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How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Your Memory? 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by a variety of well-known symptoms and behaviors, including significant changes in mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns. However, many people may not know that in addition, the disorder can cause considerable difficulties with cognition and memory. In some cases, memory loss and difficulties concentrating can be severe problems, which can make everyday tasks in life, ranging from work to school, very challenging for some individuals with bipolar disorder.

For example, during a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may have trouble concentrating and may be easily distracted or unable to process information correctly. When a person is running at such a high energy level, they have problems encoding new information in their brains and may also have problems accessing what they remember. A person in a manic state may also be more likely to take risks and make impulsive decisions or abuse substances like drugs and alcohol. As a result, long-term memory problems may develop or be exacerbated, since someone may not remember what they did during the course of the day.

During depressive episodes, concentration is also negatively affected. Depression might cause memory problems both mentally – by occupying your mind – and physiologically, by inhibiting the connectivity between nerve cells. A person can easily begin to feel overwhelmed by the problems and daily stressors in their lives and may lack the motivation to carry out necessary tasks. A person in a depressive state may also suffer from excessive negative thoughts about themselves, the world, and their lives, which can lead to problems with long-term memory as their perception may be skewed to only focus on negative experiences.

Bipolar Disorder Can Change The Brain

Some studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have memory problems even when not in a manic or depressive state. This is thought to be due to changes in brain structure that occur in people with bipolar disorder. Changes in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning, attention, problem-solving, and memory, as well as the hippocampus, a crucial structure for memory storage, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is connected to both cognitive and emotional functions in the brain, may be the cause of some of these issues.

Additionally, several commonly prescribed medications for bipolar disorder—lithium being one of the most notorious—can also trigger memory problems. 

Understanding How Bipolar Disorder Affects The Different Types of Memory

There are five main types of memory: 

1. Sensory Memory

This type of memory is the shortest-lived and includes information that is stored in our senses. People with bipolar disorder may have difficulty retaining sensory information and may have hallucinations or delusions that affect their sensory perceptions. 

2. Short-Term Memory

This type of memory is where we store information for a short period of time, such as a phone number we just looked up. People with bipolar disorder may have difficulty retaining information in their short-term memory and may have a hard time focusing or paying attention. 

3. Long-Term Memory

This type of memory is where we store information for a long period of time, such as our childhood memories. People with bipolar disorder may have difficulty accessing their long-term memories and may experience memory losses or gaps in their memory. 

4. Implicit Memory

This type of memory is unconscious and includes skills or knowledge that we have acquired without being aware of it, such as how to ride a bike. People with bipolar disorder may have difficulty with implicit memory and may find it hard to learn new skills or remember how to do things they once knew how to do. 

5. Explicit Memory

This type of memory is conscious and includes memories that we are aware of, such as a specific event from our childhood. People with bipolar disorder may have difficulty with explicit memory and may have trouble recalling specific memories or events.

Getting Treatment

If you have bipolar disorder, it is crucial to seek treatment. Treatment can help to stabilize your mood and to protect your memory. Even though dealing with memory loss and cognitive issues can be frightening, it’s critical to keep a positive attitude and practice proactive living if you want to live effectively with bipolar disorder. The most vital thing you can do when coping with bipolar disease is to stick to your treatment plan. A thorough treatment strategy should incorporate appropriate dietary habits, regular exercise, counseling, and medication management.

Consider joining a support group for people with bipolar disorder, or talking to a community care provider like The Life Adjustment Team where dedicated trained professionals can assist in every area of life you may need support. Assertive community treatment significantly improves long-term outcomes for people with bipolar disorder. Contact us today to learn more,