Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Neuropsychology of Loss

Loss is a key process in adjustment to and acceptance of one's limitations following a neurological event such as a brain injury, stroke or neurological disorder. Loss refers to any concept of value that has been detrimented following a neurological event.

Common losses include: Independence; Mobility; Relationships; Ability to communicate; Career/Job; Friends; Memories; Self-awareness; Hobbies & interests; Driving; Freedom; Sex/sexual drive; Routine; Prospects etc.

Psychotherapists have often discussed the stages of loss that people tend to experience. However, these stages are not regularly experienced in a serial or linear fashion and therefore more recently psychotherapists and psychologists tend refer to the 'common feelings' of loss rather than the 'stages of loss'.

Although there is little scientific confirmation for the 'common feelings of loss', an overwheling majority of psychotherapists and psychologist agree, from many years clinical experience of providing therapy that there five 'common feelings' that appear to involved in loss.

1 Denial
* We deny that the loss has occurred or ignore the signs.
* We may use fiction or fantasy to deny the reality or make sense of confusing partial memories.
* We may withdraw believing we can avoid facing the loss and avoid those people who confront us with the truth.
* We may regress to being like a child who wants protecting from the loss.

2 Bargaining
* We may promise to do anything to make this loss go away.
* We may bargain or strike a deal with God, ourselves or others to make the loss go away.
* We lack confidence in our attempts to deal with the loss, looking elsewhere for answers or gamble on a miracle.

3 Anger
* Anger is a perfectly natural reaction to loss that passes with time.
* Anger can come from loss, grief, frustration and resentment and we can become angry with:
A Ourselves: ‘self blame’.
B Others: ‘kicking the cat’
C Our closest friends and family

4 Despair
*We become overwhelmed by the anguish, pain, sadness and hurt of our loss
*Our mood can be lowered and we might often cry
*We might wrongly convince ourselves that the loss was some sort or payback.
*We might begin feel despondent and to think things are utterly hopeless.

5 Acceptance
*We can identify losses and the common feelings of loss.
*We can describe the details of our loss and the details of the rehabilitation.
* We can get through each day, cope somehow and keep sight of some level of hope.
* We are now aware when we dip back into stages or common feelings of loss and know what to do to help.
* Adapt and drive toward our potential.

Acceptance presents the final and most adaptive phase of feeling associated with loss. Therapeutic aims are often based upon experiencing more feelings associated with acceptance.

There is a growing collection of evidence that loss has neurological consequences. fMRI scans of women from whom loss and grief was elicited about the death of a mother or a sister in the past 5 years found it produced a local inflammation response as measured by salivary concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These were correlated with activation in the anterior cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. These activation also correlated with free recall of grief-related word stimuli. This suggests that grief can cause stress, and that this is linked to the emotional processing parts of the frontal lobe.

Among those bereaved within the last three months, those who report many intrusive thoughts about the deceased show ventral amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex hyperactivity to reminders of their loss. In the case of the amygdala, this links to their sadness intensity. In those who avoid such thoughts, there is a related opposite type of pattern in which there is a decrease in the activation of the dorsal amgydala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

In those not so emotionally affected by reminders of their loss, fMRI finds the existence of a high functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and amygdala activity, suggesting the former regulates activity in the latter. In those who had greater intensity of sadness, there was a low functional connection between the rostal anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala activity, suggesting a lack of regulation of the former part of the brain upon the latter

No comments:

Post a Comment