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Depression and Memory Loss

Depression and Memory Loss

Depression is hard enough to manage. Fatigue, loss of interest in yourself and others, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness make getting through life difficult. To top it off, it seems like you are having a challenging time remembering certain things.

Say you are having a decent enough day that you decide to go to the grocery store. The drive is around 10 minutes, a couple of turns on country roads then left at the first stoplight. You get in, start the car, put it in reverse, and head on your way. Next thing you know, you are at the grocery store, with no recollection of the drive there. How did you get there? Did you turn left at that stop light? You must have because here you are. But how do you not remember?

In 2021, 27% of Kentuckians were told they have a depressive disorder, such as major or minor depression. This was 7% higher than the United States average, which was 20.5%. SUN Behavioral Health in Erlanger, Kentucky is here to provide mental health services and treatment options to help reduce these high numbers of depression. Is there a correlation between depression and memory loss? Is it reversible or manageable? Let’s explore this topic further.

What Is Depression?

Depression is defined as a mood disorder that can range in severity. There are different types of depression that can present during certain instances. These include:

  • Major depressive disorder: symptoms present for at least two weeks and are severe enough to affect work, sleep, and daily activities.
  • Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder: symptoms are not as severe but last longer than two weeks and continue consistently. They often persist for more than two years.
  • Postpartum depression: depression symptoms appear after childbirth. Depression while pregnant can also occur, called perinatal depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: depression symptoms come and go throughout the year, usually beginning in autumn and winter and alleviating in spring and summer.

In order to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must occur consistently for at least two weeks. Only medical professionals can diagnose the condition.

How Does Memory Work and Become Stored in the Brain?

Memory is one of the most important foundations of everyday life. The brain forms memory using two systems. The first system is described as unconscious, meaning our routine and everyday decisions. The second system is more complex, focusing on problem-solving and logic. The first system is more associated with memory and recalling information while the second system is for critical thinking.

Science is always researching the brain, and a recent study has shown memory storage on a cellular level. Researchers noticed different cell groups reacting to different forms of video clips being played for patients. They discovered that memory is related to peaks of activity and that when recalling, the brain can skim over and choose key moments to bring forward. The research was able to correlate that when these cells were firing, memory storage and recollection were easier for the patients in the study. The results also stated that when seeing a video clip uninterrupted, the patients were able to remember more about it than when the clip was broken into segments.

Parts Of the Brain That Get Affected by Depression

The main region of the brain affected by depression is the hippocampus. This area controls memory, emotion regulation, and response to stress. In people with depression, the hippocampus was seen to be predominately smaller than in those without depression.

Other areas of the brain have shown some involvement with depression. The amygdala and basal ganglia have been linked in some studies but not everyone with depression had these areas affected.

Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?

The hippocampus in the brain is one of the main areas that is responsible for memory. As this area shrinks, memory loss is possible. Depressed people tend to have poor memory of positive events, heightened memory of negative events, and impaired recollection of memory in general. Chronic stress is a high cause of memory disruption and a contributing factor to depressive memory loss.

Different Types of Memory Loss

Forgetfulness is normal to an extent. Everyone has forgotten where they set down their wallet or phone once or twice. When does it turn into something more severe?

Dementia is a common term associated with memory loss. It refers to the impairment of memory, judgment, and language. There are key symptoms that separate forgetfulness from dementia.

  • Word mixing – saying “chair” instead of “bookcase”
  • Misplacing in unusual locations – putting your purse in the refrigerator
  • Getting lost – especially in familiar areas
  • Repetition – asking the same questions or telling the same story
  • Forgetting common words in conversation
  • Difficulty completing tasks – not being able to follow directions or complete them in a timely manner

If any of these symptoms are affecting everyday life, it is time to see a doctor. 

Dementia is associated with common conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. It can start mild but will progressively become more severe over time in the case of Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain. However, dementia can appear in treatable conditions such as depression.

Who Is More Susceptible to Memory Loss from Depression

Those who have been living with untreated depression for a long period of time are more likely to have memory loss that can turn into dementia. Also, those who have a direct family member (parent, sibling) with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to develop dementia.  Depression can worsen the likelihood of this.

Depression And Confusion

Some people with depression experience psychosis, a condition where distinguishing reality becomes difficult. Common occurrences include delusions and hallucinations. This can lead to confusion as the person can’t always remember what events happened and if they were real. Psychosis can occur at any time, and those living with depression are more likely to experience it than those without depression.

Treating Memory Loss Caused by Depression

Memory loss caused by depression is a treatable condition. Antidepressants work by increasing the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, and they help regulate the chemicals in the brain. This helps the brain create new nerves to reform connections that broke down due to the lack of neurotransmitters. 

Depression Treatment at SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky

The longer depression goes untreated, the more damaging it can become. At SUN Behavioral Health in Kentucky, we have a depression treatment program to help you get back to enjoying and experiencing life.

Talk therapy is a key component of our treatment process. This is where we guide you through education, coping strategies, and personal insight. In therapy, you will get to the causes of your depression, such as past traumas.

Along with therapy, some patients try medications. Our staff of clinicians will work with you to find out if medication is an option for you and which one suits your needs best.

If you or someone you love is experiencing memory loss with depression, seeking help is crucial. Depression takes its toll on all parts of the body, especially the brain. SUN Kentucky is here to help you navigate this condition and alleviate the symptoms depression brings. Call us today at 859-429-5188.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can depression cause dementia?

Yes, untreated depression can result in dementia.

What mental disorder causes memory loss?

Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia all can cause memory loss.

Does depression affect brain development?

Depression can affect brain development as the areas of the brain affected can shrink and become less functional.

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SUN Behavioral Kentucky

820 Dolwick Drive
Erlanger, Kentucky 41018

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