The Link Between Depression And Memory Loss

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated August 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When people experience memory loss, they are sometimes quick to jump to conclusions about what the cause might be – including serious conditions such as Alzheimer's. However, memory loss can be caused by many other health issues – both physical and psychological – that don't necessarily have long-term effects on your memory. One of these causes is depression.

When Memory Loss Leads To Depression

Is Depression Causing Your Memory Loss?

How Does Depression Cause Memory Loss?

Brigham Young University conducted an extensive study to investigate the impact of depression on memory. The study found that the higher the level of the depression score of the participant, the lower score they received on a pattern separation test. The pattern separation process is what allows people to connect different situations and things that are similar.

Based on their findings, the researchers believe that when someone is experiencing depression, they also experience higher levels of memory interference – i.e., the inability to take in and recall new information because of the past situations or experiences that they are dealing with. In the example of depression, because someone is experiencing changes in their thought patterns, energy levels, and motivation, they are unable to take in and recall new information the same way that they would otherwise. They are unable to pay attention in the same way they would if they were not depressed. Memories blend together because the depression does not allow them to pick up enough different things to separate them from each other. There's nothing that stands out to them about the information that makes it easy for them to recall.

Additionally, researchers found that the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, has a decreased growth rate in situations of depression. The hippocampus is located in the area of the brain that grows new brain cells. Therefore, when someone is living with depression, the ability for their brain to take in and recall new information is negatively impacted.

Is Memory Loss From Depression Treatable?

Experiencing memory loss can be an uncomfortable feeling, especially if you aren't sure if it will be long-term. The good news is that both memory loss and depression are treatable. If you're experiencing memory loss that is caused by depression, you can take action to improve it. If your memory loss is the result of another disease or disorder, that might not be possible, but if depression is where the memory loss is starting, then there are things that you can do to improve it.

Some medications often used by Alzheimer’s patients have been found to positively impact those that are experiencing memory loss and depression. Researchers also have been working hard to develop new forms of medication compounds that would work to help reverse the damage of memory loss caused by depression. 

However, if memory loss is a symptom or result of your depression, then there are other things that you can do to improve your memory as well. Your memory loss does not need to be a lasting side effect that you experience because of depression. Here are some things you can do:

1. Get organized. The less clutter that you have to deal with at work or at home, the easier it will be to keep track of the things that you actually need. 

2. Use a calendar. It's too easy when you're living with depression to hear something and not focus on it enough, causing you to forget what it is you've committed to. Make sure that you are putting everything down on a calendar. If you can, use a calendar on your phone or another device so it can alert you with an alarm when you have somewhere that you need to be.

Is Depression Causing Your Memory Loss?

3. Set reminders. Use notes to remind yourself of things you need to remember, such as people you need to call, paying a bill, or creating a to-do list for your day. When you're living with depression, it can be difficult to want to do anything, so you want to make it as easy as you can to know where your attention needs to be going.

4. Write it down. The act of writing things down on paper instead of simply keeping it electronically has been found to help commit that information to your memory. At the end of your day, take a few minutes to recall the events of your day in any conversations that you've had. This can help you to better remember what you need to.

5. Maintain good personal hygiene, physically and mentally. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise each week can go a long way in helping improve both your mental health and physical health. 

Getting Help

If you believe that you are experiencing signs of memory loss and aren't sure if you have depression or not, then it's important to talk to medical professionals. To determine how to address the memory loss, it will be important to determine what is causing it. While depression is one of the causes of memory loss, there are many other things that it could be related to. Getting the proper diagnosis is the first step on being able to get help.

If your memory loss is caused by depression or another mental health issue, it's important to treat the cause of the problem. Just treating the memory loss will not be as effective as learning how to overcome the depression that is causing it. Therapy can also help people who are experiencing depression due to memory loss, such as dementia patients. In fact, a recent study of 350,000 patients found that depression elevated the risk of dementia by 50%. However, those who received treatment for their depression reduced their risk of dementia by 30%.

If you're experiencing memory loss and depression, it's important that you talk to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you work through many of your symptoms of depression, determine if there is a root cause, and learn strategies that you to help your symptoms improve. With the growth of online counseling, such as though BetterHelp, connecting with a licensed counselor is easier than ever. You can connect via phone, video call, or online chat from the comfort of your home at a time that works best for you. And, studies have found that online counseling is just as effective as in-person counseling. 


Depression is a treatable mental health condition. It is not something that you have to just continue living with once you have been diagnosed. There are many different forms of treatment available, so the sooner that you act on getting help, such as through BetterHelp, the sooner you may be able to stop the memory loss that you are experiencing.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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