We’ve often heard the term “depression” in our daily conversations and online platforms. You can see a lot of posts and comments on social media related and referring to depression.
Depression can lead to various behavioural changes in a person, the principal being sadness, among many others. But does depression cause memory loss? We’ll try to find an answer to this question in this article.
You may also have heard many of your friends talking about how depressed they are. But whatever your friends and people online are talking about, is really depression?
1. Are Stress and Depression the Same?
Sometimes, people confuse depression with being stressed. A working man exhausted from all the work he has to do daily may feel a lot of stress. It is natural for him to become a little moody, irritated and frustrated sometimes.
People usually think when coming across such a person, “Maybe he’s depressed“. These terms are supposed to be the same when considered to differ in reality.
Stress is a normal reaction of a human when he is under pressure or is being threatened. It is a physical, mental or emotional reaction to challenges in everyday life.
Everybody feels stressed once in a while due to the ups and downs one faces in life. A small amount of stress is necessary to feel motivated to perform well in our daily lives.
Say, for example, a boy doesn’t get the score he expected in his English exam in school. He may feel emotional or physical tension. A small amount of stress would encourage him to study harder and perform well in the next English exam to get the expected score.
Depression is a feeling of irritability, sadness and emptiness. However, depression is far from just a normal mood fluctuation. It is a common but serious mood or mental disorder. It is also known as Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression.
It causes a person to lose interest in activities he once enjoyed. This disorder affects even normal daily activities like sleeping, eating or walking.
2. How Can You Tell if a Person Has Depression?
It is very difficult to tell whether a person is going through a depressive episode. Sometimes, a person who looks all happy and cheerful outside may also go through a depressive phase.
You never actually know if a person is feeling depressed or not. A depressed person doesn’t always dress like a mess or act indifferently, as shown in movies. It can be the very opposite in reality.
However, a person may show a few generalized symptoms of depression while going through such a phase. The most common symptom of depression is a feeling of sadness or hopelessness.
There may have been times when you must have felt “empty”. A depressed person goes through this emptiness every day. Another depressive symptom is the loss of interest in normal activities or the activities the person once used to love.
Anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand. The feeling of restlessness is a constant in a person who is depressed. Anger outbursts, irritability or frustration are common symptoms of depression.
Other symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of energy or strength; feeling tired most of the time
- Messed up a sleeping schedule (sleep deprivation or sleeping too much)
- Reduced appetite, which leads to a drastic weight l,oss
- Increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Lack in concentration
- Crying a lot
- Persistent thoughts of suicide, death or hurting yourself
- Pessimistic attitude
- Physical problems with no specific cause, such as headache, stomach ache or sexual dysfunction
3. What Causes Depression?
Depression can occur to anyone, irrespective of age or gender. But why does this happen? Why does one go through depression? The answer is not clear. There are several reasons why depression takes hold of someone.
Depressive symptoms can be more evident in people who have lost their close or loved ones. One can also fall prey to depression if he has gone through a hard time or is going through a low point in his life. Some other reasons why depression happens are:
3.1 Family History
Someone whose family tree has a history of depressive episodes or mood disorder is more likely to have depression symptoms.
3.2 Hormone Levels
Depression can happen mostly in women during the menstrual periods, menopause or after pregnancy due to hormone changes like estrogen and progesterone.
3.3 Structure of the Brain
If the frontal lobe of your brain is less active, you are most likely to be a victim of depression, as many scientists and researchers believe.
3.4 Serious Medical Conditions
Sometimes, people going through severe diseases can also fall into depression due to the struggle they have to go through living with the disease.
Medical conditions like chronic illness, cancer, HIV/AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease can seriously affect someone’s mental health, leading to depression.
Any physical, sexual or emotional abuse can increase the risk of depression in someone. A person who has gone through or is going through such a phase is more likely to have a mood disorder.
Older adults have more chances of depressive symptoms as most live alone and lack emotional support.
Very few actually take the time and cater and care for the elderly in their family. That is why you’ll see many senior citizens falling into depression.
3.7 Substance Abuse
Consuming drugs or alcohol can have a serious effect on your mental health. Such substance abuse can also be a cause of depression.
4. Can You Treat Depression?
However difficult it may seem, you can treat depression with the right treatment. Talking to your doctor should be the first step of your treatment. The following is how depression can be treated:
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or psychological therapy, refers to discussing your mental issues and struggles with a mental health professional.
Cognitive behavioural or interpersonal therapy are some psychotherapies that can be effective for depression.
Talking to a professional can help you identify all the negative memories, thoughts and behaviours and replace them with positive ones. Psychotherapy can be very beneficial in finding better ways to cope with your problems.
A lot of medicines can be used in treating depression. Antidepressants are widely used to lessen or reduce the effects of depression. However, antidepressants may have side effects, so you should consult your doctor first.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Doctors very commonly prescribe these drugs for treating depression. These antidepressants include paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), escitalopram (Lexapro), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), vilazodone (Viibryd) and sertraline (Zoloft). They are considered safer and have fewer side effects than other antidepressants.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Some examples of SSNRIs are desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedzela), levomilnacipran (Fetzima) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).
- Tricyclic antidepressants
These antidepressants are likely to cause more side effects than other antidepressants. That is why these are prescribed only when you’ve tried SSRIs. These include imipramine (Tofranil), trimipramine (Surmontil) and protriptyline (Vivactil).
5. Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?
Depression can affect a person’s life in the most negative ways. The person becomes uninterested in normal day-to-day activities, and a constant feeling of emptiness and sadness surrounds him.
You go to an event but forget to bring the invitation card. You forgot the name of the new colleague you met a few days back in your office.
You fail to turn off the stove after cooking. Is it because of depression?
Major depressive episodes are also associated with memory loss. A person is more likely to feel confused and forget things while going through depression.
According to researchers, depression reduces the performance of declarative memory, which is a conscious memory of a fact or event. It is also responsible for processing names, dates, and places.
When a person is depressed, they don’t clearly remember where they’ve been, especially if the places have few similarities.
According to a hypothesis, depression may slow down the creation of nerve cells, making it difficult to form or access new memories.
People also may struggle to remember specific details of their autobiographical memory, which is a memory focusing on a person’s life history.
These memories include episodes of a person’s childhood, for example, a memory of him getting a medal in school for the first time.
Can Depression Cause Short-Term Memory Problems?
Depression is more likely to affect your short-term memory. It can result in a lack of attention in daily activities. People who are going through depressive episodes struggle with executive function.
An executive function is responsible for skills that position you to focus on tasks, pay attention and self-monitor your behaviour.
Cognitive function is also affected in people suffering from depression. Cognitive impairment impacts a person’s response time, attention, planning, decision-making and reasoning.
6. Why Does Depression Cause Memory Problems?
We now know that depression can have a very bad effect on memory. But why is it that? What does depression have to do with the memory system in our brain?
The prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are regions in our brain involved in cognitive performance, executive function and emotional processing in a human.
These brain regions are interconnected to each other via neurons or nerve cells. Therefore, a problem in one part will lead to an immediate effecareahe other areas.
Neurons are responsible for cognitive function, and emotion processing overlaps those controlling stress response systems.
That is why periods of high stress or depression can cause cognitive impairment and worsen your mood by affecting your brain function.
Researchers believe that people going through a depressive episode have a smaller hippocampus and increased activity during memory tasks.
This means that when a person with depression is doing a working memory task, the hippocampus has to work more to do that task than a person who doesn’t have depression.
That is why it is said that the working memory capacity of a person is affected when in depression. It, in turn, affects short-term memory.
In addition, people going through depression take antidepressants to relieve depression symptoms.
There are a lot of antidepressants which can cause one to lose focus and concentration, like Tricyclic Drugs or SSRIs. This can also be the reason why depression can affect your memory performance.
7. How to Treat Memory Loss from Depression?
Although memory loss can affect any other condition, if it is from depression, you should immediately seek help. The best thing you can do to treat memory loss arising from depression is to seek the help of your mental health professed. Treatments can help a lot if followed religiously.
Apart from talking to your mental health professional, you can follow some instructions to treat memory loss.
7.1 Get Organized
You are likely to forget things if you keep your house a mess. Organize your things regularly, jot down the tasks you have to do in a diary or a special notebook or mark them in your calendar.
If you forget, even looking at your special notebook, make sticky notes and paste them in places you most often visit at home or at items you use the most, like the refrigerator, beside the mirror or the dressing table. This will help you constantly reminding the tasks you have to do.
Since you are most likely to forget things, you should know that doing one thing at a time will help you retain more information about that task, which will help you recall the job in future. In addition, it will be very helpful if you try to focus on one thing at a time. If you do many things at a time, it may cause confusion and chaos.
7.2 Include Physical Activity in Your Daily Routine
Doing physical activity can positively affect your memory because it increases blood flow in your body. The more the blood flows in your brain, the more active your brain is. A 10-minute walk every day is enough if you don’t have time to do full-time workouts.
7.3 Try to Stay Mentally Active
Memory loss is associated with your brain. The more mental exercises you do, the less likely you will forget things. There are a lot of games online which can help enhance your brain functioning.
Do crossword puzzles and play games that involve using your brain. You can also start learning a new musical instrument.
7.4 Eat Healthily
Healthy food gives you the energy to do various activities and keeps your physical and mental health issues at bay. Eat food that can help you improve your memory, like blueberries, fatty fish, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy greens, to name a few.
7.5 Get a Good Sleep
In addition to keeping your brain active, you must also ensure it gets the appropriate rest. Sleep also plays an important role in helping you recall your memories and reduce memory issues. An adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep in a day. Make sleeping well your priority.
Depression and memory loss resulting from it are evils that can completely eat up a person’s mind. Depression takes away the happiness and joy from people’s life. It can make people completely uninterested in tasks and activities they used to love doing. It takes away the will of a person to live.
What’s a life which isn’t filled with cheerful and happy moments? This is why people going through depression need the maximum support from their family, friends and colleagues.
Depression can hit anyone. It will come out of nowhere, and sometimes, the person wouldn’t even know he is suffering. It doesn’t discriminate against someone’s gender, income, age or social status.
Is your friend also going through such a phase? If yes, then you should be the first one to help him. Start a conversation with him, try to cheer him up and help him find organizations that give therapy.
But the most important support you can give your friend is listening to him. Listen to his problems and thoughts. This may encourage him to talk more freely about what he is going through.
Venting out like this can reduce the burden he has been carrying for so long. You may want to advise your friend, but don’t be impatient.
He may not be ready for some advice. Please wait for the right moment; give him time. Remember, even the tiniest bit of support from you can help a person come out of a dark phase of his life.