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How Does Depression Cause Memory Loss

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Can Depression And Anxiety Cause Memory Loss

Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?

It comes as no surprise that depression and anxiety make you feel sad, bad, and stressed. But many people are unaware that these mental health issues are also associated with forgetfulness, poor concentration, trouble making decisions, and confusion. It all adds up to memory problems, and thats bad news. How do anxiety and depression interfere with memory? Before diving into the details, lets take a look at how memories are made and the different types of memories.

Memory Loss And Depression

While many people seek medical or psychological treatment for their depression and subsequent memory loss not everyone goes that route. Many people turn to unhealthy alternatives to address their issues. In many cases, the person suffering is either too embarrassed to address the issue or thinks that he or she can just fix it.

Depression And Memory Loss: Causes Effects Treatment

There are several areas where people with depression experience cognitive deficits but one of the most prolific is depression and memory impairment. People with depression often complain of short-term, and even long-term, memory loss. This might mean that they forget the information they have just read, forget directions they have just been given or forget things they have just been told. Depression and memory impairment can affect a person’s everyday life, including their performance at work and their relationships at home.

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Encoding And Retrieval In Depression: New Insights Into Old Problems

Episodic memory is disrupted in unipolar depression. Compared to healthy adults, depressed individuals typically show impaired recollection , better memory for negative material but worse memory for positive material , and overgeneral autobiographical retrieval . Critically, memory failures are distressing and predict a more severe course of depression , whereas enhancing autobiographical retrieval can relieve depressive symptoms . Moreover, depression has been consistently linked to reduced hippocampal volumes . Given these facts, and considering the relatively advanced understanding of the neurobiology of memory, one might expect the neuroscience of disrupted memory in depression to be well-understood.

Is Memory Loss A Sign Of Depression

Chemotherapy And Memory Loss / Memory loss stock photo. Image of ...

Memory loss is most commonly associated with aging. The older we get, the harder it can be at times to remember things without help. However, older people arent the only ones who suffer from memory loss issues. Memory loss can affect all types of people from different walks of life. Unfortunately, one of the causes of memory loss and dementia is depression. People who suffer from depression tend to also have issues when it comes to memory retention.

In this blog, we will take a look at memory loss as it pertains to mental health issues as well as dive deeper into the question of is memory loss a sign of depression?

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Looking For Help With Treating Depression Louis Laves

At Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates, our team of experienced therapists utilizes various interventions and tailors each session to meet your individual needs and comprehensively work to understand your depressive symptoms. Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates are available to help you manage, change, and overcome your feelings of depression. Please contact us today online or over the phone to schedule an appointment with one of our professional therapists in Austin, TX.

Upon receiving my bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990, I began working with children and adolescents in the foster-care system on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country. From there, I was promoted to working in the juvenile justice field and ultimately was responsible for overseeing the entire Texas Youth Commission Parole Division in Williamson County, Texas. During this time my insatiable curiosity about the human condition began to really materialize, and after my own introspective soul searching, I eventually concluded that my truest desires and interests would best be served in the field of psychotherapy. I enrolled in the Masters Program in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with honors in 2002.

Common Causes Of Forgetfulness

Memory slips are aggravating, frustrating, and sometimes worrisome. When they happen more than they should, they can trigger fears of looming dementia or Alzheimers disease. But there are some treatable causes of forgetfulness. Here are six common ones.

Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is perhaps the greatest unappreciated cause of forgetfulness. Too little restful sleep can also lead to mood changes and anxiety, which in turn contribute to problems with memory.

Medications. Tranquilizers, antidepressants, some blood pressure drugs, and other medications can affect memory, usually by causing sedation or confusion. That can make it difficult to pay close attention to new things. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you suspect that a new medication is taking the edge off your memory. As shown in the table below, alternatives are usually available.

Medications that may affect memory and possible substitutes

If you take these drugs

ask about switching to one of these drugs


another antidepressant such as fluoxetine or sertraline , or a different type of antidepressant such as duloxetine or venlafaxine


Underactive thyroid. A faltering thyroid can affect memory . A simple blood test can tell if your thyroid is doing its job properly.

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Distinguishing Between Types Of Dementia

For physicians and families intent on pinning down a diagnosis, one major complicating factor is the existence of so many kinds of dementia. More than 50 conditions can mimic or cause dementia.

Alzheimers disease is by far the most common intractable condition. But other causes of irreversible dementia include blood vessel diseasevascular dementia), other degenerative disorders , slow-growing brain tumors, or infections of the central nervous system .

In some types of dementia, treatment will improve mental functioning, and in a small percentage, the dementia is completely reversible if treatment begins before permanent brain damage occurs. Thats why it is important to report to a doctor any signs of dementia as early as possible.

How Serious Is Memory Loss In Depression

Depression Can Cause Memory Loss and Difficulty Concentrating

Similar to many other complex diseases, the severity of this symptom varies from person-to-person. People who have more severe or recurrent forms of depression are more likely to experience serious forms of memory loss. However, even after the depression symptoms are resolved memory impairments persist.

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Can Depression Cause Confusion

Depression can cause confusion and make it challenging to focus on tasks.

While taking a closer look at the brain regions associated with depression, it is believed that the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory and learning, is actually smaller.

Although this is not necessarily a direct cause-and-effect explanation, it may be one factor that helps explain why depression leads to confusion and poor memory.

The prefrontal cortex and amygdala are also affected. The combination of changes in these brain structures and associated functions helps explain issues with cognition, including planning and reasoning, as well as emotional processing.

Habit Of Pushing Back Unwanted Memories

Many people respond to traumatic or distressing memories by burying them or pushing them away.

If your worries overwhelm and exhaust you to the point where you begin to have trouble functioning, you might try to block or suppress them in order to cope.

You might not forget a specific event entirely, but refusing to think about it can blur the details and help it fade from the forefront of your memory.

Suppression might seem beneficial, but it doesnt help you address the source of the problem. Unaddressed anxiety can get worse and have an even greater effect on memory and concentration over time.

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What Is Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. This condition is believed to occur due to a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry.

People with bipolar disorder experience both episodes of severe depression and episodes of mania, which include overwhelming joy, excitement, happiness, energy, reduced need for sleep, and reduced inhibitions. The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder are unique to the individual, and no two diagnoses are the same.

These mood episodes can last for days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts, especially during depressive moods. These mood swings can be triggered by a variety of things, including lack of sleep, stress, changes to your daily routine, or jet lag when traveling.

What Research Says About Depression And Memory Loss

Quit Using These 20 Medications Because They Cause Memory Lo ...

During a study in 2013, it was discovered that depressed individuals were unable to identify objects on a screen that were the same or very similar to an object they had seen previously. These researchers were able to suggest that memory function can be diminished in those individuals that are depressed. During a 2015 study, researchers came to a similar conclusion that depression might be capable of causing short-term memory loss. Depression can also cause confusion and make it challenging to focus on tasks. Although the precise mechanism for this is speculative, some theorize that this may have something to do with the hippocampus the area of the brain associated with memory and learning is smaller in those suffering from prolonged depression.

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Depression And Memory Loss Treatment

There is no specific treatment for memory loss in depression but three approaches are standard in the treatment of cognitive deficits common to several mental illnesses:

  • Drills and exercises an example of this would be a computer program designed to exercise and improve memory.
  • Learning different ways to remember things such as the use of mnemonic devices.
  • Changes in the environment an example would be a memory aid, such as a recorder onto which one can dictate items to be remembered later.

APA ReferenceTracy, N. . Depression and Memory Loss: Causes, Effects, Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, December 24 from

What Are The Signs Of Depression

While the signs of depression may vary for each person, the most common ones include:

  • Loss of interest in activities or things that gave joy earlier
  • Feeling anxious, irritated, guilty, worthless, or hopeless
  • Persistent tiredness
  • Fluctuation in weight
  • Difficulty in falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Breathing issues or pain in the head, stomach, back, and other body parts without any physical illness
  • Reduced sex drive

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Depression As A Risk Factor

It is well established that depression is a risk factor for dementia, but speculation still exists that the cognitive dysfunction occurring with depression leads to the decline and impairment recognized as dementia. More research has been done to establish what type of depression predicts the development of dementia results show that early-onset or late-onset , are the most likely to lead to dementia later in life.

A study done in Nature Review Neurology affirmed the correlation between depressive symptoms early in life, and the magnified increase in dementia risk.

For older people already suffering from dementia, depression may manifest itself as physical symptoms, rather than its commonly known cognitive symptoms. These symptoms can include a loss of appetite or energy. This does not discount the many cognitive symptoms that can appear as a result of depression the Alzheimer’s Society provides a comprehensive list of these symptoms on their website.

The Nature Of Depression Memory Loss

Does TMS cause memory loss?

Memory loss is a complex problem. Depending on the illness at work in the brain, people can experience different deficits. Depression memory loss typically involves:

  • Difficulty recalling details, such as remembering that friends came over for dinner but having no recollection of what you ate
  • Problems with prospective memory, which involves planning and remembering to complete the plans struggles with this type of memory explain why forgetting to take daily medication isnt unusual for people with depression

Depression typically affects short-term memory. Memories of the past are often left as complete as they were before depression hit. Also, depression causes frustrating and stressful experiences in daily life such as losing keys and other objects, remembering where you parked your car, or recalling what you just read.

While everyone has this type of memory loss from time to time, its a regular occurrence in depression that can significantly disrupt life. Because of this memory loss, people often describe an inability to function well. Memory loss and feeling unable to function can deepen depression, which in turn can worsen memory problems.

Understanding what is happening in the brain when you have depression can help you be less hard on yourself for your memory issues.

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How To Get Help

Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of depression. Theyâll want to rule out other health conditions so they can find you the right treatment. You might need to make some lifestyle changes, take medicine, or talk to a mental health specialist. Some people benefit from a mix of all three.

Some treatments for mild or serious depression include:

Suicide is a serious symptom of depression. Get help right away if youâre thinking about hurting yourself. You can reach someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Theyâre available anytime, day or night.

Show Sources

Molecular Psychiatry: âSubcortical brain alterations in major depressive disorder: findings from the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder working group.â

Translational Psychiatry: âProfound and reproducible patterns of reduced regional gray matter characterize major depressive disorder.â

Neural Plasticity: âThe Role of Neural Plasticity in Depression: From Hippocampus to Prefrontal Cortex.â

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : âDepression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus.â

Frontiers in Immunology: âThe Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue.â

The Lancet Psychiatry: âMicroglia and major depression: not yet a clear picture,â âAssociation of translocator protein total distribution volume with duration of untreated major depressive disorder: a cross-sectional study.â

What Is The Connection Between Memory Loss And Depression

Depression has often been linked to memory problems, such as forgetfulness or confusion. It can also make it difficult to do basic things such as focusing on work or other tasks, making decisions, or thinking clearly. Depression tends to only impact short-term memory. Other types of memory such as long-term memory and procedural memory, which controls motor skills are not affected by depression and anxiety.

In addition to memory problems, other signs of depression include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • A drastic change in weight
  • Not sleeping enough
  • feeling sad, anxious, numb, or hopeless
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • having little energy and feeling fatigued
  • having physical problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, and back pain

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Trouble Remembering Things Similar To Alzheimers Depression Can Cause Memory Loss

According to the World Health Organization, more than 280 million people worldwide live with depression. Despite being one of the most common disorders, it is still difficult to treat or cure. Thats especially problematic, because depression isnt just an illness in itself depression can speed up brain aging, while also increasing the risk of developing Alzheimers.

Alcohol Tobacco And Other Drugs

Depression and Memory Loss: Know the Facts

Misusing alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can have both immediate and long-term health effects.

The misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. SAMHSAs 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 19.3 million people aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.

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Is It Alzheimer’s Or Another Kind Of Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and causes significant memory loss, in addition to multiple other symptoms. If you think your memory loss could be caused by Alzheimer’s, review the symptoms and make an appointment with your physician for an assessment. Although Alzheimer’s typically affects those over the age of 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur in those as young as 40.

Memory loss can also be caused by other kinds of dementia, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and several others. Problems with memory should be discussed with your doctor so that any reversible cause can be found and treated, or so that treatment for Alzheimer’s or dementia can begin as soon as possible if this is the cause.

Common Causes Of Brain Fog And Memory Loss

Comments: 26 | April 10th, 2017

Do you ever have those moments when you walk into a room and cant remember why youre there? Or you have trouble recalling names and just cant seem to place where you left your car keys? While these scenarios often have us feeling like were senile, often its just a case of brain fog, and you dont have to just live with it.

What is Brain Fog? If you havent yet experienced the sensation of brain fog, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The majority of adults have experienced this at one time or another, if not chronically, throughout their lives. Brain fog is the inability to focus and think clearly. You literally feel like youre in a mental fog.

Brain Fog Symptoms Do you experience any of the following symptoms?

Difficulty concentrating at work or performing basic tasks Trouble remembering peoples names or simple words Feeling like youve lost parts of your memory Wondering if you might have the onset of Alzheimers Feeling like youre in a fog and state of confusion Decreased mental sharpness Feeling depressed Feeling like you are losing your mind

Never fear when you can pinpoint the underlying cause of your brain fog and memory loss, there is something you can do about it.

10 Common Causes of Brain Fog and Memory Loss

6. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Besides eating a healthy diet, here are a few important vitamins that are important for brain and memory support:

7. Prescription Drugs

Muscle relaxants

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