Depression and anxiety can affect the body in many different ways. They both wreak havoc on the person’s mental state and physical wellbeing. But can depression and anxiety cause memory loss? If so, how? The way that depression and anxiety tend to affect the body can interrupt the formation of new memories. Understanding the facts about depression, anxiety, and memory formation can help someone to see how the two disorders tend to affect memories, as well as how they can be treated.
Anxiety is a mental health condition in which a person feels an intense feeling of fear, uneasiness, or dread. Symptoms of anxiety can include:
These symptoms and the intense bodily responses to the symptoms of anxiety can make it extremely hard to live life normally day to day. Those who suffer with anxiety tend to do things to avoid triggering their anxiety from flaring up, making socialization and daily living difficult.
Depression is a condition that can affect the way you feel, how you think and how you act. It can cause major feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. The disruptions to life that depression can cause can have a huge impact on a person’s life. It can cause isolation, changes in behaviors, and if left untreated, depression can lead to far worse consequences. Fortunately, both anxiety and depression can be effectively treated.
When it comes to the formation of memories, there are generally 3 steps to creating them. The first step of memory formation is encoding. During this phase, meaning is attached to one of the five senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight, or taste).
The next step in memory formation is storage. This means the brain stores the memories in small portions and in different areas for recall later on.
The final step is called recall. This is when the brain pulls the memories back out. Those small chunks are pulled together from their storage locations, they then come together and form what is known as a memory. During this process, nerve pathways that were created when the memory was formed are activated. As an example, when you smell cooking in a restaurant it brings you back to grandma’s kitchen when you were a kid. Depression and anxiety can cause the loss of some of these memories due to the body’s response to these conditions.
When you experience depression and anxiety, it throws the body into what is known as the “fight or flight” response. This means the body is trying to either stand and fight the real or perceived threat, or run from it. Signals are sent from the eyes and ears into the brain, and the emotional processing center of the brain then determines if it is a threat. Adrenaline is then pumped throughout the body, causing higher pulse rate, rapid breathing, and sensory changes. From there, if the perceived danger still exists, cortisol is released. This is a stress hormone, and once the danger has passed and the brain processes that it is gone, levels will diminish.
When the body goes into fight or flight due to anxiety and depression, it can disrupt the normal functionality of the brain. Depression and anxiety can cause memory loss during this response to real or perceived threats. The body is so focused on fending off danger that it is not processing new memories or focusing on anything other than fighting off the threats.
Can depression and anxiety cause memory loss? The short answer is yes. There have been many studies done on the subject matter, and there are many studies still in the works. However there have been some results showing that those who suffer from depression have been known to have short term memory loss. There are a few instances where the memory loss affects long term memories as well.
The link between depression and dementia has also been noted in medical journals. Anxiety can also impact how memories are formed. Because this condition is so taxing on the body, it can make it difficult to recall childhood memories. Untreated depression and anxiety can have a huge impact on memory loss.
Anxiety and depression can cause major disruption to your everyday life, and can make it extremely difficult to function normally. Leaving these two conditions untreated can exacerbate the symptoms, and make the disruptions far more taxing on your quality of life. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression and anxiety, there is help.
At Lexington Addiction Center we provide a continuum of care that can help to address these mental health concerns and assist in beginning the healing process so you can return to a normal life. Contact us today and start realizing the benefits of this kind of help.