Untreated Depression & Anxiety Linked to Future Memory Loss

Recent University of Sussex findings from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) in Britain have pointed to episodes of depression being associated with loss of memory function later in life. The study, which began in 1958 and involves 18,000 participants from birth onto adulthood, found that more than one period of depression or anxiety in an individual’s 20s-40s predicted cognitive impairment in their 50s. The findings, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, noted that while one singular episode of depression or anxiety did not effect memory, each successive episode correlated to a higher degree of loss of verbal memory, verbal fluency, and information processing accuracy.

Dr. Kimberly Cress, Regional Medical Director of Greenbrook’s Texas region, says that “this study’s findings highlight the importance of early intervention for mental illness—it’s critical to treat depression and other conditions as soon as possible, both to alleviate suffering now and to help avoid cognitive impairment in later years. For the estimated 30% of people with depression who do not experience relief from their symptoms with medication, know that other avenues of treatment such as TMS Therapy are available and have helped others who were also struggling.”

For brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, there is a period of time prior to symptoms manifesting during which damage in the brain has already begun to form. The authors of the NCDS findings suggest that having a medical history of depression or anxiety can prompt early intervention during this asymptomatic period in order to help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia before symptoms begin to appear and accelerate.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early signs of this disease include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

In older populations, the links between Alzheimer’s and depression can make a diagnosis difficult. Some symptoms such as mood changes or withdrawal from activities are linked to both conditions, and other symptoms such as forgetfulness or difficulty with problem solving are often seen as “natural” signs of aging that don’t require intervention. Moreover, older populations are at higher risk of depression due to factors such as:

  • Chronic medical illness, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease
  • Disability
  • Social Isolation
  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Use of certain medications
  • Brain disease
  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Stressful life events such as loss of a spouse, divorce, or taking care of someone with a chronic illness

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mood disorder such as depression, it’s critical to get the necessary treatment that works best for you, whether that’s medication, psychotherapy, or TMS Therapy. To schedule your free Greenbrook TMS Therapy consultation, call us at 855-940-4867 or fill out our online consultation form here.