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What is the Connection Between Memory Loss and Depression?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Memory loss and depression are closely linked conditions often seen together, as both involve changes to the brain, including functional changes in the way the brain works. A number of studies have illustrated a clear connection between memory loss and depression that runs both ways; one condition can cause or exacerbate the other. Neurologists and mental health professionals can be involved in the development of a treatment plan to address the patient's condition.

People who are depressed tend to have imbalanced neurotransmitters, including low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin. Their frontal lobe activity is decreased, and this makes it harder for them to form and recall memories. Studies on memory loss and depression have shown that people with severe depression have difficulty forming long term memories, and that they tend to primarily recall negative memories, eliding or forgetting positive ones. The association between memory loss and depression is well known in the medical community and patients with depression may be screened for signs of memory problems over the course of evaluation and treatment.

Treating depression with therapy and medications can help resolve the memory problems. As the patient improves, memories should come more easily and the patient should be more capable of storing memories. In a simple example of how memory loss and depression can be connected, a person might be given a phone number, address, or directions, and forget this information within the hour as the brain never actually stored the information for future recall.

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Conditions associated with memory loss, like dementia and Alzheimer's, are often associated with behavioral changes. These changes can include depression. Recently diagnosed patients with a reasonably high degree of cognitive function can experience depression as they adjust to the diagnosis and confront their fears about how they will live and the changes they will experience in the coming months and years. Depressive episodes may be treatable with therapy and medications, although it will not be possible to resolve the memory loss issues.

People who notice sudden changes in their mental state or who develop memory problems should seek treatment from a physician. A doctor can conduct a thorough evaluation to learn more about what is happening and work on treatment options. In the case of depression-induced memory loss, it can be possible to reverse the memory loss and help the patient lead a relatively normal life by treating the depression. When memory loss is causing depression, treatment of the depression can help the patient feel more comfortable.

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