The most disturbing warning sign of my last major spell of depression (in 2009) was sudden memory loss. I had organised a seminar in London and knew most of the participants from various places, but for the first time in my career, I could not put names to faces or recall where the people I recognised worked, or what they did. It was devastating. Soon after that I mothballed my thriving business, and I haven’t felt able to return to it since.
Other cognitive problems hit me too – difficulty making decisions, poor concentration, reduced attention and sloooww reactions. Most of these have improved, but 5 years on I still struggle to read moreÂ than a few pages of a book at a time, or concentrate on anything more complicated than, say, Newsround.Â This is frustrating, to say the least, as my expectation was that my concentration would improve as I felt better.
Research into long-term cognitive impairment in depression is fairly new, but gaining ground. Â In a 2010 Norwegian study, depressed patients showed impaired performance on cognitively demanding tasks (the so-called Stroop paradigm) whilst they were still depressed, and this impairment prevailed after 6 months, despite significant improvement in their depressive symptoms.
Meanwhile, these shouldÂ help to improve concentration:
1. Examine emotional state
2.Â Get sufficient sleep
3. Eat well
4. Get regular exercise
5. Know when concentration is easiest
6. Be specific in estimates of time and set goals
7. Prepare mentally by putting other things out of mind
8. Plan regular breaks
The Relationship Between Depression and Cognitive Deficits, A.Â Papazacharias & M Nardini, 2012
Cognitive Functioning in Major Depression â€“ A Summary, A. Hammar & G. Ardal, 2009
Studies of Interference in Serial Verbal Reactions J Ridley Stroop, 1935
Concentration – Study pressure, Â Campus Life, Kings College London