Do Depressive Thoughts Affect Memory?

Depression is the most common mental health issue in the US, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  Statistics provided by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance illustrate the staggering impact of this disease:

  • Major depressive disorder affects about 7% of the US population or 8 million American adults.
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women, often at twice the rate of men.
  • About one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression.
  • People with depression are four times as likely to develop a heart attack than those without a history of the illness (DBSA, 2015).
  • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44, and the leading cause of disability worldwide among persons five and older.
  • Depression ranks among the top three workplace issues, following only family crisis and stress.
  • Depression’s annual toll on U.S. businesses amounts to about $70 billion in medical expenditures, lost productivity and other costs.
  • Depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year (DBSA, 2015).

The good news is that treatment does help.  According to the DBSA, up to 80% of patients treated for depression show an improvement in symptoms within four to six weeks of beginning treatment which may include medication, psychotherapy, support groups or a combination of these treatments(DBSA, 2015).  But, nearly two out of three patients with depression do not seek or receive treatment, despite this high success rate (DBSA, 2015).

What we do know today is that depression is mostly likely caused by a mix of genetic, environmental and biological factors (NIMH, 2015).  Research into the causes and treatment of depression is ongoing.

Recently, a new study from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has revealed depressions impact on a patients memory.  Study results show that patients depressive thoughts are maintained for longer periods of time, and this may reduce the amount of information individuals can hold in their memory (ScienceDaily, 2015).

According to study authors, these findings could explain why depressed individuals have difficulty concentrating or remembering things during daily life as well as why more positive thoughts are absent in depression – there isn’t enough room for them (ScienceDaily, 2015).  Researchers also pointed out that these new findings may be helpful in understanding how depression develops and continues through a lifetime.