Memory sucks with Depression… but it doesn’t have to!

Depression is a terrible psychological disorder. It comes in many forms, but they all have an impact on daily life. As a sufferer of depression, I can say that depression effects performance in so many areas. But it especially affects memory. Short term and explicit memory are highly affected adversely due to this psychological problem. Short term memory is memory retrieved only for short term. It can be encoded and stored for long term, but that would no longer be short term memory. Explicit memory is memory that is retrieved through awareness. You are explicitly looking for this memory to retrieve. When these forms of memory are affected, you cannot function the way you normally would. I personally have seen my grades go from dean’s list almost every semester to nearly failing quite a few classes. It’s sneaky, painful, and can take so many opportunities away from you. But it doesn’t have to.

There is hope. There are things that you can do to improve your memory, perception, and overall performance in school and life. While seeing a therapist, surrounding yourself with good people that you enjoy, getting medical help from a Doctor, and distracting yourself can be good strategies; there is also another strategy that can help reverse some of the damaging effects of depression.

Image result for flow theory

A theorist named Mihály Csíkszentmihályi developed the theory of flow. A good example of flow is the experience of being completely (and enjoyably) lost in something that you do. It can be a hobby like playing the piano, performing needle work, coloring, drawing, whatever it may be that puts you in that mindless, emotionless, enjoyable state. Sometimes it’s just better to have no emotion at all and have a break from all of those intrusive thoughts. So I challenge you to take time out of your busy day cramming for school and trying to memorize for that test. Instead, do at least one hour of an activity of your choice that induces flow. The research supports it, so give it a try!

Image result for playing piano


Flow theory:

Depression and memory: Burt, D. B., Zembar, M. J., & Niederehe, G. (1995). Depression and memory impairment: A meta-analysis of the association, its pattern, and specificity. Psychological Bulletin, 117(2), 285-305. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.2.285

Flow picture:

Piano picture:

6 thoughts on “Memory sucks with Depression… but it doesn’t have to!

  1. dzuleta

    I agree that intrusive thoughts can be especially debilitating to people suffering from depression. This is also true for people who experience anxiety in their day to day life. This is completely manageable and I agree that the theory of flow is a good resolve for this. From what I have experienced and many other people have also experienced is that physical exercise is a great form of “getting lost.” There is this noticeable high from your heartbeat rising and the physical exertion of one’s own body. This has significantly helped me in school by improving mood, organization, and physical ability. Of course there are more ways to get lost in an interest such as listening to music and creating art and it ultimately just comes down to the individual and what helps them focus on the outside world instead of the inside.

  2. kaylaf

    I love the idea of getting lost and completely immersing yourself in something that you enjoy doing. It’s a great way to relieve stress and put yourself in a better state of mind. Giving yourself a break is so important so you don’t experience cognitive overload. Doing an acitivity that increases flow in order to break up a day filled with daunting tasks like studying for exams and working could easily keep you from getting too frustrated.

  3. cookcl

    As everyone knows, school is very stressful and assignments just pile up which can drain someone so I think it’s a great idea to take some time to just clear your mind while doing a relaxing activity. I do not do that hardly at all because I always feel like I have things to do but it is something I need to start doing so I do not drain out before the end of the semester. Even though balancing all of the work and other activities, it is important to breathe and take a break.

  4. kpender2

    Thank you for giving such helpful information. I have found lost in such funks lately due to the stress of school and grades. As soon as I get my first bad grade of the semester its just a struggle bus to keep the rest up due to my lack of motivation and inability to feel like i’m doing a good job at times. I never thought of the flow theory and how simple tasks such as coloring truly do relieve stress and how it is okay to be emotionless at times when under alot of stress.

  5. Emily Beitzell

    I really enjoyed your post! I am interested in what the science behind the theory of flow actually is. I know that it definitely works, at least for me. When I am really stressed out or just down for a while going outside and just taking a walk or making a point to hang out with friends a little more really improves my mood and reduces my stress.

  6. jadeturner

    As someone else who suffers from depression, this is a strategy that I use. My head becomes too exhausting at times so it is always nice to sit back and unload. Some activities that I do to get my mind off of things like school is watch youtube videos, listen to music, play around with my pet or talking with a friend. All of these activities can get you super focused in on something else that is not stressing you out. I recommend to anyone going through anything like that, to try this method out. And even after you take this break and go back into what you were working on, your brain is refreshed and you can then bring new ideas.

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