Depression and Memory Loss: The Relationship Explained
Depression is one of the most crippling and pervasive diseases of modern life. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 250 million people worldwide experience depression. That figure is growing.
Scientists are discovering more about the mind every day and the cognitive problems associated with depression, but one of the most strongly linked features of depression is memory loss.
This article will explore the link between depression and memory loss and what symptoms you might experience.
We will examine the latest research into the relationship between mental health and memory to help answer the question: can depression cause memory loss?
The Impact of Depression on the Body
Most people think of depression as a disorder of the mind. But depression impacts the body too. Depression (and stress) is linked to the central nervous system, the digestive system, and the cardiovascular system.
When it comes to memory, there are two main areas where depression can impact your brain function.
The first is the direct impact that depression has on your cognitive health and cognitive skills. The second is indirect memory problems due to sleeplessness and insomnia, a common side effect of depression.
It’s important to understand that when you experience depression, it can profoundly affect your overall health. Tackling depression early on is essential; A long period of depression is more likely to impact your long-term wellbeing.
Types of Memory Loss
Some sufferers of mental health issues like depression have reported problems with their memory. They have experienced memory loss during and after depression.
Symptoms of Memory Loss
If you think that persistent depressive episodes have led to a decline in your memory aptitude, you should look out for some distinct characteristics.
Types of memory problems and symptoms of memory loss include:
- Difficulty recalling the finer details of a recent event
- Trouble locating objects in the home, such as your keys
- Finding it difficult to learn new facts, such as remembering information you’ve read in a book or the news
- A general feeling that you are more forgetful or disorganized lately
- Forgetting something that is usually part of your daily routine, such as a phone call or taking medicine
- You’ll find it easier to recall adverse events than positive ones
If you tick more than one symptom, it’s time to seek professional help. A mental health expert can diagnose potential memory loss.
Diagnosing Memory Loss
It is important to know some context behind your memory issues.
When it comes to diagnosing memory issues, here are some questions to ask:
- How long have you noticed memory problems?
- Have you recently experienced episodes of sadness, depression, or anxiety?
- Have you had trouble sleeping lately?
- Are you finding it a challenge to complete obligations at work or school
- Do you find yourself missing important appointments or lacking basic organizational skills in your day-to-day routine?
If you answer yes to two or more of these, it is worth seeking medical advice. If your symptoms interfere with your life to the extent that you can’t carry out your everyday responsibilities, this is even more pressing.
Pay particular attention to these symptoms if you are over 60.
It is common for older people to assume any memory issues are mild signs of possible dementia, so it is crucial to determine if these symptoms could be pointing to undiagnosed depression instead.
The Latest Research Into Depression and Memory Loss
Research has proved that when you are suffering from depression, it can affect your brain’s ability to function and recall information.
In 2013 Brigham Young University discovered that people scoring highly for depressive symptoms also performed poorly in cognitive memory tests.
Research has also uncovered a long-term impact on memory from past episodes of depression.
In 2019, scientists working as part of the National Child Development Study found participants who experienced depression in their 20s had more memory problems 30 years later than participants who had no history of depression.
In 2007, scientists on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that depression interferes with our ability to recall happy events.
Those suffering from high levels of depression found it easier to recall negative events, suggesting a type of filter on memory that can make the experience of depression even worse for the sufferer.
The Link With Dementia
Another study by the Archives of General Psychiatry found a link between depression and dementia in later life. These findings suggest that memory problems from depression may have a longer-term impact on an individual.
The study found that those diagnosed with depression in middle age had an 80% higher chance of dementia.
Preventing Depression and Memory Loss
If you are concerned you may have experienced memory loss from depression, it is vital to seek professional help as soon as you notice any symptoms.
Do not wait for the problem to get worse before taking action. Your first step is to book an appointment with a mental health specialist.
If you do not have a history of depression, you may be able to complete an assessment to form an initial diagnosis.
If you already have a diagnosis for depression and are on a treatment plan, let your practitioner know that you have concerns over your memory function. They may run some tests to assess your memory and cognitive skills.
This diagnosis is important because memory problems may be caused by an unrelated issue such as head trauma, so it is essential to give your doctor a chance to rule these out.
You may want to keep a diary of your sleep routine too. Sleep problems and insomnia are common with depression and may play a role in forgetfulness, so track your sleep and show your doctors your sleeping schedule.
Practical Steps to Take
In addition to medical support, you can also take practical steps to help support your memory function. Create a routine for your day and add that routine to a calendar with reminders.
Creating a functional storage area at home for essential belongings can also help support your routine and make it easier to remember essentials when leaving the house.
Taking the Next Step
The link between depression and memory loss may seem frightening and worrying. Thankfully, there is better support for depression now than there ever before.
It is important to check on your cognitive abilities and don’t brush off any problems with memory, as they could be pointing to a broader problem with depression — and potentially dementia later in life.
Always seek out help and support from a mental health professional as early as possible. Take a look at some of our successful results and get in contact to arrange your first appointment with one of our mental health professionals.