Depression is not just a mood disorder, but a complex illness that can significantly impair cognitive performance. Depression-related memory loss is a symptom that is often overlooked, yet it can be debilitating for those who experience it. In older adults, memory loss related to depression can be misdiagnosed as dementia, which can lead to incorrect treatment plans. Furthermore, some treatments for depression, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or certain medications, can also cause memory loss.
It is important to note that memory loss can have other causes, such as aging, stress, or medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is crucial to get a proper diagnosis to determine the underlying cause of memory loss. A healthcare professional can conduct cognitive tests and brain imaging to identify any medical issues that may be contributing to memory loss.
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1. Depression Impairs Cognitive Performance
Depression can disrupt short-term and working memory, impairing cognitive function, and impacting autobiographical memories. A 2014 meta-analysis found cognitive impairment in memory, attention, and executive function, which is crucial for critical thinking, attention, problem-solving, and self-monitoring.
2. Dementia and Depression Are Linked
Although memory problems are often attributed to aging or dementia, research has shown that depression and dementia are closely linked. The structural similarities between the two illnesses, which lead to decreased levels of gray matter in the brain, may account for similar symptoms. A study in the UK found that depression in one’s twenties is associated with poorer memory at the age of 50. While ongoing research is exploring the long-term memory deficits associated with depression, the link between depression and dementia has been established by researchers.
3. Treatments Can Cause Memory Loss
Two classes of medication commonly used for treating depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants. However, research has shown that these drugs may increase the risk of memory problems or a decline in cognitive function. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another treatment option for major depression disorder, but it can cause confusion and short-term memory loss. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an alternative treatment that does not have these harmful side effects. If you are experiencing memory loss or are concerned about the potential side effects of your current treatment, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider.
4. Getting Your Memory Loss Diagnosed
During a visit to the doctor for a memory problem, the doctor will perform a physical examination, ask you questions, and have you complete easy memory tests like the mini-mental state examination (MMSE). It is important to list everything you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, and homeopathic medications. Your doctor will be curious to know about any recent illnesses, head injuries, and the length of your memory problems. Additionally, they could advise that you consult a specialist and schedule imaging procedures like an MRI or blood tests.
Depression is a complex illness with symptoms that might affect cognitive abilities other than memory. Your capacity to focus on your task and make wise decisions may be compromised. Your recollections could be colored with sadness, and you might feel confused or forgetful. In extreme circumstances, you can have trouble remembering some details of your life. Early assistance can reduce dangers and stop additional issues.