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Dr Donna Grant

Page medically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (BSc, MBBS, MRCPsych) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford.

When we talk about depression, we often think about feelings of sadness, fatigue and a loss of interest in daily activities. But what about memory loss?

In this blog, we'll explore the link between depression and memory loss, and offer some insights on how to improve your memory when you’re dealing with this mental health condition.

Can depression cause memory loss?

People with depression often report difficulties in recalling details, concentrating and making decisions. These all highlight the impact depression can have on our cognitive functions.

When a person is depressed, the persistent low mood and chronic stress associated with this condition, can affect our brain’s structure and function. This can then lead to problems with memory.

One of the cognitive symptoms of depression is the experience of ‘brain fog’. This is a term that’s used to describe feelings of confusion, forgetfulness and a lack of mental clarity. Brain fog depression can make it challenging for people to remember information, organise thoughts and make decisions, contributing to the overarching experience of memory loss.

A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found a link between long-term sadness (major depressive disorder) and issues with thinking skills like memory, attention and decision-making. The researchers found that people who experience prolonged periods of depression might struggle with these cognitive skills, highlighting the importance of addressing these issues in treatment.

What is it called when you lose your memory when you are depressed?

Memory loss experienced during depression is often referred to as ‘pseudodementia’.

People with pseudodementia tend to worry a lot about their forgetfulness. This is a clue for doctors and mental health professionals that the memory loss the person is experiencing is a symptom of depression and not something else. Spotting the difference is really important because dealing with the underlying sadness can help bring your memory back to what it normally was.

Although the clinical name can sound scary, this type of memory loss is not as permanent as other types of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. The memory troubles that people experience in pseudodementia typically come from the low mood itself. The good news is that once you commence with depression treatment, it’s likely that your memory will improve..

How to help your memory with depression

Facing memory issues due to depression can be tough, but by addressing the underlying depression, many find their memory fog starts to lift. Here are some steps to help you along the way:

Seek professional advice

If you're feeling persistently low, reaching out to a mental health professional can provide a lifeline. They are trained to offer tailored advice, support and treatment options designed to address your unique needs. Initiating this dialogue can help you start your road to recovery, and get your mood and memory back on track.

Medication and therapy

Depression medication and therapy is a successful combination for many people when it comes to alleviating symptoms and improving wellbeing. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of medication commonly used to treat depression, which help to balance the brain's chemical make-up. Meanwhile, talking therapies offer a safe space for you to explore, understand and manage your feelings, fostering emotional resilience and coping mechanisms.

Lifestyle changes

Embracing simple yet effective lifestyle changes can make a world of difference when it comes to tackling depression. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep not only enhance your mood but also support cognitive function. These fundamental elements of wellbeing work in harmony to promote both physical and mental health.

Mindfulness and relaxation

Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing into your daily routine can mitigate stress, a key contributor to both depression and memory issues. These practices encourage  balance and tranquillity, helping you navigate life's challenges with a clearer, more focused mind.

Stay connected

Building and maintaining connections with friends, family or support groups can be a source of comfort and understanding. Sharing your experiences and feelings with others who can empathise makes the journey less isolating. The power of community and shared understanding can be a stepping-stone towards healing and recovery.

Reaching out for help

If you find you’re struggling with your memory, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP about it. They’re there to help figure out what’s going on and come up with a plan to lift your mood and get your memory back on track. They’ll be able to assess your symptoms and refer to you a private provider of mental health treatment, such as Priory, if necessary.

By seeking professional advice, embracing therapeutic interventions, making lifestyle changes and staying connected, it's possible to lift the fog of depression and see improvements in memory. Left untreated, the depression symptoms you’re struggling with can worsen over time.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique, so finding what works best for you is essential. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression or memory loss, reaching out for help is a step towards healing and recovery.

Get in touch today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020  or submit an online enquiry form here. 

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