Is Memory Loss a Sign of Depression?

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 aren’t 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. 

It doesn’t just stop there either, many people who find themselves suffering from depression or anxiety turn to drugs or alcohol to try and solve their issues. Many times they might be embarrassed or ashamed of their mental condition and use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or even forget about what is going on. That, unfortunately, can lead to addiction in many cases and instead of fixing the original issue, ultimately leads to more issues.

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?”

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, make decisions, or think 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
  • Sleeping too much
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • feeling sad, anxious, numb, or hopeless
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling powerless or worthless
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • having little energy and feeling fatigued
  • having physical problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, and back pain

How Does Depression Affect Different Types of Memory?

Over the years, scientists and researchers have identified a correlation between depression and different types of memory loss. Additionally, for those who are taking medication for their depression, memory loss can be one of the side-effects associated with taking the medication.

Short Term Memory Loss

One of the most commonly related memory issues, as it pertains to depression, is short-term memory loss. Studies have shown that the worse the depression is, the more severe the short-term memory loss is. The reason for this is because depression affects a person’s ability to focus and pay attention. When someone is having trouble focusing or paying attention, they might miss something that they need to retain in their short-term memory and recall later on.

Additionally, those struggling with short-term memory loss as a result of depression tend to struggle with executive function. Executive function is responsible for skills that help people focus on tasks, pay attention, and self-monitor their behavior. Struggling to be able to do these things can result in memory loss as well.

Dementia

Not only can depression cause memory loss, but in the long run, it can also lead to dementia in some cases in older people. Studies have shown that the cognitive impairments that some older people experience with depression can be an early warning sign of dementia.

There is also a correlation with decreased levels of gray matter. People that suffer from depression tend to have a lower volume of grey matter, particularly in the areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and working memory. One of the common things found in people suffering from dementia is also a decrease in the levels of grey matter. This would suggest a connection between depression and dementia.

Antidepressants

For those who have a mental disorder such as depression, antidepressants are commonly used to help treat the associated symptoms. However, little do people know,  these medications could possibly be harming their short-term and long-term memory. 

A type of antidepressant called Tricyclic antidepressants has been shown to increase the risk of memory loss in some people. Additionally, those who are taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have also experienced an increase in memory loss during the first 8 weeks of treatment.

Memory loss doesn’t only impact those that are older. Those who suffer from depression in their teens and early twenties are more likely to have problems when it comes to memory retention. Additionally, those suffering from depression at a young age are more likely to suffer from memory loss and even dementia when they reach their latter years.

How Can Memory Loss and Depression Lead To Addiction?

While many people seek medical or psychological treatment for their depression and subsequent memory loss not everyone goes that route. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to address their issues. In many cases, the person suffering is either too embarrassed to address the issue or they think that they can just fix it on their own. 

When that happens they will turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. By using drugs and alcohol they can numb the pain that comes along with depression and forget that they have anything going on for a while.

While this might be a temporary solution, in the long run, this can lead to the development of a drug and/or alcohol addiction. After a while, your body grows dependent on the substance and now needs more and more of that substance just to function. Not only does it no longer help “fix” your depression, but it has now caused another issue in your life.

When a substance abuse addiction is formed as a result of a mental health issue, such as depression, it is known as a co-occurring disorder. This is when there are multiple issues that your body and brain are dealing with simultaneously.

Therapy

Since memory loss can be a direct result of your depression, knowing the warning signs can help you or a loved one recognize when it is time to get professional help. It is important to get help for depression and any signs or symptoms of memory loss as early as possible. Early intervention has been proven to save lives, as catching things early can reduce the development of disease and level of severity.  

One of the most common and successful evidence-based treatment methods for depression-related memory loss with various types of therapy and counseling. Whether you know what the issue is that is causing your depression or not, there is a reason you are depressed and it is important to figure out what it is. 

Therapy is a great way to dig down inside yourself and not only identify what is causing the depression but also figure out ways to fix it. Doing so in therapy allows you to address those issues in a safe space with a trained professional who can work with you through your issues and address your depression head-on.

Medications

Many different types of medications and supplements are available that specifically address both depression and memory loss. While this could be an effective solution if you are also suffering from an addiction as a result of your memory loss and depression you might not want to go down this route. It is important to speak with your doctor or therapist before taking any supplement or medication to address depression and memory loss.

Lifestyle Modifications

In addition to medications and therapy, there are many things you can do in your day to day life to help strengthen your memory. Some of those things include:

  • Regular exercise and recreational activity
  • Spending time with those you trust
  • Avoiding isolation
  • Avoiding situations that might exacerbate your depression
  • Setting realistic goals for yourself
  • Not expecting immediate results when it comes to your mood improving
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, or changing jobs until you feel better 
  • Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation
  • Continuing to educate yourself about depression

Is Memory Loss a Sign of Depression?

While memory loss can be a sign of depression, it can be treated. At Renewal Behavioral Health we know that depression and memory loss can be a difficult thing to deal with, especially on your own. That’s why we offer a variety of treatment programs to address not just depression but also any other issues you might be dealing with, such as other mental health issues or even depression.

You shouldn’t have to live with depression for even one more day and we want to help you get the help you need to live a happy and sober life. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.