Forgetful or depressed?

We have all lost our keys, wallet or phone at some point in our lives, this can be down to a number of reasons, something as simple as being distracted by what you are going to have for dinner later. Yet, when does being forgetful and misplacing daily objects become a cause for concern? Research has stated that those with depression are a lot more likely to have short-term memory problems.

There is a part of our brains that helps create new memories. That part of the brain is called the hippocampus. A study carried out in 2013, found that those who had major depression also had a smaller hippocampus. This means that those with depression, are more prone to memory problems and being forgetful. People with depression often complain of short-term memory problems and problems concentrating. This can include, forgetting something you have just been told or where you just put something. When discussing this with people with depression it turns out to be due to both a difficulty taking information in and a difficulty recalling it. This recall difficulties may also affect long term memories. The memory and concentration problem does not seem to affect everything in the same way. People with depression will find it easier to remember negative words, and negative events. This has lead researchers to believe that the memory problems and this bias for negative memories could in itself make the depression worse.

But why does this happen in depression? According to healthyplace, some parts of the brain linked with memory are weakened when somebody has depression. In some cases of major depression these areas can actually shrink.

Depression seems to affect the finer details of a memory, rather than the bigger picture. People with depression tend to find it more difficult to find the difference between two similar memories (often getting them mixed up). A study carried out in 2013, showed participants a number of objects on a screen and they had to label them as new (haven’t come up on the screen before) or old (have come up before). The results showed that the participants with depression were more likely to be able to tell the difference between objects they had or hadn’t seen before, however, were less likely to be able to tell the difference between objects that looked similar and so marked them as old if they looked the similar to the object they saw before.

Memory problems in people with depression can impact their day to day life. If you are concerned about your memory, you should talk to your GP. Your GP can perform an exam and ask questions relating to your memory to see what the cause may be as there are many things that could be affecting your memory other than depression.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to improve your memory.

Eat right - What you eat (and don’t eat) can affect your memory. Eat enough of everything, mostly vegetables, but also a good mixture of everything else. If there is one thing you should avoid is sugary foods.

Exercise your brain  - Don’t avoid tasks that require mental effort. If your mood is low and you don’t feel like you have any energy this is hard to do, but it is worth it. These can be everyday tasks like putting together a shopping list, going out shopping, cooking or anything that requires a bit of concentration. You can also learn a new skill, like enroll in an online course or take up a class locally. Taking up a new hobby which focuses on hand-eye ability can also boost memory, this can include knitting, painting, puzzles and so on.

Avoid multitasking - Multitasking can make you more prone to making mistakes, more forgetful and can also slow you down. You need roughly 8 seconds to process information, so if you were talking on the phone and shopping when you put your keys down, you are unlikely to remember where you left them as it did not have your complete attention in order to commit it to memory.

Sleep well - Sleep improves memory processing and recall. Sleeping just 4-6 hours in a single night can improve your ability to think clearly the next day, so the recommended 8 hours will improve your memory even more so.

Socialise - Studies have shown that those who are more socially active are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Socialising tends to activate certain regions of your brain which in turn prove beneficial to a number of cognitive functions including memory.

Being forgetful is not always a cause for concern, it can happen to the best of us for a number of reasons. However, if your memory is impacting your daily life we would advise you to get in touch with your GP.

Sam GlassComment