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Does Depression Affect My Memory?

If you’ve been noticing that you just can’t remember things as well as you’d like and are wondering if it could be related to your diagnosis of depression, you would be right! Depression has been linked to decreased memory for a number of different reasons which we will talk about in more detail below.

Symptoms of Depression

When you think about the various symptoms of depression, you most likely think first about feelings of sadness, loss of interest in everyday activities, changes to your appetite and sleep patterns, decreased energy level, and lower self-esteem. However, there are also several cognitive symptoms associated with depression. These include decreased concentration, decreased alertness, impaired attention span, difficulty making decisions, overall executive function dysfunction, and decreased processing speed. I think you can see how this would affect your ability to remember new things! If you aren’t able to pay attention to what’s going on nor are you able to concentrate, you will definitely have difficulty remembering.

What Types of Memory are Affected?

In general, long-term memory is NOT affected by depression and remains intact. It is more the short-term memory that is negatively affected. Short-term memory is your working memory. So, when you’re learning something new, the information first enters into your short-term memory where you are able to manipulate and work with it. Memory is then coded and sent to long-term memory where it is stored for the long haul. If memory isn’t stored first in the short-term memory, it isn’t able to be sent into long-term memory at all.

Other Causes of Decreased Memory

There are multiple possible reasons associated with memory loss that you might want to explore with your doctor. Some of these include age-related memory loss, dementia & Alzheimer’s, head trauma, certain medications, vitamin B-12 deficiency, substance use, hypothyroidism, brain cancer, or various other brain diseases. Of particular note for people with depression, certain anti-depressants have been linked with memory loss including tricyclics (like Amitriptyline, Nortriptyline, or Imipramine) and SSRIs (like Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Dapoxetim or Paroxetine). The memory effects of these anti-depressants however, may be short-lived and decrease as your body adjusts to the medications.

How Does Depression Decrease Memory?

The exact mechanism is largely unknown, but there is some thinking that depression impedes or slows down the body’s ability to create new nerve cells. This creation of new cells and new connections is what allows the brain to store new memories. Current medications and treatments for depression do not address cognitive deficits very well. But a study that came out in 2019 shows a lot of promise for a new medication that will treat these symptoms. This medication is very targeted and shows very fast results.

How To Cope with Decreased Memory

If you’re having trouble with your memory, there are lots of different techniques you can use to help you through your day and your week. Try some of the following:

1. In today’s world with all our electronic devices, we have all sorts of options available to assist our memory! I personally use my phone to help me on a daily basis. The calendar has functions that will allow you to set reminder alarms and can be used for anything such as remembering to take your daily meds, remembering to pay your bills, or remembering your doctor’s appointment. There also are reminder apps that you can use to make lists or to set reminders.

2. Make it a point to slow down and pay attention to things going on. You might be surprised at how much of a difference this makes to your memory! Remember, you have to first attend to something for it to get into your short-term memory.

3. Set up a work area for yourself that is as free from distractions as possible to increase your concentration and focus.

4. Forget about multi-tasking! It is really important to focus on a single task at a time. If you divide your attention, you will have increased problems with memory.

Closing Thoughts

So, as we now know, your memory can be affected by depression, but hopefully, you’ve learned some practical ways to help. If you find that you need more help managing your depression, please follow the link for more information on depression treatment. I’d love to hear from you!

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