Depression and Memory


Research has found that memory concerns are often more related to depression than to actual memory abilities.  But why is depression associated with poorer memory performance?  Possible reasons include:


·       Depressed people tend to have decreased concentration and a harder time paying attention.  Attention and concentration are key elements in the ability to remember things.


·       Depressed people tend to have negative expectations about a lot of things in their lives, which includes their ability to remember.  In essence, they don’t believe that they can remember things. As we talked about earlier, attitude and belief in yourself is important for memory.


·       Probably because they have negative expectations about their memory functioning, depressed people tend to put less effort into trying to remember.  This means that depressed people tend to use less strategies to help them remember. And we know how important strategies are!


Could you be suffering from depression?


Almost everyone feels sad or “depressed” at certain times. However, clinical depression (also called Major Depressive Disorder) is confirmed by the presence of a number of symptoms for a period of two weeks. These symptoms include:


·        sadness

·        loss of interest in usual activities

·       changes in sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)

·       changes in appetite or weight

·       changes in sexual desire

·       difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

·       fatigue or loss of energy

·       feelings of worthlessness or guilt

·       thoughts of, or actual plans related to suicide


* If you have some of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have depression. Only a physician or psychologist can diagnose depression, and they do it through a very comprehensive assessment of your functioning. If you think that you or someone you know may be depressed, the best bet it to talk your family doctor.




Depression is often under diagnosed and under reported in older people. Why?



·       Some see it as a normal reaction to aging, therefore, they are less likely to seek help.


·       Some see it as a sign of weakness, therefore, they are less likely to seek help or acknowledge it.


·       Depressed older people tend to complain more often of poor memory/concentration and physical aches/pains than low mood, so sometimes doctors miss it because they are focus on treating the physical concerns.       



Luckily, treatment for depression is highly effective. Drugs and psychotherapy are available and work!


The Canadian Psychological Association is also a very useful resource for information about depression, treatment, and how to find a psychologist who can help.







Return to menu