A current investigation into behavioural health literature shows an emphasis on the hot topic of agility. An overarching definition of agility is ‘the ability to move quickly and easily’ and ‘the ability to think and understand quickly’. Professor Gregory Mattingly, an associate clinical professor in psychiatry and psychopharmacology from St Louis, Missouri, United States, presented at a South African meeting on the topic of ‘Agility in Action’.
When referring to mental health, the definition of agility is ‘to think, learn and quickly absorb new information, to process that information and to retrieve the information at a later stage’, as well as ‘the ability to adjust to new challenges. Mental agility comprises three components, namely cognition, emotion, and motivation.
The definition of agility is ‘to think, learn and quickly absorb new information, to process that information and to retrieve the information at a later stage’, as well as ‘the ability to adjust to new challenges
Research has shown across all psychiatric and psychological disorders there is transdiagnostic cognitive dysfunction. Symptoms include impairments in attention or vigilance, executive function, processing speed and working-, episodic-, semantic-, visual-, verbal-, and procedural memory. Memory is also intrinsically linked to the aging process; it is well known that after 65 years of age a decrease in inductive reasoning, spatial orientation, and perceptual speed takes place. Building cognitive reservoirs to slow down these processes becomes of the utmost importance, and this can be done through regular exercise, social connections, good sleep hygiene and mindfulness, all of which increase neural connectivity in the brain. Conversely, television and excessive screen time increase the risk of cognitive impairment and lead to a worse prognosis.
Emotion is the second cornerstone of mental agility. A practical mindfulness exercise that everyone can (and should!) practice daily: Ensure top-down control; at the beginning or end of the day, by making a list including three things you are thankful for, proud of and that give you hope.
This category is perhaps the most complex of the three. Firstly, it is important to understand the definition and be able to identify symptoms of both emotional blunting (EB) and anhedonia.
Emotional blunting occurs when both positive and negative emotions are toned down or flattened and are often associated with both depression and the use of traditional antidepressants.
Emotional blunting occurs when both positive and negative emotions are toned down or flattened and are often associated with both depression and the use of traditional antidepressants. During an acute episode of MDD, as many as 72% of patients reported experiencing EB and reported it to be extremely severe. As a result, day to day life is severely impacted, there is detachment from family members’ issues pertaining to relationships, parenting, finances, and work productivity and these patients are likely to discontinue antidepressant therapy prematurely.
Anhedonia is the inability or reduced ability to experience pleasure or positive emotions, leading to lower levels of social functioning, engagement in social interactions and motivation, all of which are crucial for preventing relapse. Even in remission, 52% of patients reported experiencing anhedonia.
When the triad of cognition, emotion and motivation are in sync, it truly epitomizes an individual’s ability to achieve agility.
Our correspondent’s highlights from the symposium are meant as a fair representation of the scientific content presented. The views and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of Lundbeck.