Jackie*(aged 42) had been at her job in a large investment bank for a number of years and had recently been promoted. She noticed that she was finding certain aspects of her new role quite difficult. She found that she was making lots of small mistakes, forgetting to do things and generally feeling as though she was not on top of things. She started to wonder whether her memory was as good as it used to be. In Jackie’s annual review, her manager mentioned the mistakes she had been making. This was very concerning to her, as she had never previously had any issues like this and she had always had very good feedback on her performance at work. She was chatting to her GP about this, and the GP asked her whether she had ever considered seeing a psychologist for a cognitive assessment.
Jackie’s situation is surprisingly common. We know that everyone has natural strengths and weaknesses in different cognitive abilities (the skills we use to learn, problem-solve, remember and pay attention), and people may notice that they struggle with particular areas of thinking as they get older and are faced with different personal and professional challenges.
Clinical psychologists have specialist training which enables them to conduct cognitive assessments. These assessments take an in-depth look at different areas of your thinking including memory, attention, language and problem solving to build up a picture of where you are naturally stronger in your skills, as well as detecting areas where you may need more support. The tests can also pick up whether there are likely to have been any changes in your cognition that could suggest an underlying problem, such as changes in your brain that could warrant further medical investigation. A clinical psychologist with experience in this area will also be able to analyze the results to determine where problems with cognition are due to psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. They can then make recommendations about how to maximize your strengths and compensate for any weaknesses in cognition.
Tim* (aged 30) had always thought that he found it harder to pay attention than other people. He remembered that he struggled to sit still in lessons at school and he was often disciplined for his behaviour in class. Tim managed to pass his exams, and after leaving school he started, a job at an insurance group. He did well at work and was promoted regularly. However, throughout his twenties, he continued to find it difficult to concentrate at work. He found that he could not stay focused on one task for very long, and tended to move between different tasks or procrastinate. Tim’s friend commented that he often seemed restless and made decisions very quickly, and asked him if he had ever been tested for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As lives become increasingly busy and we find ourselves switching from screen to screen, it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain attention. However, for some people, there is a natural profile of impairments in their cognitive skills that can make it incredibly difficult for them to maintain their focus and pay attention as they need to. This can pose problems in managing tasks at work and at home. Although many people with ADHD have their attention impairment diagnosed as children, others, like Tim, can reach adulthood without knowing that their difficulty in concentrating could be due to differences in the development of their cognitive abilities. A cognitive assessment conducted by a clinical psychologist can help to determine whether someone meets the criteria for ADHD. Following this, recommendations can be provided which can help people to make the most of their cognitive strengths and put strategies in place to support the areas they find more challenging.
If you would like to learn more about cognitive assessments, or you would like to enquire about arranging an assessment for yourself or someone else, please contact us to find out more.