What are the cognitive changes that accompany depression? (+9 Proven treatments)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

This detailed article will be explaining what the cognitive changes that accompany depression are. In addition to this, we will also be checking out the best treatments that are available for these cognitive changes which accompany depression.

What are the cognitive changes that accompany depression?

The cognitive changes that accompany depression are:

Impairments in memory

This is often the most common cognitive change that accompanies depression.  Those who have been diagnosed with depression may find that they forget things easily or may even find it hard to make new memories.

In some cases of depression, the impairments in memory may also be a coping response called ‘repression’ where the person forgets that an entire traumatic incident has happened. Apart from this, both their short-term and long-term memory may be affected.

Problems in maintaining focus

Another common complaint that those who are battling depression often put forth to their doctors is that they are not able to maintain focus and attention for long periods of time. Even simple tasks like sending a mail or filling a form can take a long time to finish because of this.

This can further affect their performances at school or at work. This can in turn affect their economic and social status bringing them even more harm and stress, further worsening their situations.

Problem-solving issues

Those who have been diagnosed with depression may also suffer from problem-solving issues. They might find even small hindrances and challenges in daily life to be big obstacles, even impossible to cross.

In severe cases, those who have depression may find it difficult to live alone and may require a permanent caregiver to be present. Problem-solving issues in those who are depressed need t be taken seriously as it can definitely reduce the quality of life.

Time-management problems

One more area of cognition which depression directly targets is time-management capabilities. This is especially if more than one task has been given to the person. Even simple tasks may take a long time to be completed by those who are depressed.

Problems in impulse control

Those who have depression might also have issues in impulse control. This can lead to behaviors like sudden anger outbursts, undertaking risky acts and even attempting suicide. Impulsive behaviors can also put a strain on the social relationships of those who are depressed.

Changes in information processing

Another common cognitive change that accompanies depression is a weakening of information processing. This can make learning a lot slower, which in turn can make projects longer. It can also lead to them feeling left behind in conversations with others.

Changes in flexibility

One of the most essential mental skills for humans is adaptability and this is another factor which is affected by depression. Those who are depressed might find themselves being unusually stubborn and adamant, resistant to any type of small change.

Treatments for cognitive changes in depression

Cognitive changes that accompany depression can be treated through numerous ways. Mostly, as depression is treated, the cognitive impairments go away. On the other hand, some of them may need a more direct approach.

By using medication

The best way to treat depression and its accompanying cognitive changes is by medication. The medication which is prescribed for depression is aimed at uplifting the mood states of the person and mostly targets the serotonin levels of the body.

Apart from the mood states of the person, the medications prescribed for depression can also help in bringing back the cognitive capabilities of the person since they are in a much better state to solve day to day problems and balance multiple tasks.

By using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Therapy and Behavioral Therapy can all be great for those who have been diagnosed with depression. These forms of psychotherapy help the person by rearranging their thinking patterns and processes.

These therapies can not only change the way the person sees themselves and their situations but can also help them stay relaxed and solve problems in a stress-free manner. Many of the strategies used by these therapies can also be directly applied to performance areas.

By using Cognitive Remediation Therapy

While the other forms of therapy mainly target the person’s thought processes and behavioral reactions, Cognitive Remediation Therapy is totally meant for improving a person’s cognitive skills which they may have lost due to a mental illness or a brain injury.

In Cognitive Remediation Therapy, the person learns to properly plan tasks and set small goals for them so that the entire project is not overwhelming or confusing. Even in cases of new situations, the person becomes properly equipped to face them with no stress at all.

Some strategies or techniques from Cognitive Remediation Therapy have been shared as follows,

By playing problem-solving games

Through the use of simple games, new cognitive strategies can be taught to the person who then practices them in a comfortable and stress-free setting. Games like Set, Connect-4 and Mastermind can all be great for learning problem-solving.

By making lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can also be great for correcting cognitive impairments in those who are dealing with depression. Lifestyle changes include making physical exercise a regular routine, scheduling for the week, and also meal-prepping for the days ahead.

By making changes to the house

Not only changes to the everyday lifestyle, but even changes to the house can make the lives of those who are depressed much easier. Simple changes like putting-up a checklist in front of the door or even changing the lighting can improve both mood and cognition.

These are called cues and can provide structure to the person’s day. From the time of waking up to the time of sleeping at night, cues in the house can provide instruction about what needs to be done next and what precautions should be taken.

By setting new goals

Goal-setting can also be a great activity for those who are struggling with cognitive impairments due to their depression. Goal-setting as part of Cognitive Remediation Therapy can be used for all types of activities, including daily chores as well as job-based activities.

The goals can be short-term as well as long-term and can help the person plan their day and also plan events much later in the future. The person can also practice activities like journaling to keep track of their goals.

By practicing planning

Due to cognitive impairments, those who have been diagnosed with depression may often recluse themselves and stop participating for fear of embarrassing themselves. One important part of Cognitive Remediation Therapy is to teach the importance of planning ahead.

Even if it is a very simple task like going to the grocery shop for buying milk, by planning simple steps ahead, it becomes easier for the person to complete the task. The person will also be better equipped to deal with sudden changes and difficulties through planning.

By modeling other people

Mental illnesses like depression can also lead to a lot of issues when it comes to social cues and social behavior. This can be repaired in Cognitive Remediation Therapy by simply modeling another person’s behavior.

Once the person has started to model the positive behavior of someone else, they can add their own personal changes and make it their own. Modeling is easy and can be very effective, especially if a great role-model is used for this technique.

Conclusion

This detailed article has explained what the cognitive changes that accompany depression are. In addition to this, we have also checked out the best treatments that are available for these cognitive changes which accompany depression.

If you like this article, please post your comments and questions in the space below.

Citations

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/depressive-cognition
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40473-015-0045-2
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-antidepressant-diet/202204/the-link-between-depression-cognitive-decline-and-diet
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00655/full
https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12991-015-0068-9
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356013
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9290-depression
https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/understanding-depression-treatment
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression