Bipolar disorder is a neuropsychological disorder characterized by changing moods and energy levels that affects the ability of the patients’ memory to function normally. The disorder affects the neurons in the brain, hence causing uncoordinated functions of the brain. The effects on the brain depend on the periodic episodes of depression and mania that characterize the disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) asserts that, “manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live … brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide” (2002, p. 3). The disorder disrupts neuropsychological coordination resulting into cognitive impairment.
The bipolar disorder causes periodic episodes of depression and mania in patients. The intermittent depressive and manic episodes affect neuropsychological functions in patients making them to have abnormal behavior. During depressive episode, the patient experiences low mood and loss of interests in the daily activities because of depression on cognitive abilities.
The signs and symptoms of depressive episode include depression, feeling of helplessness, loss of pleasure in activities, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, suicidal feeling, and chronic pain amongst other clinical symptoms. “In severe cases, the individual may become psychotic, a condition also known as severe bipolar depression with psychotic features such as delusions or, less commonly, hallucinations, usually unpleasant” (Grier, & Wilkins, 2007, p.2).
The state of severe bipolar depression may last for about two weeks to several months in adults but in children, it may take several hours to days. Patients at the depressive episode have low mood and energy to perform usual activities, therefore cognitively experience delusions and hallucinations.
During the manic episode, the patient experiences high moods with high energy levels in the body that increase body activity leading to psychosis, anxiety, and irritability. The signs and symptoms of the manic episode include increased activity, extreme irritability, high energy levels, little or no sleep, aggressiveness, poor judgment, and distractibility amongst other symptoms.
If these signs and symptoms occur consistently for a period of two weeks, then the patient is in the manic episode. The activity of the patient results from the high energy levels that the body generates. “There is growing evidence that individuals with bipolar affective disorder have cognitive impairments during manic episode that are less pronounced than those found in other psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia but affect neuropsychological functioning” (Glahn, 2008, p.1).
Cognitive impairment results from the high energy levels in the brain that cause patients to experience anxiety, irritability, and psychosis as attributes of aggressive behavior. In addition to the depressive and manic episodes, patients may experience mixed episodes of the bipolar disorder, which severely distort neuropsychological coordination thus impairing cognitive functions.
In conclusion, bipolar disorder affects memory of the patients by disrupting neuronal and psychological coordination in the brain. Poor neuropsychological coordination impairs cognitive functions. The two period episodes of bipolar disorder, mania and depression, differentially impair neuropsychological coordination in the brain.
During depressive episode there is depression of cognitive abilities due to low energy levels and can lead to severe bipolar condition where the patients experiences delusions and hallucinations. In manic episode, aggressive behavior occurs due to the high energy levels characterized by irritability, anxiety, and psychosis. Therefore, both manic and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder affect neuropsychological coordination causing cognitive impairment.
Glahn, D. (2008). Neuropsychological Deficits in Bipolar Disorder: Effects on Psychosocial Functioning. Biological Psychology Journal, 9(15), 1-10.
Grier, E., & Wilkins. (2007). Bipolar Disorder: Educational Implication for Secondary Students. National Associations of Psychologists, 1-12.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2002). Retrieved from