The Link Between Depression and Memory Loss
It seems your memory is not performing like it once did. If someone tells you something, it’s gone. If you read a new piece of information, it’s gone. Your ability to learn new things and recall it at a later time is suffering. This is common, as depression and memory loss are linked.
Your memory problems have been stretching beyond learning and recalling information. Memory loss and depression brain fog are beginning to impact your entire life. You struggle to remember conversations you’ve had, places you have gone, and whether or not you have eaten lunch. This is going past typical and expected memory slips; it is getting scary.
Interestingly, there is some evidence to suggest that your memory issues might be linked to depression. Yes, the disorder that affects your mood, energy, sleep, appetite, self-esteem, and motivation may influence your memory as well.
So, what contributes to depression’s impact, and what can be done about it? Let's take a closer look at depression and memory loss.
Check for Other Sources
Before you explore the connection between depression and memory loss, it will be important to exhaust other possible sources. Mental health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and traumatic events can decrease your memory, as can a list of physical health conditions like:
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Head injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
To find out more about these issues, schedule an evaluation with an appropriate treatment provider. A mental health practitioner can assess your memory issues related to your current psychology, while your primary care physician might be a reasonable starting point to gauge your physical health.
Executive functioning is associated with ADHD, but there is an overlap of symptoms and interactions with depression. Strong executive functioning skills allows someone to:
- Assess a situation
- Create a plan
- Get themselves and others organized
- Establish time frames
- Adapt to new problems
- Complete their goal
Someone with these skills will be effective and competent in life. Someone without these skills will struggle to do many of the above tasks. They will have poor consistency, seem forgetful, and appear distracted.
Unsurprisingly, depression is related to problems with executive functioning skills, so the two could be working collaboratively to reduce your memory.
Mood-Dependent Learning and Recall
There is a well-known psychological principle called state-dependent learning that declares people are better able to learn and recall information if they are in the same state during each phase.
This means that if you are studying for a big college exam while you are intoxicated, you would need to be intoxicated while taking the exam for the best score. If your state changes from studying to the exam, your memory would be poor.
It turns out that the same is true for your moods. If you are more depressed during learning, you may not be able to recall the information when your mood is better.
The opposite would be true also. For people with moods that change rapidly, this could present as a major obstacle.
The simplest explanation might be the cause of your memory problems: stress. Some stress is associated with improved ability and performance in multiple areas like memory, but too much has the opposite effect.
This is a problem for you since people with depression frequently experience higher levels of stress and people with higher stress experience a higher incidence of depression.
Stress will hinder each step of your memory from the reception to the retrieval, which makes it more challenging to absorb, process, and recall information. Over time, chronic stress will change the structures in your brain making memory problems more permanent.