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Depression side effects: Study shows memory and attention problems

July 1, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

The real-life consequences of depression for car accident victims

The National Institutes of Health has recently released a study showing that patients with depression show a distinct pattern of memory and attention deficiency.

This information is especially notable for car accident victims, many of whom also suffer depression as a result of readjusting to life after a  traumatic car crash, and/or as a direct result of a traumatic brain injury.

I write of this study today because, as a lawyer who has litigated so many of these cases, I see many insurance company adjusters and defense lawyers dismiss depression as something that can be fixed with medication.  These defense attorneys argue that depression is not a disabling injury.  This study shows that depression is not only very serious, but it also has serious consequences, including cognitive and memory impairment.

The purpose of the study was to investigate the distinct pattern of cognitive deficits in patients with depression, by comparing the cognitive function before and after anti-depressive drug therapy. In the study, 60 patients who were first-time diagnosed with depression were assessed for memory and attention by the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD17scale). And 42 healthy volunteers were recruited as controls.

The study found the following:

“Depressive patients suffer from short-term memory deficits, and attention extent, stability and rearrangement deficiency. Even though anti-depressive drugs sufficiently relieve the cardinal presentation of depression, they could not successfully alleviate the accompanying cognitive deficits. This might indicate a distinct pattern of cognitive deficits in patients with depression.”

The study reveals that there is a lot more to depression and traumatic brain injury that meets the eye. This is one reason that people have a difficult time understanding auto accident victims and the challenges they face as they overcome their injuries.

For instance, brain injury is often called the “invisible injury,” because even many severely impaired people with brain injury appear  “normal.”

An additional complication is that many of the symptoms and side effects of traumatic brain injury can change and worsen over time, especially when there are multiple injuries and they begin to interact.  Depression is also an  “invisible injury” that is hard for people to fully appreciate. People not only have depression, but according to this study, they are afflicted with other side effects because of the depression, including memory and attention problems. And the memory and attention problems are not alleviated with drugs to treat depression.

It might sound cliché, but you can never judge a book – or a person recovering from  a serious car accident who has depression and cognitive impairments – by its cover.

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