Memory loss due to depression: what is it?
Memory loss due to depression is a no-brainer. The depressed brain disconnects us from reality to distance us like a drifting boat. It takes us into its neurochemical storm. It encloses us in a cave where the outside world becomes tottering and undefined, where it is difficult to maintain concentration, to remember, to react, to think ...
We almost instantly see a person lying on the couch or in bed with the blinds down when we talk about depression. We associate this psychological disorder with tranquility, discouragement and vulnerability. However, depression is often "portable". Indeed, thousands of people face their daily responsibilities with this invisible wound that interferes in almost any field or activity.
Depression negatively affects episodic memory and the memory of lived events.
Depression goes beyond a specific emotional state. This condition corresponds to internal disorder, physical exhaustion, reluctance, apathy. Despair settles in the mind like a Trojan horse. Even more, it deteriorates cognitive functioning. This last aspect is undoubtedly relevant even if we don't talk about it often. It is however essential to take it into account to constitute a more integral, adapted and sensitive therapeutic approach.
Memory loss due to depression, what is happening to me?
Difficulty in understanding the indications and even more in providing them. Problems understanding what we hear or read. Having someone's name on the tip of your tongue without remembering it. Stay empty while driving without remembering where we were going. Perceiving that others are angry with us because we are not paying attention to them while they are talking. Living more and more misunderstandings with those around us because we can not focus, remember what they tell us, make simple deductions, etc.
As we see, memory loss due to depression is more than just forgetting. It is to live enveloped in a mental fog, where everything seems too far or too diffuse to attract attention and understand what is happening, where we are, what is asked of us. All of this creates discomfort, social misunderstanding and, worse, makes the feeling of depression worse.
Why is this happening? Why are all these exhausting processes happening?
Stress is another factor that increases the risk of depression. The feeling of threat, fear, pressure, feeling of alert, anxiety… All these dimensions favor the release of glucocorticoids, the most common being cortisol.
A brain governed by the impact of cortisol works differently. Neurons are "accelerated" and promote well-known processes such as rumination, anxiety, obsessive thoughts ... Something very graphic happens in the face of this hyperactivity. These cells "disconnect" to reduce this over-activation, exhaustion and even neuronal death.
Information stops being transmitted with such agility. Things are forgotten, memory becomes weak and the brain suddenly slows down to enter "pause" mode.
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Memory loss due to depression also comes from a very specific brain structure: the hippocampus. This region, among other functions, is responsible for memory storage. As surprising as it may seem, this area is most affected by the effect of cortisol. It is almost like a target where the toxicity of glucocorticoids ends. In the event that the depression becomes chronic or if we undergo recurrent episodes, its size will be more and more reduced.
It should however be noted that the hippocampus is one of these structures characterized by great plasticity. It can return to its original size through therapy, memory exercises and appropriate cognitive strategies. Our attention, our memories, etc., will be improved.
Anhedonia characterizes people suffering from depression. This psychological disorder makes us lose the ability to enjoy the simplest things, to experience interest, pleasure, motivation, energy to start something new, to leave our home, to undertake , connect…
The dopaminergic circuits are responsible for “rewarding” us for this kind of thing. For those activities that the brain considers positive. In contrast, a depressed brain is an organ where dopamine no longer works effectively. So that everything changes, everything changes. We lose motivation. Furthermore, a deficit in this neurotransmitter also implies the appearance of alterations in the serotonergic, glutamatergic, opioid and endocannabinoid systems ...
If all these systems and neurochemical processes are not working properly, we lose the curiosity, the ability to pay attention, agility to learn, store new data and recover to make effective decisions ...
What can we do ?
Memory loss due to depression is a fact. However, each person will experience it in a particular way. We know for example that the cognitive deficit is recoverable by cognitive therapies, exercises, self-help groups, etc., in cases of mild to moderate depression.
In the most serious cases, however, a multidisciplinary strategy is necessary. The pharmacological approach is thus associated with psychological therapies, therapies focused on working with memory and even with food supplements based on magnesium and group B vitamins. We must also not overlook the importance of having support from our environment. Understanding, proximity and sensitivity towards the person with depression is essential.
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