Mental illness often affects what we think about, but it can also affect how we think, including the speed of our thought process. This, in turn, can impact how well we’re able to function.
Effects of different illness processes
Mania is an obvious example of speeding things up, and this may show up outwardly as pressure of speech. This can also occur, to a lesser extent, in hypomania.
ADHD brain may not stay on one thing for very long before jumping on to the next.
Anxiety, worry, rumination
Anxiety, worry, and rumination can also be speedy in a sense, but they tend to go around in circles rather than off in manic directions.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia
Negative (deficit) symptoms of schizophrenia can slow things down. This can produce poverty of thought internally and poverty of speech that’s apparent externally.
Positive symptoms, on the other hand, may be speedy, such as paranoid delusions.
Thought in the present moment may seem to be turned off entirely as dissociation takes the mind elsewhere.
Cognitive slowing in depression
Depression can also slow the mind down, which is what’s been going on for me lately. Cognitive symptoms of depression can include memory impairment, poor attention, difficulty with decision-making and other executive functioning, impaired learning, and decreased processing speed.
The THINC-it test is a research-validated computerized tool for assessing disruption caused by depression in the areas of executive function, learning and memory, attention and processing speed.
I’ve had cognitive symptoms continuously for the last 4 years, and it tends to fluctuate hand-in-hand with psychomotor retardation, which slows my movement. Right now it’s particularly bad, and it feels like the lights are on very, very dimly, but nobody is home, and the doors are barricaded to keep anyone from being able to come back in.
It’s very hard to get anything meaningful out of reading. It’s not so much that I can’t concentrate, because that would imply there’s attention there that I just can’t focus. But there’s nothing there to focus on. Okay, maybe not nothing at all, but very little. It’s like my head is full of mashed potatoes, but there’s too much milk in them and it’s just a shapeless blob of soggy potato.
It makes it extra difficult to talk, because on top of psychomotor retardation slowing brain-to-mouth transmission and making it slow to actually get words out with any sort of fluency, assembling a thought coherently takes some mental chewing.
It’s a weird feeling, and quite the contrast to back in the day, when my baseline cognitive function was quite good.
Does your illness have any impact on the speed at which your mind operates?