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7 Tips to Help with Cognitive Impairment During Depression


Depressed mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and feelings of worthlessness and guilt are well-known symptoms of depression. Depression can also affect your cognitive abilities, such as thinking, concentrating and making decisions. Cognitive impairment can be a frustrating symptom, but there are ways to cope.

1. Be patient with yourself. Although your depression may tell you differently, it’s not your fault that you’re having trouble. Cognitive problems are a symptom of your depression. Encourage yourself when you can, and give yourself a break when you need it.

2. Repeat the last thing you did. Sometimes what you were about to do or say can be forgotten immediately. Try to go through the motions of the last action you did or the last thing you said, which may trigger the memory or thought you intended to act upon.

3. Get organized. There’s a lot going on in your brain, especially when you are experiencing depression. Give your brain a break by using calendars, sticky notes and apps on your phone or computer to remind you of things. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that you “break large tasks into small steps, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.” And it doesn’t hurt to write it all down to help you remember.

4. Slow down. It can be hard to speak with your typical speed and vocabulary, but getting upset about it in the moment can make it even more difficult to say what you want to say. Take a deep breath to remain calm, then allow yourself time to think. It’s okay to use a simple vocabulary to explain what you mean. You can apply the same technique while reading. If you’ve had to reread the same sentence several times and still don’t understand it, take a moment to clear your mind, breathe and then begin again slowly, taking time to consider each word.

5. Get enough sleep. Sleep helps your brain function properly. Not getting enough sleep or poor quality sleep has many potential consequences. The most obvious concerns are fatigue and decreased energy, irritability and problems focusing. The ability to make decisions and mood can also be affected.

6. Keep it simple. NIMH suggests that people with depression “Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better.” Your decisions may be colored by your depression, and they can be distracting when trying to get well.

7. Remember that it will get better. Just as the depressed mood, loss of interest in activities and feelings of worthlessness will subside with treatment, so will the cognitive impairment you’ve been facing. Be sure to share your symptoms with your psychiatrist so they know how to treat you and together you can gauge how treatment is working.

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