Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and phobias are the strongest known force that affects a person’s ability to think due to the effects of these disorders on a person’s awareness.
It is widely known that some degree of memory problems do exist, as well as a modest decline in other thinking skills, is a fairly common part of aging. There’s a difference, however, between normal changes in memory and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Anxiety for instance is an all-consuming and a very exhausting disorder that affects not only the individual’s ability to function physically but also causes the perpetuation of anguish, sensationalized thoughts, negative emotions that overrides your ability to think clearly for which treatment might not be readily available. As a result of this, memory loss sets in really quickly due to the inability to maintain focus due to the all-consuming nature of anxiety. That is, sufferers will lose their ability to maintain focus on anything else but their anxiety spiral. Anxiety leads to the over-production of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the bloodstream. This hormone is widely documented to impair memory by making it harder to form new memories and process information whether new or old thus leaving a wide range of sufferers below their normal range of mental functioning (memory). Numerous studies and converging lines of evidence have consistently illustrated that when people experience anxiety, particularly when worry is at high levels, which is typical of Generalized-anxiety disorders (GAD), their functional and working memory suffers. In other words, people living with chronic levels of worry, like many people with GAD, usually have issues in their school/work performance, and usually do suffer from compromised complex problem-solving strategies, decision-making skills and executive skills.
Depression has also been identified as a major cause of memory loss. Forgetfulness and confusion are noticeable symptoms in depressed individuals. Depression is associated with short-term memory loss. But it doesn’t affect other types of memory, such as long-term memory and procedural memory, which controls motor skills. Some depressed individuals have even faced difficulty in identifying things they’ve previously seen on the screen within a five-minute interval. Hence, if you are depressed or have been diagnosed of depression/depressive symptoms, chances are that you also have a memory issue that caregivers need to put into consideration when managing patients living with depression. Similarly, chances are that individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders might also have a memory issue that should be put into consideration when managing them. Interventions to prevent memory loss and to help their cognitive skills, problem solving, decision making and executive skills should be put into consideration.
This observation has been corroborated by a recent study by scientists from Sussex University, Brighton, United Kingdom. The researchers discovered that people who experience recurrent episodes of depression throughout adulthood are more at risk of developing memory problems later in life. They found out that a persistent sense of unhappiness or dissatisfaction (in individuals living with depression) which are major symptoms of depression might lead poorer working memory than people without any mental health problems. Darya Gaysina, the study’s author stated “this finding highlights the importance of effective management of depression to prevent the development of recurrent mental health problems with long-term negative outcomes.” It is hoped this research effort will shed light into novel treatment modalities for the management of individuals living with depression and other mental health issues.