Depression and Memory Loss

Posted on July 20, 2021 by Cheryl K, LCSW, CEO, Co-founder and Partner
Depression and Memory Loss

In the United States, an estimated 17.3 million people experience depression each year.

Although depression has a major impact on your health and quality of life, it also affects brain function — more specifically, cognition. Shown to diminish decision-making, memory, and higher-reasoning, symptoms of depression can hinder daily life. However, these symptoms are highly treatable.

When you receive the help you need, memory loss and other symptoms related to depression will no longer be your norm. You can live a happier, healthier life, here’s how.

Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?

Research shows that there is a link between depression and memory issues, including confusion and forgetfulness. Symptoms of depression also make it challenging to focus and make good decisions.

Associated with short-term memory loss, depression is not believed to affect other types of memory, such as your long-term or procedural memory, which controls your motor skills.

However, it does appear to affect working memory, which is part of short-term memory.

Various studies have explored this connection, including:

  • A 2013 study found that depression negatively affected participants’ ability to complete memory tasks. It was concluded that depression may diminish memory.
  • Another 2015 study found that depressive thoughts were associated with working memory capacity deficits.

Recent research shows that depressed individuals do not generally have trouble recalling “bad” memories. Compared to non-depressed individuals, those living with depression tend to have an easier time remembering negative memories than positive ones.

Depression and Forgetfulness

If you live with depression, you may find that you’re prone to forgetfulness.

Although you may remember the broader memory of an event, the finer details can be challenging to remember. In addition to negatively affecting your short-term memory, depression may also weaken your prospective memory. This type of memory involves planning and acknowledging something that needs to be done in the near future. For example, picking up groceries or your prescription.

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.

Is Depression Memory Loss Permanent?

As discussed, depression is believed to affect short-term memory loss.

When the underlying symptoms are treated, memory issues typically subside.

A recent 2019 study found a potential way to reverse the memory loss linked to both depression and aging. Therapeutic molecules rapidly improved symptoms and renewed associated brain impairments. This single dose of molecules targets the GABA system, quickly reversing memory declines.

Of course, the effect of depression and anxiety differs from one individual to the next. Memory loss can be caused by a wide range of variables, making this topic rather complex. From stress and grief to drug use and sleep deprivation, there are many causes of memory loss.

Just some of these causes include:

  • Normal age-related memory loss
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Brain tumors
  • Medications
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Head injuries
  • Hypothyroidism

Please note, each case is unique. If depression is the leading cause of your memory loss, treating your symptoms of depression will also address memory issues. However, if there is more than one underlying cause, your course of treatment may be more complicated in terms of eliminating memory-related symptoms. Working with a professional healthcare team will help you create an individualized plan that works for you.

How to Manage Depression-Related Memory Loss

Memory loss caused by depression can typically be managed, but you will need to take action.

Memory loss associated with depression can either improve or worsen depending on your emotional and mental health. You need to work towards a more stable, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Therapy and a more active lifestyle are the first stepping stones.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best option for you will probably be a combination of therapy and lifestyle changes. Some individuals also opt for medication.

However, regardless of your desired treatment plan, you must first seek a proper diagnosis.

Receiving an accurate diagnosis is critical when experiencing memory loss, as it will help you determine whether another condition is to blame for your memory loss. For example, if you are showcasing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, your course of treatment will differ from the treatment plan suggested for depression and alcohol use.

That is why you should discuss your symptoms with a mental health professional.

You are unique and should be treated accordingly. At Corner Canyon Health Centers, we take an individualized, holistic approach. We understand that depression is a complex condition that has many causes. There are also various types of depression, ranging from bipolar to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The dedicated and professional team at Corner Canyon Health Centers will help you develop a treatment plan that addresses your needs and goals. We offer a wide selection of evidence-based treatment options, within an inpatient environment that promotes healing and recovery.

Just some treatment options include:

  • Communication therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • EMDR

Have questions?

We’re here for you. Contact us today to address your ongoing symptoms and concerns.