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What is the Connection Between Depression and Memory Loss?

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  • Written By: Lily Ruha
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Research has established a clear link between depression and memory loss. Depression increases stress hormone levels, which can lead to memory loss over time. Studies also have shown that treatments for depression can help to improve memory in depression-induced memory loss.

When an individual is under continual stress over long periods of time, his body will produce more cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that impacts the brain’s learning and information retention ability. Over time, high levels of cortisol shrink the part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus handles many brain functions related to memory. A smaller hippocampus translates into a reduced ability to retain information.

The discovery of the link between depression and memory loss is an important one. It allows medical practitioners to explore and uncover the cause of memory loss on a case-by-case basis. If stress and depression are the cause of memory loss, therapy and medication can be used as a possible treatment. Antidepressant medication, for example, has been known to balance stress hormones and improve memory in some patients. Some studies show that the hippocampus resumes its original size through the use of antidepressants and psychotherapy.

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Successful treatment approaches further substantiate the connection between depression and memory loss. A regular exercise regimen, for example, has been known to reduce cortisol levels and increase endorphins, which elevate the mood and decrease depression; in some cases, improved memory results as well. Activities that lead to these physiological changes are aerobic in nature, elevating the heart rate. Studies show that to reduce depression and to experience greater feelings of happiness, strenuous exercise should be performed for a minimum of a half hour a day, at least a few times per week. It usually takes at least two weeks of regular exercise for the antidepressant effects to become apparent.

Other successful methods for addressing depression and memory loss include activities that are more social and spiritual in nature. A person who is alone and sad is more likely to suffer from depression and forgetfulness or memory loss. Developing a strong network of social support and engaging in social activities on regular basis are good strategies for creating a greater sense of happiness. Other practices such as meditation, yoga and involvement in spiritual or religious activities also help to reduce depression and memory loss.

Forgetfulness is more common in the elderly and is often considered a natural byproduct of aging. Some older people develop dementia, a deterioration of memory and mental capacity. In cases of consistent forgetfulness, the common assumption is that the individual has developed the irreversible condition of dementia. Research shows, however, that in cases where depression is the cause, memory can be improved.

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Drentel
Post 4

I don't want to belittle the disease of depression or the condition of short term memory loss and I hope no one takes my comments in that way. So many instances of depression could be avoided if people stayed active. Go running, join a gym, play tennis or some other physically exerting activity.

Also, interact with other people in any positive setting: theater, sporting arena, bar, pub, bingo hall,... whatever. I'm not saying people with depression can simply get up and get over the disease. I'm saying it is easier to prevent most cases of depression than it is to treat them.

Sporkasia
Post 3

Animandel - I'm not a doctor or medical researcher, but I think stress can break the body down in about anyway imaginable--physically mentally and emotionally. So taking the leap and connecting stress, depression and dementia doesn't seem like a very large leap at all.

Maybe if we can do a better job of relieving ourselves of stress then we won't be so dependent on doctors and medications to deal with more serious issues of memory loss treatment and treatment of other physical ailments not always readily connected with stress.

Drentel
Post 2

Animandel - From my experience with people battling with depression, I can confirm that depression and memory loss are connected.

I have seen people with depression shrink away into their own little worlds. Their short term memory loss can be frightening to the people who care about them. They are able to remember virtually nothing about day to day activities going on around them.

Animandel
Post 1

Since stress can lead to depression and depression is one of the many memory loss causes, is it too far fetched to think that stress might be a trigger for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?

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