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Cognitive dysfunction in depression 'going unnoticed and untreated'

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Nurses and other healthcare professionals have been urged to recognise cognitive dysfunction in patients with depression after a survey revealed symptoms are often going unnoticed.

A study of 200 adults with depression found that while 99% said they had experienced at least one symptom of cognitive dysfunction – such as difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness - only half had been asked about it by their relevant healthcare professional.

This was despite 66% of respondents saying they had mentioned symptoms during consultation.

The survey, conducted on behalf of charity Depression Alliance, found the most common cognitive symptoms reported by patients were difficulty concentrating (91%), slowed thought processing (84%) and difficulty with planning and organising (79%).

“Although the impact of depression on mood is generally well understood, the impact of cognitive dysfunction is very often underestimated”

Emer O’Neill

Around 70% of respondents said this could make talking to others more challenging than usual, normal hobbies and interests more difficult, and day-to-day chores requiring organisation more difficult to complete.

Results from survey respondents also indicated this element to their condition affected their professional lives as well, with 76% of those in work, training or acting as carers saying they lacked focus in what they were doing at work.

“We hope these findings will..encourage both healthcare professionals and people affected by the condition to discuss and address these symptoms”

Emer O’Neill

The charity noted that improving cognitive symptoms during an episode of depression could significantly improve the chance of a functional recovery from depression and raised concerns that health workers may not be offering treatment.

Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, said: “Although the impact of depression on mood is generally well understood by both healthcare professionals and the public, the impact of cognitive dysfunction, such as memory and decision making is very often underestimated.

“These symptoms can damage peoples’ confidence and cause them to withdraw from both their personal and professional lives.”

She added: “We hope that these findings will begin to increase understanding and awareness of cognitive dysfunction, encouraging both healthcare professionals and people affected by the condition to discuss and address these symptoms, in addition to the impact depression can have on a person’s mood.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Is this serious?

    Looking for those sort of things is part of assessing for depression surely?

    How is such assessment being conducted if this is ignored?

    Disclaimer: former MH nurse and life-long depressive.

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