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The Relationship between Depression and Dementia

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A recent study published in the journal Psychological Medicine shows a relationship between depression and accelerated brain aging. These findings may help the development of future dementia research.


Previous studies have shown the relationship between depression and the development of dementia later in life; however, this is the first study to demonstrate the link between depression and impairment of overall cognitive function in the general population. This study included 71,000 participants, and the authors believed that it is possible to take preventative measures to help regulate mood to safeguard the brain’s aging process from these results. Exercising, practicing mindfulness, and undertaking recommended treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, have all been shown to help support well-being, which may help protect cognitive health in older age.

What is depression?

Depression is a common mental health disorder that affects individuals around the world. Depression affects 3.8% of the population, including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years of age. Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression. Depression is a mood disorder different from any usual mood fluctuations or short-lived emotional responses to challenges in daily life. Symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sad, depressed mood
  • Poor concentration
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of energy
  • Psychomotor agitation (tapping, fidgeting, pacing)
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

These symptoms interfere with daily living and occur for at least one month.

What is pseudodementia?

Dementia of depression, also called “pseudodementia,” is a form of memory loss in individuals with significant depressive symptoms. Individuals with pseudodementia tend to be elderly and have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Frequently frustrated by or complain about their symptoms (this differs from true dementia as individuals with true dementia are more likely unconcerned about their symptoms).
  • Individuals often seek medical attention for their symptoms (family members are usually the first line of contact for medical services for individuals with true dementia).
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty organizing or planning
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Symptoms of depression

Does depression cause dementia or vice versa?

Depression and dementia have shown to have the same underlying causes, and it is also known that depression is an early sign of dementia. It is still unknown whether one disorder has a direct causal relationship to the other disorder; however, symptoms of depression may be warning signs for the development of dementia and vice versa (symptoms of memory loss and poor concentration may be a red flag for depression). Often, older adults miss the symptoms of depression or misattribute them to the inevitable consequences of aging. Ignoring sadness or dismissing it as a normal side effect of aging could worsen treatable memory issues.

Suppose you are showing signs of depression or memory loss. In that case, it is important to make an appointment with your primary care physician to determine whether you have an underlying medical disorder such as low thyroid or cardiac disease contributing to your symptoms or whether you have a form of dementia or a mental health disorder such as depression. Only a licensed clinician can diagnose a medical disorder or mental health disorder. Suppose you have been diagnosed with depression or another mental health disorder. In that case, it is essential to seek treatment from a mental health professional as there are a few different treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, behavioral therapy, and medications that can help improve symptoms of depression and memory loss.

About AKUA Mind and Body

AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment center that provides residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and virtual treatment to both men and women struggling with mental health disorders, including depression and substance use disorders, or both (co-occurring conditions). AKUA Mind and Body provides compassionate, evidence-based treatment to all individuals and families. We combine evidence-based medications and psychotherapy approaches with holistic therapies such as meditation, yoga, and equine therapy, as we believe in treating the mind, body, and spirit.

Our clinical staff and ancillary treatment teams take great pride in the care that we provide to our clients and their families. From intake to discharge, we believe in treating the client as an individual and not just treating the disorder. As a result, we provide individualized treatment plans for every client. We offer our treatment services across many locations in California, including Orange County, Newport Beach, Long Beach, San Diego, and Sacramento.

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