Depression impairs your ability to think

More than sad: Depression affects your ability to think – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publications May 06, 2016, James Cartreine, PhD,

depression can actually change your ability to think.

It can impair your attention and memory, as well as your information processing and decision-making skills.

It can also lower your cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt your goals and strategies to changing situations) and executive functioning (the ability to take all the steps to get something done)  

For people with severe depression, medications can

  • provide some relief of low mood and energy,
  • bolster the motivation to engage in enjoyable and important activities, and
  • help people return to normal sleeping and eating patterns.

(Notably, antidepressants are less helpful in general for mild and moderate depression.)

But we don’t know whether antidepressant medications treat cognitive impairment related to depression.

Recently, an international research team attempted to answer this question as part of a larger study on depression treatment. Their results were published in The Lancet last month.

the researchers asked over 1,000 people with depression who were taking either

  • escitalopram (Lexapro),
  • sertraline (Zoloft), or
  • venlafaxine-XR (Effexor-XR)

to go through extensive cognitive testing.

In short, none of the medications helped.

Of these patients, 95% showed no improvement on any of the cognitive impairments mentioned above, and none of the three drugs was better than the others at improving cognitive symptoms.

Beyond medications, problem-solving treatment can train people how to improve their problem-solving skills, and cognitive behavioral therapy can teach people to recognize and challenge distorted thinking patterns

this study is important because the cognitive impairment symptoms of depression have received little attention — and haven’t necessarily been the target of medications for depression.

I’m not dumb, I’m just depressed.

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