, which leaves them struggling with unusual sleep patterns, thoughts, activity levels and behavior. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2.6 percent of Americans live with this condition. Commonly known as bipolar disorder (BD), the mental disorder has symptoms that are hard to recognize in time. A person could have depressive thoughts one moment and could be absolutely ecstatic the other.

Also known as manic-depressive disorder, BD is more common among women than men. The rapid changes in mood can be attributed to family genes or brain structure or function. An individual with this disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year. The likelihood of BD being identified as unipolar depression is extremely high, since the periods of depression are prolonged while phases of mania are far in between. During manic phase, the patient exhibits euphoric mood and extremely high energy, which lasts for at least seven days and beyond. Also associated with mania are grandiosity and impulsivity, wherein the individual is likely to engage in risk-taking behavior.

For accurate diagnosis of BD, it is critical to identify the phases of mania or hypomania, as these are a predictor of the intensity of the disorder. Listed below are some of the early signs of BD:

  • Prolonged periods of lethargy, depression and hopelessness, followed by euphoria
  • Inclination toward alcohol and other substances as one feels drained
  • Having racing thoughts and hearing voices or undergoing hallucinations, with the symptoms lasting for at least seven days
  • Comorbid psychiatric condition such as anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
  • Difficulty concentrating both during the depressive as well as the manic phases

BD puts a severe strain on one’s mental health, if not treated at the right time. Precisely, having to deal with emotions that are poles apart can cause considerable strain on a person’s psychological makeup. Many people with this disorder abuse alcohol or drugs to find quick relief. Unfortunately, this only adds to their woes.

Comparing cognitive decline in patients with BD and schizophrenia

Apart from mania and depression, BD is also associated with symptoms of cognitive decline, with the degree of impairment ranging from 15 to 60 percent. A person struggling with both manic and depressive episodes finds it difficult to perform everyday functions such as planning for the day ahead or prioritizing the tasks for the day. However, the progressive brain damage can be curtailed with certain medications and therapy.

BD is associated with cognitive impairment, but unlike, schizophrenia, where cognitive impairment is present throughout the course of the illness, cognitive impairment in BD wanes and waxes with the clinical symptoms of BD. Also, when it comes to intelligence, patients with schizophrenia have increased risks of cognitive decline than patients with bipolar. While patients with schizophrenia exhibit a 10-point decline in their cognitive functioning, individuals with bipolar retain their cognitive functioning, though some decline can be evidenced during the psychiatric states.

Road to recovery

It is important to explore available resources to complement the treatment of BD and decrease the suffering of the affected individual. Many people with BD have recovered to a point where they are living functional and rewarding social lives with their family and friends. When it comes to treatment outcomes, the amount of time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis and subsequent treatment is crucial for BD patients. Sooner the treatment, better the outlook for improvement and recovery.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental health problems, contact the California Mental Health Helpline for guidance on mental health centers in California offering comprehensive treatment programs. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our specialists to get advice on the best mental health rehabilitation centers in California.

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