5 Strategies to Recover From Memory Loss Caused By Depression

Recover From Memory Loss

Anyone who has ever suffered from depression knows how impairing the mood symptoms can be. The pervasive sadness or irritability along with feeling hopeless, fatigued, and empty makes the world seem much darker than it is. And as if these aren’t difficult enough, depression can also hurt the cognitive functioning of your brain, although this isn’t mentioned as much as the other symptoms are.

More than half of the people who develop depression also experience memory problems and brain fog. Although it may be difficult to discern them from other symptoms in the midst of a depressive episode, they can nonetheless interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly and remember things, even after the other symptoms have lifted.

More than half of the people who develop depression experience cognitive changes, such as memory problems and brain fog. Click To Tweet

HOW DEPRESSION IMPACTS BRAIN FUNCTION AND MEMORY

Like most mental health conditions, depression is complex and isn’t a simple or single disorder; thus, symptoms can be caused by many different factors, including changes in the brain’s structure and function. Research on depression published in the medical journal Neuroimage: Clinical found decreased grey matter (atrophy), especially in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG), which are areas of the brain involved with paying attention, planning, decision-making, and judgment—along with other important functions. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found decreased activity (low blood flow) in the PFC and ACG as well as other areas, including the left temporal lobe—a part of the brain that is critical for memory and emotional processing.

Although the specific underlying reasons for findings like these are still being researched, science does know there are several potential causes. One is that during depressive episodes there often is a decrease in synaptic connections in the brain, meaning that the communication between brain cells is disrupted. There are also abnormalities in neurotransmitters (i.e. serotonin and dopamine) and other brain chemicals which then lead to a wide range of depressive symptoms, including those related to cognition.

Despite how concerning this might sound, most people who struggle with depression will find that the right treatment and lifestyle strategies can not only boost mood and energy but also help with memory loss and clear up that annoying brain fog.

5 NEUROSCIENCE TIPS TO REVERSE MEMORY LOSS DUE TO DEPRESSION

Taking steps to heal from depression can improve how you feel as well as how your brain works. It requires doing things that support your brain function and avoiding behaviors that are harmful to it. The following neuroscience-based strategies can help you get back on your game again.

1. Begin (or resume) a regular exercise regimen.

When feeling depressed, getting started might be hard at first, but once you take that first step—even if it’s going for a walk down the street—you’ll notice it makes you feel a little better, which will motivate you to do it more often. This happens because exercise increases blood flow in the brain and causes the release of neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that help us feel better. Research published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics found that strength training, aerobic activity, and mind-body exercise, such as yoga, can reduce depressive symptoms and induce neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to repair itself.

2. Give meditation a try.

If you’ve never meditated before, when you do experience it, you will likely be pleased by the way it helps you feel more centered and grounded, as well as how it can improve brain function. A 2019 study that analyzed the benefits of a daily 13-minute guided meditation over the course of 8 weeks resulted in a better mood, focus, and memory, among other gains for the participants.

3. Consider transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

This non-invasive technology, which is FDA approved for the treatment of depression, uses a powerful magnet to stimulate blood flow in the brain. In addition to it helping reduce depressive symptoms, a meta-analysis (review of multiple studies) published in Psychological Medicine found that TMS also improved working memory. This is the short-term memory that holds small bits of information needed from moment to moment while working on a task. During a depressive episode, it is often compromised, which can make it difficult to stay focused and get things accomplished.

4. Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Although you aren’t likely to physically feel inflammation in your brain, it can be a contributing factor to depression, memory issues, and brain fog. Sugar and other high-glycemic foods as well as ones that are processed with hydrogenated oils promote inflammation and can exacerbate symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to opt instead for foods that support the function of your brain, such as those found in a Mediterranean diet—tomatoes, leafy greens, berries, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and cold-water fish like salmon. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and curcumins also have anti-inflammatory properties.

5. Give your brain a workout.

Just like we need to exercise our muscles need to stay strong, and we also need to engage in brain workouts—especially after depression-related memory loss and thinking problems have gotten in your way. There are some very accessible (and often free) tools that are helpful for residual cognitive issues and can easily be incorporated into your day. For example:

  • Word search puzzles, Sudoku, Wordle, and crossword puzzles
  • Online brain games that require concentration, recall, and speed
  • Learn new words from the dictionary (and practice using them)
  • Memorize the alphabet backward

As your memory improves and you’re able to think more clearly, work your brain even more with challenges like these:

  • Take a class on a new subject or hobby that interests you.
  • Brush up on the foreign language you studied in high school.
  • Learn to play a musical instrument, or learn a different one if you’re already skilled with a particular instrument.

To further enhance your brain function as you recover from depression, it is vital to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, increase your social connectedness, and avoid alcohol and recreational drugs like marijuana because they adversely affect cognition and mood. By practicing healthy lifestyle choices every day, you increase your capacity to heal from the memory issues related to depression, so you can get back to doing the things that you bring joy and fulfillment and remembering them.

Depression and memory problems can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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