The relations between executive functions and occupational functioning in individuals with bipolar disorder: a scoping review

Int J Bipolar Disord. 2022 Mar 14;10(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s40345-022-00255-7.


Background: Patients with bipolar disorder experience impairments in their occupational functioning, despite remission of symptoms. Previous research has shown that neurocognitive deficits, especially deficits in executive functions, may persist during euthymia and are associated with diminished occupational functioning.

Objectives: The aim of this scoping review was to identify published studies that report on the relationships between executive functions and occupational functioning in BD to review current knowledge and identify knowledge gaps. In addition to traditional neuropsychological approaches, we aimed to describe executive functioning from a self-regulation perspective, including emotion regulation.

Methods: We applied the methodological framework as described by Arksey and O'Malley (Int J Soc Res Methodol Theory Pract 8:19-32, 2005) and Levac et al. (Implement Sci 5:1-9, 2010). We searched PubMed and psycINFO for literature up to November 2021, after which we screened papers based on inclusion criteria. Two reviewers independently performed the screening process, data charting process, and synthesis of results.

Results: The search yielded 1202 references after deduplication, of which 222 remained after initial screening. The screening and inclusion process yielded 82 eligible papers in which relationships between executive functions and occupational functioning are examined.

Conclusion: Neurocognitive deficits, including in executive functions and self-regulation, are associated with and predictive of diminished occupational functioning. Definitions and measurements for neurocognitive functions and occupational functioning differ greatly between studies, which complicates comparisons. Studies on functional remediation show promising results for improving occupational functioning in patients with BD. In research and clinical practice more attention is needed towards the quality of work functioning and the various contexts in which patients with BD experience deficits.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Emotion regulation; Executive functions; Occupational functioning; Scoping review; Self-regulation.

Publication types

  • Review