Depression affects our lives in countless ways, like slowing your metabolism. But, emotional stress is also a common memory loss cause. That brings us to today’s topic: depression’s impact on memory.
In this article, I’ll take you through why it happens and what you can do about it.
Basically, depression changes how your brain functions. I’m not talking about mere psychology. It can disrupt your brain structure and function.
Is depression’s impact on memory real?
Memory seems to have a huge impact on mood regulation. But, depressed people seem to react differently. For instance, recalling happy memories appears to worsen their mod.
But, the main clue lies in the hippocampus. This area deals with memory and learning. And, it’s highly sensitive to stress.
Curiously, people with depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus. Moreover, rumination and overthinking may overtake neural resources. In other words, overthinking could starve your memory.
It relates to how your memory works
Our memory is a complex topic. It splits into 5 types:
Each type also has different durations. Sensory and short-term memory last seconds. Working memory tends to last for hours. Finally, the last two can last for months or a lifetime.
Moreover, each memory gets stored in a different brain area. The hippocampus is responsible for long-term and long-lasting memories. Short-term and working memories reside in the prefrontal cortex.
How is depression’s impact on memory real?
Memory formation is a resource-intensive process. It’s also quite lengthy when compared with other biological functions.
To create a memory, your brain goes through 3 steps:
- It receives sensory input and encodes it.
- Then, it stashes each “memory chunk” in a different region.
- Finally, it can recall the memory, which also requires resources.
As we explained, depression can physically alter your brain. So, memory-related areas may become less efficient. Likewise, rumination can “distract” your brain when trying to recall information.
Depression’s impact on memory and brain function
Primarily, depression affects 3 critical areas: the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala. We’ve already discussed the first two’s primary functions. But, the trio is vital for emotion processing, reasoning, and cognition.
So, these neural circuits overlap in two tasks: cognition and stress response. Thus, it’s easy to see why depression can take over their resources.
Moreover, our brain uses serotonin and dopamine for neuronal communication. So, having irregular levels of these chemicals attacks memory directly.
Depression’s impact on memory types
According to MedicalNewsToday, depressed people also seem to struggle with certain memories. Thus, it leads us to believe that depression doesn’t impact all memory types similarly.
Autobiographical memory appears to be the main victim. That’s because depression could impair pattern separation. That’s the method we use for memory encoding with similar stimuli.
Thus, depression prevents us recalling where we’ve been, events, and personal history.
How can you treat depression’s impact on memory?
Luckily, a few lifestyle changes can improve your memory and depression. In this case, the goal is to offset your emotional stress. So, the following tips are great:
- Find counseling, therapy, or treatment for depression.
- Leading an active lifestyle is also great for improving your mood. Plus, exercising is great for your memory!
- Go out with your loved ones and get involved in your community.
- Ask your doctor about using memory aids or specific medication.
- Create habits to improve your memory.
The holistic takeaway
Depression’s impact on memory is real. And, it goes beyond mere brain fog. Yes, overthinking distracts us. But, depression physically shifts your brain. So, you must take action before it disrupts your daily life.
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