Is it Bipolar Disorder, Executive Functioning Disorder or a Frontal Lobe Head Injury? 

Executive functioning is the term used to describe a person’s ability to plan out and complete a task. People with bipolar experience executive functioning symptoms during certain mood swings, but this is not the same thing as being born with executive functioning disorder or experiencing the symptoms of a frontal lobe head injury that affects executive functioning. 

The main difference between executive functioning disorders and executive functioning head injuries vs. bipolar disorder executive functioning symptoms is consistency. 

1. Executive functioning disorder is consistent. It will not come and go. A person who is born with a brain that doesn’t process information in the same way as a person without frontal lobe concerns will always have the same symptoms. Of course, they can be managed, but the brain’s executive functioning ability will be consistent over time. 

2. A head injury (concussion) that leads to executive functioning/planning issues will have a specific date or series of dates that shows a direct change in a person’s ability when you look at before and after behaviors. There will be a line in the sand. Before the accident, I could plan. After the accident, my ability to plan significantly changed

3. Bipolar is ALWAYS episodic.  Executive functioning symptoms will only be present during a depression, a mania or a mixed episode.  The person with bipolar disorder will not have any executive functioning problems when stable. 

I have bipolar disorder and a psychotic disorder. I have a frontal lobe brain injury from a biking accident in 2012 that led to executive functioning problems.

My executive functioning symptoms due to bipolar come and go depending on my mood. My head injury executive functioning problems are permanent and consistent. 

Life is hard as you can imagine. I live for work. Writing books was my life for many years. I was able to write books despite having chronic bipolar disorder.  The head injury changes this. Coming to terms with life as a person with a brain injury is challenging as you can imagine. 

My goal is to help others who live with mental health disorders and head injuries. I know what these injuries do to family life. 

I have an illness that makes work extremely difficult and a head injury that makes work almost impossible, but I will not give up. 

There is a way around this. 

If you care about someone with bipolar disorder or have clients with the diagnosis, make sure a concussion history is part of the diagnostic process. Symptoms that seem like a worsening of bipolar might be a head injury if the person had a car accident, sports concussion or a fall. 

Looking for executive functioning head injuries is essential when trying to get help for someone with a mental health disorder. Head injuries, also called TBI and concussion are so common now that they must be discussed in all mental health management plans. 

Wear a helmet. 


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