Memory loss is one of the lesser-known symptoms of menopause, yet it's one that can have a huge impact on a woman's self-confidence. Caused primarily by hormonal changes and imbalances that occur in the body during perimenopause, lapses in memory are likely to affect the way a woman perceives her own intelligence and capabilities, in spite of the fact the symptom is biological. Ongoing insecurities can result in a number of emotional issues, including depression, which is a mood disorder characterized by sadness, lack of energy, and loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed.
Memory Loss and Menopause
Estrogen is a hormone that affects cognitive functions. It helps regulate the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for forming new memories. Estrogen can also impact the levels of other neurotransmitters that play a role in memory.
When a woman is in her forties and early fifties, estrogen production declines as the body prepares for menopause. This causes a hormonal imbalance that can sometimes impair short-term memory, making concentration, adaptation to changes in routine, and processing, storing, and consciously retrieving information harder than it once was.
How Does Memory Loss Cause Depression?
Does memory loss cause depression? In some cases, yes. The effects of memory loss on a woman's well-being are significant, not least because the symptom is internal, which makes it difficult to diagnose. Without physical symptoms, it's easy to jump to conclusions about age-related memory loss conditions, such as dementia, or to assume that you are losing some degree of your personality and intelligence with age. These feelings can cause low self-confidence and ultimately contribute to depression.
Depending on the nature of the job, in some cases, ongoing memory issues might affect productivity in the workplace. A decline in productivity or quality of work could invoke confidence issues or even put the security of your job at risk. When absentmindedness, short attention span, and struggles to process instructions cause frustration in those around you, this can also contribute to low self-worth and depression.
Problematically, the onset of depression is likely to worsen memory loss. The illness is characterized by a series of symptoms such as low energy and concentration levels, fatigue, and inability to engage; these factors only obstruct the process of absorbing, processing, and recalling information.
Dealing with Depression and Memory Loss
Combating memory loss with proactive endeavors will go a long way in improving memory and preventing the onset of depression. Ways to do this include:
Regular aerobic exercise. This boosts mood and strengthens the cognitive functions that control memory.
Brain-stimulating activities. Activities that require prolonged concentration and mental stimulation - such as board games, puzzles, reading, and learning a new skill - are not only mood-enhancing, but they will help reduce memory issues, too.
Communicating with those close to you. This will help with gaining support, limiting frustration, and venting your insecurities; show them this article if it helps.
Read about some tips to avoid memory loss during menopause.
Upon noticing the symptoms of memory loss, it's easy to become disheartened, but remember that like other skills, the cognitive functions that control memory can be strengthened with time, energy, and commitment. If you are worried about the occurrence of memory lapses, actively doing something about them will not only reduce the likelihood of depression, but it will help improve the symptom, too.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2013). Coping with Memory loss. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm107783.htm
- Greendale, G.A. , Derby, C.A. & Maki, P.M. (2012). Perimenopause and Cognition. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America, 38(3), 519-535. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.007
- Henderson, V.W. (2008). Cognitive Changes after Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 51(3), 614-626. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
- Uchida, S. & Kawashima, R. (2008). Reading and solving mental arithmetic problems improves cognitive functions of normal aged people: a randomized controlled study. Age, 30(1), 21-29. doi: 10.1007/s11357-007-9044-x