Where Alzheimer’s & Mental Health Meet

It’s important to remember, that mental health is equally as important for Alzheimer’s disease patients as physical health. In this blog, we explore how Alzheimer’s and mental illness meet and how research continues to find more critical links.

We often hear the term mental health mentioned loosely in conversation but may fail to remember what it truly means. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to mental health as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The status of our mental well-being translates into every other aspect of our life. Often controlling how we manage stress, interact with others, and ultimately make choices. So, where does Alzheimer’s and mental health meet? Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease frequently also have a record of dealing with anxiety and depression. The notion that Alzheimer’s and mental health are interconnected isn’t new, as up to 50% of patients with Alzheimer’s simultaneously combat depression.

Differentiating Alzheimer’s from Mental Illness

While similar traits are present, it’s important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is not a form of mental illness. Alzheimer’s disease is classified as a brain disorder that progressively damages memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer’s does influence mental health, but it is not a mental illness. Here are a few distinctions between Alzheimer’s and mental illness:

  • It’s probable for someone with a mental illness to take notice and speak of their memory issues. Someone with Alzheimer’s will often be indifferent or oblivious to these changes.
  • Mental function deteriorates rather quickly with mental illness, whereas Alzheimer’s does so gradually.
  • Mental illness doesn’t typically impair a patient’s written, verbal, or motor skills; the same cannot be said for Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Those affected by Alzheimer’s display issues with short-term memory. With depression, one has memory lapses and trouble concentrating but can remember when prompted.

Digital of a brain with memories fading away.

Alzheimer’s Meets Mental Health 

One of the areas that Alzheimer’s and mental health meet is that they share two key factors: denial and stigma, which can be detrimental. Individuals with Alzheimer’s are highly susceptible to depression during the early stages. This happens due to the initial shock of diagnosis and changes in the brain from the actual disease. A Harvard medical study on the aging brain showed a significant connection between depression symptoms and reduced cognition. Professor and psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, Jennifer Gatchel, discusses how the symptoms of depression contribute to the changes found in the beginning stages of dementia. These stages provide opportunities for intervention to aid in slowing this cognitive decline. Treating depression to slow Alzheimer’s progression is a new aspect of prevention research that aims to help find ways to stop the disease from arising.

Mental Health Practices – Being Kind to Your Mind 

Like anyone else, those living with Alzheimer’s disease can experience good and bad mental health days. The best way to promote good mental health is to lead a healthy life physically and mentally. Mentally challenging activities, such as attempting to learn a new skill, can benefit the brain both short-term and long-term. It’s also important to prioritize relaxation and having a solid support system of loved ones.

Keep your mind connected.

Are you looking to understand your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? Find out if you or a loved one may qualify for our Alzheimer’s prevention studies.! At North Georgia Clinical Research, our goal is to improve community health; learn more about enrolling studies on our website or contact us at (678) 494 – 5735 today!