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Depressive Thoughts Interfere With Memory

Depressive Thoughts Interfere With Memory

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You may think your depression is only affecting your mood but recent research reveals your depression may be putting a damper on your memory too.  A new study, from the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, shows that depressive thoughts linger for longer periods of time and reduce the amount of information a person can hold in their memory.

Depression is a clinical illness that is known to have a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed Mood
  • Poor Concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite Disturbances
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Thoughts of Suicide

The symptoms are commonly known to be associated with depression; however this is the first study to focus on the correlation between memory and depression. The findings have far-reaching implications for understanding how depression can damage memory in addition to how depression develops and persists over the course of an individual’s lifetime.

We’ve known for a while that negative thoughts last longer for those with depression. However, this research allows us to understand how depression affect’s a person’s train of thought. The study reveals that thoughts can significantly hinder a person’s memory. Even people with the occasion depressed mood or depressive thoughts can feel these negative effects to their memory.

In the study, researchers recruited 75 university studies; thirty students were classified as having depressive symptoms and 45 participants did not exhibit any depressive symptoms. All participants were told to respond to a sentences featuring depressive thoughts such as “I am sad,” or “People don’t like me,” or neutral information. After, they were asked to remember a string of numbers.

Those with depressed mood forgot more number strings than people without depressed mood when responding to a sentence with negative information. People with depressive mood given the depressive thought first remembered 31 percent fewer number strings compared to those without depressed mood and those with depressed mood given the number string first.

“We all have a fixed amount of information we can hold in memory at one time,” explained the study’s lead author, Nick Hubbard. “The fact that depressive thoughts do not seem to go away once they enter memory certainly explains why depressed individuals have difficulty concentrating or remembering things in their daily lives. This preoccupation of memory by depressive thoughts might also explain why more positive thoughts are often absent in depression; there simply is not enough space for them.”

The researchers continue by stating that memory resources are depleted by depressive thoughts. The depletion also results in an inability to conjure and maintain positive thoughts in memory. The results helps researchers understand how depression develops and continue throughout an individual’s lifespan.

Despite these results, there is hope for those dealing with depression. Interventions such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have been proven to be successful in empowering depressed people to recognize and better regulate the content of their thought. The goal is to understand how therapeutic approaches can alter the depressed brain and how these alternations can produce better outcomes for those with depression, the article notes.

There have been studies in the past that concluded that severe depression left people with “no room to think,” therefore affecting all aspects of a person’s life.  Often, a person with depression feels trapped and like there is no way out.  One study defined this condition as dysphoria, essentially the opposite of euphoria.  Dysphoria involves a great deal of dissatisfaction or unease. Dysphoria is known to impair memory and focusing problems.

The article suggests that those suffering from depression take the time and consider that maybe their perception of things and thoughts are unhealthy. Depression is a serious condition and seeing a professional can be a great way of learning how to cope and overcome your negative emotions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

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