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Can depression cause memory loss

Can depression cause memory loss? Unveiling the powerful Impact

Writen By: Faiza Saifur
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: August 20, 2023

Can depression actually mess with our ability to remember things? That’s the question we’re diving into.

If you are wondering, “Can depression cause memory loss?” The answer is, “Of course it does”. Problems with memory, such as confusion or forgetfulness, have been connected to depression. Additionally, it could be challenging to concentrate on work or other responsibilities, come to conclusions, or concentrate effectively. Memory loss can also be a result of anxiety and stress.

The short term loss of memory is connected to depression. Other forms of memory, including procedural memory and long-term memory, which regulate motor abilities, are unaffected.

In this article, we’re going to dig into the answer to the question, Does depression cause memory loss?. We’ll break it down into simple bits so you can understand how your brain works when these two things collide. So, if you’ve ever wondered why you can’t quite remember things the way you used to, stick around; we’re about to uncover the secrets behind this curious connection.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness and emptiness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyed activities.
  • Persistent fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Changes in appetite or weight, either significant increase or decrease.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain without apparent cause.
  • Reduced libido or disinterest in intimacy.
  • Lack of motivation and reduced productivity.
  • A sense of hopelessness or pessimism about the future.
  • Increased irritability or restlessness.
  • Slowed movements and speech.

Can Depression Cause Memory Loss?

A study was performed by the NIH about “Can depression cause memory loss ?” And the results proved that, Yes, feeling unhappy or dissatisfied can affect our ability to remember and pay attention to things.

  • They gave people a memory task where they had to remember things.
  • People who felt unhappy had trouble remembering important things when they had to think about sad stuff at the same time.

When people feel unhappy and think about sad things, their ability to remember important things gets worse. This explains why people in a bad mood often have a hard time remembering things and concentrating on tasks in their daily lives.

Also, research has revealed a significant connection between depression and various types of memory issues, including short-term memory problems and memory loss associated with dementia. (Dementia is a brain condition causing memory loss, impaired thinking, and daily difficulties, especially in older individuals.) Symptoms vary and include forgetfulness and mood changes.

Here are some key findings from research on “Can depression cause memory loss?”:

Short-Term Memory Loss:

A study conducted in 2018 indicated that individuals with depression often experienced memory complaints, which were linked to more severe depressive symptoms.

A 2014 meta-analysis highlighted a clear association between depression and cognitive performance. People with depression struggled with attention, memory, and executive function, which involves skills like focus and self-monitoring.

Effects on Memory After Treatment:

Research in 2014 suggested that the effects of depression might continue to impact memory even after treatment. People with a history of depression were more likely to remember negative words compared to those who had never experienced depression.

Dementia and Depression Link:

Dementia is a brain condition causing memory loss, impaired thinking, and daily difficulties, especially in older individuals. Symptoms vary and include forgetfulness and mood changes.

There appears to be a complex link between depression and dementia, although distinguishing between the two can be challenging.

Memory loss due to depression can sometimes be mistaken for dementia in older individuals. However, cognitive impairments seen in depression could be an early sign of underlying neurodegenerative conditions, according to a 2010 analysis.

Research indicates that depression and dementia may have similar effects on brain structure, including decreased gray matter volume.

Gray Matter Changes:

Gray matter is the brain tissue that contains nerve cell bodies. It’s involved in functions like thinking, memory, and sensory perception. Changes in gray matter can relate to brain disorders.

Studies have shown that people with depression may exhibit lower gray matter volume, particularly in brain regions related to emotion and working memory.

Similarly, individuals with dementia may also have reduced gray matter levels, suggesting overlapping structural effects on the brain.

Long-Term memory loss:

A 2019 study using data from a long-term study of children into adulthood found that individuals who showed symptoms of depression in their twenties were more likely to have poorer immediate and delayed memory when they reached 50.

While a correlation was identified, more research is needed to fully understand whether depression cause memory loss later in life.

In conclusion, research has highlighted a strong connection between depression and various types of memory impairment, ranging from short-term memory issues to memory loss associated with dementia.  


Researchers have discovered a potential connection between antidepressants and memory loss. Tricyclic antidepressants may raise the risk of memory issues for certain individuals. Additionally, a study from 2016 revealed that those taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) experienced a decrease in memory function within 8 weeks of starting treatment.

Why Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?

You know how, when you’re feeling down, everything can seem a bit blurry? Well, depression does something similar to our memory. It messes with the way our brain works, and that can make it harder to remember things.

  • Our brain is like a team of messengers passing notes between different parts. But in depression, these messengers, called neurotransmitters, start acting a bit wonky. This affects how well our brains can remember stuff.
  • There’s a special part of our brain called the hippocampus that’s like our memory headquarters. But when we’re dealing with depression, it might not work as well. It could shrink a bit or not do its job properly, which makes it tough for us to remember things.
  • Also, stress hormones like cortisol, which we get more of when we’re feeling low, can mess with our brain’s structure. These hormones can actually change how our brain looks and works, and that can mess up our memory game.
  • Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling down, it’s hard to focus on anything? That’s because depression can make it tough to pay attention and concentrate. And when we’re not paying good attention, our brain struggles to remember things.
  • Another thing is sleep. Depression can mess with our sleep, and sleep is like a superhero for memory. It helps us store all the things we’ve learned during the day. So, when our sleep is disrupted, our memory can suffer too.
  • Plus, when we’re feeling really sad or overwhelmed, our brain is working extra hard to deal with all those emotions. This leaves less brainpower for remembering stuff.
  • Sometimes, medications we take for depression might also play a role. They can have side effects that affect how our brain works, including memory.

Long story short, depression can throw a bit of a curveball at our memory. It’s like our brain’s communication system gets a bit fuzzy, and that can make it harder to remember things clearly. But the good news is that with help and treatment, we can work on getting our memory back on track.

What Are the Other Causes of Memory Loss?

These are some more causes of memory loss that you could encounter:

  • Sleep Deprivation: Not getting enough quality sleep can impair memory and cognitive function.
  • Aging: Memory loss associated with aging is frequent and controllable. Forgetting where you left your glasses, but recalling later in the day, is one illustration of this.
  • Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress and chronic anxiety can affect concentration and memory.
  • Some drugs may have an adverse effect that causes forgetfulness.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: A progressive brain disorder that impairs memory and other cognitive functions.
  • Other Dementia Disorders: Conditions like vascular dementia or Lewy body dementia can also cause memory problems.
  • Head Injury: A significant head injury or trauma can lead to memory difficulties.
  • Thyroid Problems: Thyroid disorders can affect cognitive function, including memory.Your metabolic rate will slow down if you have hypothyroidism, which can cause trouble with memory and other mental functions.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Lack of essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12, can impact memory.
  • Infections: Certain infections affecting the brain can lead to memory loss.
  • A vitamin B-12 shortage might cause memory issues. This is a result of your inability to keep your hemoglobin and neurons healthy.
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol might affect your mental health and talents. The same thing can happen if alcohol and prescription drugs mix.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, can affect memory.
  • Stroke: A stroke can damage parts of the brain responsible for memory and cognitive function.

Diagnosing Memory Loss.

Diagnosing memory loss involves a series of steps to understand the cause and extent of the issue. Your doctor will guide you through this process, which includes various assessments and tests:

Initial Evaluation:

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask you questions about your memory concerns.

They will inquire about when you first noticed memory problems and for how long you’ve been experiencing them.

Questions about your emotional well-being, such as whether you’ve been feeling sad, anxious, or depressed, may be asked.

Information about your medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, will be important to determine any potential factors contributing to memory loss.

Changes in your daily routine, recent illnesses, head injuries, or accidents will be discussed.

Memory Assessment:

Your doctor may use a short question-and-answer test to evaluate your memory and thinking abilities.

They might ask about tasks you find difficult to initiate or complete to gauge the impact on your daily life.

Your response to previous attempts to address memory problems, such as treatments you’ve tried, will also be considered.

Brain Activity Test:

An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be performed to measure your brain’s electrical activity and detect any irregularities.

Blood Tests:

Blood tests can help identify factors like nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or infections that might contribute to memory issues.

Imaging Tests:

Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provide detailed pictures of your brain to detect structural abnormalities or changes.

Specialist Referral:

Depending on the findings, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, like a neurologist or psychiatrist, for a more specialized assessment.

The goal of these evaluations is to determine the underlying cause of your memory loss and its impact on your daily life. Identifying the cause helps your doctor create an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your needs. Remember, occasional forgetfulness is common, but persistent or severe memory problems should be discussed with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and care.

How to Cope with Memory Loss?

Depression-related memory loss is often treated with frequent therapy or counseling as well as medications. Your state of mind can be improved by living a healthy life and participating in the things you love.

Managing memory loss involves a combination of strategies, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some ways to manage memory loss:

1. Therapy and Counseling:

If depression cause memory loss, regular counseling or therapy sessions can help address underlying emotional factors and improve cognitive function.

2. Medications:

Antidepressants may be prescribed to manage memory loss associated with depression.

For conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or neurological disorders, medications to improve memory and brain function may be recommended.

3. Lifestyle Changes:

Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise can have positive effects on mood and cognitive function.

Adopt a balanced and nutritious diet to support brain health.

Ensure you get adequate sleep, as sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.

4. Stay Socially Active:

Participate in social activities and maintain connections with friends and family to enhance mood and cognitive engagement.

5. Use Memory Aids:

Employ tools like calendars, planners, or smartphone apps to help you remember appointments and tasks.

Set alarms or reminders for important activities or medication doses.

Color-code items in your environment to make them easier to remember.

6. Organize Your Environment:

Keep your living space organized and clutter-free to reduce cognitive load.

Place labels or notes with instructions on appliances or items you frequently use.

7. Mindfulness and Cognitive Training:

Engage in mindfulness practices, meditation, or relaxation techniques to reduce stress and enhance focus.

Participate in cognitive training exercises or brain games designed to improve memory and cognitive skills.

8. Home Care Providers:

Consider hiring a home care provider or caregiver to assist with daily tasks and routines.

9. Support Groups:

Joining a support group for individuals experiencing memory loss can provide a sense of community and shared understanding.

10. Professional Help:

Consult with healthcare professionals, including doctors and specialists, to receive personalized guidance and treatment options.

Wrapping up!

So now your question, can depression cause memory loss? Is answered. If you’re dealing with depression, it’s possible that you might also be facing memory problems. The impact of memory loss linked to depression can change based on how you’re feeling emotionally and mentally.

If you’re noticing difficulties with your memory, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. They can collaborate with you to figure out why this might be happening. Once they identify the cause, they can develop a treatment strategy to help alleviate your depression and enhance your memory. Remember, seeking professional guidance can make a positive difference in your overall well-being.


Is depression-related memory loss permanent?

In some people with depression, memory loss may be permanent. While memory loss may be recovered with the proper care, this brain injury may become irreversible if it is ignored and goes undiagnosed for a long time.

Why do I forget things so easily?

Stress, sadness, insufficient sleep, and thyroid issues can all contribute to forgetfulness. A poor diet, adverse drug reactions, or a lack of adequate fluid intake (dehydration) are among additional factors. Your memory issues could be resolved if you take care of these underlying factors.

What are the top three foods that prevent memory loss?

Three of the finest meals to prevent memory loss include berries, salmon, and leafy greens. There is a ton of evidence that they promote and safeguard brain health.

At what age does memory loss become normal?

After we reach the age of 65, around 40% of us will suffer from some sort of memory loss. Even so, it’s still improbable that we have dementia, even if we do have memory loss.

Why is my memory so poor in my twenties?

According to studies, the slow deterioration of memory begins in one’s twenties but only becomes apparent in one’s senior years. Young people who seem to be forgetful often are exhibiting signs of trouble. You may prevent memory loss by eating healthily, being active, getting enough rest, and sleeping well.

Can depression harm the brain?

According to studies, those who have had severe depressive illness for 10 years or more without receiving treatment have substantially greater levels of these proteins. Unchecked inflammation in the brain can: Damage or destroy brain cells. prevent the development of new brain cells.

How may depression-related memory loss be prevented?

One of the best methods to handle cognitive impairment in depression is to seek therapy, but there are other natural cures for depression and memory loss that can be helpful. Making healthy lifestyle adjustments, concentrating on stress management, and getting more sleep can all assist with depressed memory loss.