Recent Blog Articles

Depression

How depression affects your thinking skills

May 1, 2017

Don't assume age is to blame for changes in memory, attention, and decision making.

l0517c16207255449089
Image: © pixelheadphoto/Thinkstock

Depression has a way of sucking the joy and meaning from life. Chronic feelings of hopelessness, apathy, or despair are part of the condition. It may also bring physical symptoms, such as weight loss, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and aches and pains. But depression can be sneaky, causing subtle changes in thinking skills that you may not attribute to the condition. "Very often, one of the first signs of depression in people ages 70 or older is a change in thinking," says Dr. Helen Farrell, a psychiatrist with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

What's the connection?

Depression may involve the interruption or reduction of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemical changes may be the cause of your depression (if the brain systems that regulate them go awry), or they may result from other depression triggers, such as the following:

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.