Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

depression and dementia linked...that's just GREAT!

Here's a real cheerful (sarcasm!) ditty I found recently. Dr. David Cannon, a licensed clinical psychologist from Clemson, found that stress and depression can mimic dementia. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? We get a biological double whammy; not just sad, but sad, stupid and confused! I'm not surprised. I've posted several times about my cognitive difficulties which seem to correlate with the severity of my depression symptoms. I also feel I have permanent cognitive loss as a result of my depression and/or its treatment, ECT specifically. So I'm not terribly surprised, but I don't feel happy or proud to have someone prove my suspicion was correct. My depression makes me stupid. What a bonus!

I've included the interesting article summary below, but I wanted to point out one detail that smacked me upside the head. Long-term depression, studies found, is linked to the size of a person's hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain responsible for memory, and the hippocampus is the first part damaged by Alzheimer's according to this article. Yikes! The article then refers to Multi-infarct Syndrome--basically a series of tiny strokes within your brain--suggesting it's link to both depression and dementia due to the vascular damage to the hippocampus. My paternal grandmother had Multi-infarct Syndrome, eventually dying from it after many, many years of heartbreaking Alzheimer's-like illness. Boy, I am feeling warmer and fuzzier by the minute!

By Dr. David Cannon April 23, 2008 - 12:00 a.m. EST
Depression in older individuals may often appear to be cognitive impairment and distinguishing between the two can be difficult. Further clouding the issue is the fact that the two conditions can often occur together.
Depression and the early stages of dementia often have similar symptoms. These include impaired concentration, loss of interest in things, an inability to experience pleasure, irritability and a loss of energy and motivation.
Depression that mimics cognitive decline in older individuals is often referred to as pseudodementia. While distinguishing between the two is challenging, there are differences that can help in making the distinction.
People suffering from genuine cognitive decline generally show more signs of short-term memory loss and disorientation. And, they are less likely to complain about pain, diminished appetite, insomnia and feelings of sadness and guilt than individuals whose major problem is depression.
There does appear to be a relationship between dementia and depression. Roughly a third of Alzheimer’s patients develop major depression, especially in the early stages of the disease.
Since depression is more common in older people who have a family history of dementia, it’s possible that there is a genetic link between the two disorders. Or, depression may simply be an early sign of cognitive deterioration. It is hardly surprising from a practical standpoint that a person sensing the loss of their intellectual abilities would become depressed — even before seeking professional help.
Interestingly, some studies have found a relationship between lifetime
depression and the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible
for memory and the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s.
The fascinating implication here is that depression may damage the hippocampus by stimulating the release of stress hormones — the same mechanism by which it is thought to damage the heart. Once again, emerging evidence appears to suggest a profound link between mental and physical health.
In certain cases, intellectual impairment and depression may have a common underlying cause. What is sometimes referred to as vascular depression may be a sign of the condition known as multi-infarct dementia. In these cases, a series of mini strokes may produce both the depression and the loss of cognitive abilities.
Stroke is regarded to a large degree as a “lifestyle disease.” Thus, the careful management of your daily habits can significantly reduce your risk not only of stroke and other cardiovascular disorders, but of intellectual impairment as well.
Clearly, it is important to deal promptly with difficulties such as stress and depression since, in addition to impairing your general quality of life, they can seriously impact your physical well-being.
I don't know about you, but I'm never going to let my Nintendo Brain Age game get dusty again!

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