Many aspects of cognitive functioning carry on just fine in people with bipolar—sometimes even better than in the general population. However, there are many who struggle with misfires in specific areas: verbal memory, executive organization, “processing speed” and focus. Here are seven ways to help cope with these glitches:
#1 Seek medical advice
Determining what is causing the cognitive shortfalls is the first important step. Unlike the past, psychiatrists and researchers are coming to acknowledge that memory lapses and other neurocognitive deficits—disorganization, groping for words, problems learning new information—can go hand in hand with the more obvious mood and behavioral symptoms that characterize bipolar.
#2 Neuropsychological testing
There are neuropsychological tests that are proving helpful in identifying problems that can make everyday functioning difficult. Some tests measure planning skills and how quickly and accurately someone responds to stimuli, while other tests are devised to catch misfires in attention and memory. Undergoing a thorough neuropsychological assessment may help you to correctly diagnose whether you do have any persistent areas of deficit related to your bipolar disorder.
#3 Look at med options
If you’re having difficulties talk to your doctor to see if there are options within your medication protocol. There are studies that offer information on which type of mood stabilizer / atypical antipsychotics offer the least amount of cognitive pitfalls, says Chris Aiken MD in a Psychiatric Times article. Also, cognitive side effects tend to be dose-dependent, so a custom tailoring with the prescription can help to clarify whether a medication is contributing to the problem.
#4 Wellness lifestyle
Making healthy lifestyle choices can help ease the destabilizing symptoms of bipolar. And research now supports a role for sleep, exercise, and diet in cognition and mood. This includes strict sleep hygiene and following a consistent exercise program. As for eating choices, The MIND diet is a good blend of several approaches that have research support for cognition (it stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”).
#5 Change tactics
Cues, prompts, reminders, and repetition can help with learning and memory problems. In his work with patients whose memory is unreliable, psychiatrist Joseph Goldberg suggests tactics such as using sticky notes, appointment calendars, and a technique called “chunking”—splitting information into smaller units that are easier to remember. Also, making the environment less distracting and creating routine around daily tasks can offset problems in focus and organization.
#6 Take advantage of technology
In our tech-oriented world, there’s a constant focus on personal ‘apps’ to help manage life’s complexities. There are to-do apps, scheduling apps, advanced project management apps and even thesaurus apps when you struggle to find that befitting word. There are even apps now that help with self-monitoring of bipolar mood, sleep cycles and energy levels.
#7 Consider therapy
Look at newer approaches like Functional Remediation Therapy in which patients practice exercises in a group setting to improve their cognitive and social skills. This appears more successful at restoring functioning skills than directly helping cognition, but it still helps. You can find groups online using web-based training sessions.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community