Anxiety, Depression, and My Search for Answers

Which came first, was I depressed before I had cognitive decline, or was my cognitive decline caused by depression and anxiety? Every once and then I marvel at how well I’m handling my diagnosis of a Mild Neurocognitive Disorder (mNCD), and then I remember that I’m medicated. I started seeing a therapist, because I needed some help sorting my thoughts out. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I ended up along the way admitting to having some depression. After I was on medication for depression I was able to consider that my brain fog and absent mindedness might be a cognitive problem, which finally led to a neurocognitive evaluation by a psychologist.

There is most likely a connection between developing mild cognitive impairment and having depressive symptoms. A 2020 review of research about psychological symptoms and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) concluded that “Depression, anxiety, and apathy are common in MCI and represent possible risk factors for cognitive decline and progression to dementia” I don’t know which came first in my case, but I know that getting help for depression is a good idea. I don’t want to have that progression to dementia.

I’ve learned from my therapist that depression can be a clinical disorder, or a situational disorder, “Situational depression is known medically as an ‘adjustment disorder with depressed mood.’ It often resolves in time, and talking about the problem can ease the recovery process.” Clinical depression is more long-term and serious. I could have one or both.

I’m on a waiting list now to meet with a psychologist at my local Center for Aging. My therapist believes that it’s time for me to talk to someone who specializes in conditions like MCI. I’m looking forward to finding out more about depression, and if that is connected to my cognitive problems. I also want to get a referral to a neurologist to find out if there’s a physical connection to my condition.

I need to be very careful how I look for information. I was a research librarian for decades, and it’s easy for me to search for my symptoms in a database for medical professionals, and then diagnose myself. It’s easy, but stupid. It works better for me to only look at information created for patients, and then talk to my doctor about what I’ve read. I recently changed to an M.D. who specializes in gerontology and cognitive problems. I recommend spending the time you might be tempted to use looking up symptoms and diagnoses, and instead search for a great doctor. Of course it’s obvious that I don’t completely take my own advice. I didn’t just stumble upon the research article I quoted above, but I try to be careful. That was a meta-analysis of many general studies, and not an article focused on a specific symptom of mine.

I’ll end this post by sharing an overview of MCI from one of my favorite sources for patient information, the Mayo Clinic: I grew up in Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic has always been the most trusted source of medical information for my family. I also recommend Medline Plus, which is a government source paid for by our tax dollars: I know that my decision making skills aren’t that good anymore, and that’s pretty frustrating. I’m learning how to be less independent medically, so I can be more independent in other facets of my life.

Photo by Samantha Garrote on

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