Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world(1), but the causes of it can be varied.
There may be evidence that depression, like other mental illnesses, runs in families(2); others think there may be environmental factors(3) that contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing this disease. Other studies have shown that major life changes like a cross-country move or the death of a loved one can trigger depressive episodes(4).
Cognitive Dysfunction Is A Symptom Of Depression
What is consistent in cases of depression, regardless of cause, is the symptoms: feelings of emptiness and worthlessness, apathy and a loss of enjoyment in daily activities, and even, in severe cases, suicidal ideation and significant cognitive impairment(5).
That’s right – cognitive impairment.
According to new evidence, depression can “hijack” your brain to the point where the dysphoria you experience leaves little room for anything else, resulting in impaired memory, focusing problems, and reduced cognitive function.
The Downward Spiral Effect
According to a recent study(6), individuals struggling with depression are likely to focus what attention they have on “mood-congruent” information – they’re more likely to focus on negative thoughts, resulting in a “downward spiral” where they were less likely to think of or remember neutral or positive things.
In addition to this, other symptoms of depression – like fatigue and lack of motivation – can take a toll on a person’s ability to think clearly.
“Such deficits take a personal toll on these individuals with depressed mood and have societal consequences via loss of productivity and an increased rate of disability,” the study authors write. “It is likely that persistent thinking about effectively negative, mood congruent information… can impair real-world functioning for those with depressed mood.”