Depression: Solutions for Concentration & Memory Loss
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According to the mental health website, All About Depression (2014), approximately 19 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of depression (i.e. manic depression/bipolar disorder, mild depression, or clinical depression) each year. According to the Mayo Clinic (2014), depression is a chronic and often serious mood disorder that causes an overwhelming sense of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness. It also causes a loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable (i.e. eating, spending time with friends and family, sex, etc.).
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not simply a case of “the blues,” rather it has the ability to disrupt your life – making it difficult, if not impossible, to get out of bed and face another day. In severe cases, depression (i.e. major depression, clinical depression and manic depression/bipolar disorder) can cause you to become suicidal. If left undiagnosed and untreated, depression can affect your memory and concentration. If you are wondering how depression affects memory and concentration, you have come to the right place. This article can help you better understand the hidden link between depression, memory loss, and concentration.
The Symptoms of Depression
Depression: Concentration & Memory
According to Dr. Natascha Santos, Psy.D., psychologist and behavioral therapist, the brain’s processing speed is altered in people with depression. In other words, if you have depression, your ability to acquire and retain information quickly and effectively is impaired (Theobald, 2013). Many of the brain regions involved with cognitive functioning (i.e. memory and concentration) are also linked to depression symptoms, thus you have a higher chance of developing memory loss and inattention (lack of concentration) if you are depressed. This is especially prevalent in older individuals (elderly), and it is important to note that depression can trigger memory loss and inattention, but disorders and diseases that affect cognitive functioning (i.e. dementia and Alzheimer’s disorder) can also cause these symptoms.
Depression: Long Lasting Cognitive (Mental) Effects
When you are depressed, you have a harder time concentrating on tasks, both at home and at work. Why? Well, your mind ruminates back to whatever is depressing you. In other words, your mind is hazy, therefore you have a hard time concentrating, remembering details, and focusing on the tasks at hand. It is almost as if you are drifting through life – in a vague state. All of your mental energy is focused on your issues and problems. You are consumed with the depression, which affects how you process and perceive information.
Children and adolescents with depression may be misdiagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) because they are unable to focus or concentrate on class assignments. They may also have difficulties retaining information needed for tests and homework assignments. Depression-related concentration and focus problems can also affect relationships. How? Well, if a romantic partner does not recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, he or she may interpret your lack of attention as neglect, when in actuality it is a critical sign of this disorder.
This type of memory loss and concentration can also wreak havoc at the workplace. How? Well, depression can cause you to become easily distracted by things around you. When this occurs, your work performance suffers (i.e. quality and production), placing you at-risk for termination. You may not know this, but depression can also interfere with your ability to comprehend what you have read. In other words, depression can cloud your cognitive functions (concentration and memory), which can cause you to have to read passages or instructions over and over again.
Moreover, depression-related memory loss and inattention can be dangerous, especially when trying to drive. How? Well, when you are depressed, you are more likely to “zone out” or not pay attention to where you are going or what you are doing. For instance, you may drive past your residence or place of work because your mind and thoughts are elsewhere. Or, you may drive past a stop sign or through a stop light because you are consumed with your depression. In these cases, your risk of causing an accident doubles.
Solutions: Concentration & Memory Enhancement
Get Plenty of Sleep
Yes, getting plenty of sleep will help increase your memory and concentration during a depression episode. Although sleeping patterns can be altered or disrupted when you are depressed, it is imperative that you try to stick to your regular sleep pattern, even when depressed. When you do not get plenty of sleep, it interferes with your ability to acquire and retain information (memory and concentration). In other words, you are too tired to pay attention or remember what you have learned.
If you have a hard time falling asleep try a natural sleep remedy like melatonin or take the prescribed amount of Tylenol PM shortly before bed. If you oversleep (sleep excessively) try setting your alarm clock to wake you at a “decent” time. Your body and mind repairs itself, while you sleep so getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night is essential for reducing your depression symptoms and improving your memory and concentration.
Stimulate Your Brain
According to the Mayo Clinic (2014), it is important to keep your brain stimulated, even when you are depressed. Do not wallow in self-pity or dwell on the negativity in your life, pull out a crossword puzzle, or watch an educational game show like: Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. Also, think outside-of-the-box by learning a new hobby, reading a book that you normally would not read, or even exercising (Mayo Clinic, 2014). Regardless of what you choose to pursue, make sure it involves cognitive functions, preferably with a puzzle or problem to solve.
Yes, if you want to reduce depression-related memory loss and inattention - socialize. Truth-be-told, you probably do not really feel like socializing when you are depressed, but in reality it may just be the best thing for you. In reality being alone when you are depressed can lead to life-threatening behaviors. It can also cause you to dwell on all the negativity in your life, and think about death, dying and suicide - which is not good. Going out with friends or spending time with others can put you in a better mood (Mayo Clinic, 2014).
It can also place your attention and focus on more positive things. So, when you feel yourself becoming depressed – call a friend or relative and schedule a “fun activity” for a group of your friends. You may not want to go at first, so have a close confidant pick you up, and refuse to take “no” as an answer. Once you are surrounded by friends and/or relatives, you may actually feel better, and even have a good time.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Not too long ago one of my grandmothers passed away, and she was 85 years young when she died.
For most of us, we would say "wow" 85 years is a long time and a long life! I would agree at face value with that perception. However, in the case of my paternal grandmother, I believe that she began dying the day she sat down from life.
My grandmother really retired when retirement age came along. She and my grandfather retired and began a few volunteer interests with civic organizations and their church. They did that for several years and they even moved four times after their retirement to be closer to family and especially the younger grandchildren. However, with their aging came the slowing of activity and engagement to an eventual "Full Stop" on life.
My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. My grandmother, his wife of over 60 years, cared for him as best she could until he passed away. During this time she of course suffered from some depression, and over the course of the year immediately following my grandfather’s death, severe memory loss and dementia became very evident and increasingly weighed upon her mental clarity. She had to move-in with her children and required almost constant supervision and care. As the condition advanced, the medical personnel diagnosed her as having Alzheimer’s Disease - She eventually went beyond our family’s ability to care for her in their home and had to be admitted to a full-time care facility.
Her physical body had not betrayed her, as she was in very good physical health, but her mind had failed her miserably. I believe that this was encouraged as she slowed the use of her mind in intellectual pursuits and that the cessation of mental stimulation perpetuated her condition.
She focused on the past and what she once had to the point that she couldn’t see the present. As the disorder progressed, she no longer recognized her sons. One of her sons, my uncle, passed away from cancer, but she really never knew it.
On a Thanksgiving Day, my father received a telephone call from her care center advising him to come quickly, because my grandmother had contracted a fever in the early morning hours and she was fading fast. She had not been ill, but within the matter of four hours or less she was gone. I view it as God’s mercy.
My other grandmother is still living at a spry 93 years young.
When I say living, I mean living. She still works two days each week at an organization she has worked in for over 60 years. She still attends church 2-3 times each week. She lives alone in the home she and my late grandfather purchased in 1957. She reads as best she can although she is legally blind, and she has a weekly appointment with her hair salon that is kept religiously. She shops, cooks, and cleans for herself. She travels when she wants to. Simply put she is amazing!
She kept going after my maternal grandfather passed away, nearly twenty years ago. She remained intellectually challenged to learn and grow. The intellectual challenge has kept her mentally stimulated, and her continued mental stimulation and life engagement has fueled her desire and will to keep going, to keep living.
My observation has not been scientific at all, but it has provided me with the insight and encouragement that I need to be inspired about what is possible for our lives. I want to remain active and mentally stimulated until the Lord calls my name and I leave this earth behind. I think we should all hope to do likewise.
All About Depression. (2014). Mental disorders in America. Retrieved from http://www.allaboutdepression.com/gen_25.html
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Depression (major depressive disorder). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
Mayo Clinic (2014). Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/healthy-aging/in-depth/memory-loss/art- 20046518
Theobald, M. (2013). Depression, memory loss, and concentration. Everyday Health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression/depression-memory-loss-and-concentration.aspx