How Depression Can Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a deterioration in cognitive performance that goes beyond the expected effects of ageing. Memory, attention, and the capacity to use words may all be affected.
Mood swings frequently accompany Alzheimer’s. Depression can occur when a person begins to lose their memories, ability to socialize, and ability to accomplish daily tasks.
There may be another connection between depression and dementia. Depression earlier in life may increase your risk of having Alzheimer’s later in life.
Continue reading to learn more about the connection between depression and AD.
What Causes Depression?
Nobody knows what causes depression, but it appears to be a condition caused by a complex combination of biological and environmental factors. Depressive reactions occur due to a particular event and can include a sad mood but not the physical signs and symptoms of a major depressive episode.
Medication, hormonal changes (such as those that occur before menstrual periods or after childbirth), or a physical ailment (the flu, a virus infection, etc.) can all cause or exacerbate depressive feelings.
What are the Three Types of Depression?
Depressive reaction: It is a less severe and usually temporary depression caused by a specific life event. The symptoms can be challenging; however, unless coupled with other symptoms such as changes in sleep and appetite or suicidal thoughts, they usually do not require prescription treatment and will go away in two to six months.
Major depression: A dangerous condition that can result in incapacity to function or suicide. Sufferers have a low mood and difficulty executing simple everyday tasks. Moreover, they may lose interest in their typical activities, and experience significant fatigue, sleep issues, and feelings of guilt and helplessness.
Dysthymia: A low-grade, long-term depression that lasts at least a year in children and adolescents and at least two years in adults. Dysthymia has fewer symptoms than a major depressive episode, but it is chronic and long-lasting and can be just as burdensome.
The Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Depression
A recent study discovered a link between depression and a faster rate of brain aging. While scientists have known for some time that people who suffer from depression or anxiety have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life, this is the first study to provide extensive evidence linking the effect of depression and a decline in cognitive function in general population.
To sum up, Researchers conducted 34 studies focusing on the link between depression or anxiety and loss in cognitive performance, including over 71,000 individuals. Everyone who had dementia at the start of the study was excluded so that researchers could adequately analyze the influence of depression on cognitive aging. The study found that those with depression had a more significant deterioration in cognitive status in older adulthood than people who did not have depression. The study aimed to raise awareness about mental health concerns and how they influence our brains as we age.
Effects and Risk Factors of Stress
Chronic stress can accumulate over time and put us at risk for cognitive deterioration and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s not just stress that damages us; how we respond to stress increases our risk.
When pressure continues, the body constantly produces cortisol. According to Psychology Today, excessive doses have been demonstrated to cause brain cell malfunction, resulting in cell death and atrophy.
Our biological systems degrade as we age. Cortisol levels rise but remain elevated for extended periods and fall more slowly. When we are stressed, we are more vulnerable to the psychological consequences of stress, which means that the adverse effects linger more prolonged, and more brain cells may die. Do you see the pattern?
Depression and Alzheimer’s disease have long been associated together; Frequently, depression manifests as the disease’s initial symptom.
Since dementia can cause many of the same symptoms as depression, it can be difficult to distinguish depression in someone with Alzheimer’s. Symptoms shared by both depression and dementia include:
- Social alienation
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Concentration issues
- Impaired thinking
Furthermore, the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s can make it difficult for sufferers to explain their feelings, such as despair, helplessness, and guilt, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It can be difficult because depression in Alzheimer’s does not necessarily manifest in the same way it does in persons who do not have Alzheimer’s.
Here are the various ways in which despair manifests itself in someone who has Alzheimer’s:
- It is frequently less severe.
- With symptoms that come and go, signs may not stay as long.
- Less likely to discuss or attempt suicide
Watching for Warning Signs
It is not always easy to detect depression in patients with Alzheimer’s, and doctors must rely significantly on nonverbal clues and caregiver reports, as self-reported symptoms might be unreliable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression may be present if your loved one with Alzheimer’s exhibits one of the first two symptoms listed here as well as at least two more within two weeks:
- Significantly depressed mood
- Reduced pleasure in usual activities
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Overeating or undereating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Agitation or lethargy
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Loved One with Alzheimer’s and Depression: Things to Consider
There are numerous things you can do to assist someone who has Alzheimer’s disease and depression:
- Make the surroundings pleasant. Include things and people they already know. It can lift their mood and alleviate any worry or anxiety.
- Set realistic expectations for what they can do. Assist them with chores they cannot complete on their own. Expectations should not be so high that people feel frustrated or upset.
- Allow them to assist with basic, pleasurable tasks. These could include cooking, gardening, or crafting.
- Avoid loud noises, crowded environments, and overstimulation. It may cause them to get nervous or to act out.
- Keep a positive attitude. Frequent compliments will make them—and you—feel better.
Contact your doctor if you see symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or depression in you or a loved one. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests depression screenings for adults.
For some symptoms, the doctor may give you medicine. These medications, mainly antidepressants, help to alleviate emotional and mental symptoms. They can also assist with food and sleeping issues.
If the person wishes to try complementary or alternative therapies to treat their depression, they should first consult with their doctor. Aromatherapy, massage, and bright light therapy are a few examples.
What are your thoughts on the connection between AD and depression? Let us know in the comments.
To every single person who struggles with depression:
Stay in touch with positive people (not people who bring you down). It’s totally fine to have some alone time; just be sure to keep a balance and don’t isolate yourself.
Well, this sure is scary a bit, ain’t it? I’m one of those people who wouldn’t let themselves feel sad for more than a day; it doesn’t come from a good place either, my family was very strict on these matters, and we were never allowed to be sad or depressed for ordinary day to day stuff… Anyway, I’m not sure if depression can cause any type of dementia, however, someone I knew who was diagnosed with depression for about four years developed Lewy body dementia…maybe the depression was a pre-cursor of it because obviously, the brain was changing!
I have seen the ties, but I’m obviously not sure… My own mother started showing obvious symptoms of dementia when she was 73. Before that, it was just forgetting names and conversations and general confusion. But we knew it was inevitable when she came to stay with us and didn’t leave the bed for days, and she didn’t want to eat no matter what I made. We did all we could, and the doctor diagnosed dementia, but it wasn’t only dementia. Me and my husband noticed depression signs and didn’t know what to do about it.
My dad has Alzheimer’s and has benefited from anti-depressants pills. His doctor actually put him on one that has a side effect of increasing his appetite. Much more interesting is the fact that a very low dose of steroids has a terrific effect on both his functioning and his mood. The result is outstanding. Of course, this is not a typical Alzheimers treatment, I’m not advertising it, and it may not be suitable for anyone else in the whole world, but I am glad we tried it.
Almost half of my life was spent depressed! It’s like depression is an inseparable part of my life. Now I’m a bit scared because when I think back, I find that I can’t recall certain parts of my life. As if my brain has erased some bad memories. I’m not sure if it’s a sign of dementia or if it’s my brain’s natural defence mechanism!
I’m not diagnosed with depression. However, I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. I’m taking some antidepressant pills. As a result, I can relax and sleep better. Now I am worried about something. Can these antidepressant pills double Alzheimer’s risk in addition to depression itself?
Certain antidepressants and bladder medications are linked to an increased risk of dementia. It depends on what antidepressant you take.
Great article, thanks!