Everyone has experienced cognitive lapses such as decreased ability to concentrate or absorb information efficiently. These and other cognitive difficulties (e.g. difficulties with concentrating, remembering information, problem solving, slowed thinking speed) oftentimes result from temporary changes, and are part of everyday functioning. In short, thinking ability will fluctuate. Just as our mood is not always the same (it fluctuates throughout the day and from day to day), so can our level of cognitive functioning show fluctuations. Temporary factors that can impact cognitive functioning include decreased sleep, fatigue, low blood sugar, changes in dietary intake, emotional upheaval (positive or negative), and pain (non-exhaustive list). These temporary factors can usually be easily taken care of, and thus will not interfere with successful everyday functioning.
Other factors that can impact cognitive functioning include acquired brain injury, learning disability, and pathological aging. Notwithstanding, cognitive functioning can be improved (and with it emotional well-being) by learning to utilize strategies effectively and understanding how different factors impact your cognitive functioning.
When to seek help:
When cognitive difficulties interfere with a person’s ability to function successfully in everyday life, e.g. at home, work, school, and/ or social activities, these difficulties can express themselves in anxiety and, potentially, depression. Similarly, feeling overwhelmed by a set task or deadline can create anxiety. If cognitive challenges are the reasons for changes in your emotional well being, then addressing cognitive difficulties (in addition to the emotional consequences) is an important part of the therapeutic process to allow you to re-gain your footing in life.