October 1, 2022

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A combination of memory problems and depressive symptoms: a personal approach

A combination of memory problems and depressive symptoms: a personal approach

32% of people with memory problems have symptoms of depression. In addition, this vulnerable group responds poorly to treatment for depression. Reason enough for Marge Zuidersma to research how to improve this. She closely followed 12 people with memory problems and depressive symptoms to see individual differences. It is precisely these personal differences that can be important for successful treatment of depressive symptoms. Alzheimer Nederland, along with MIND, made the search for Marij Zuidersma possible.

Zoidersma followed 12 people with memory problems and depressive symptoms over a period of nine weeks. Participants wore a watch to measure movement and completed an online diary twice a day. In the diary there were questions about mood and memory problems. There were also questions about other factors that may be linked to depression, such as sleep, exercise, and social contact. Also called “triggers,” these are the things that precede symptoms of depression.

Innovative research: looking at each participant individually

The most important finding is that each participant shows different stimuli before depressive symptoms appear. For example, lack of sleep was a cause of depressive symptoms, and for another, that sleep was too much. We also expected these individual differences. But in this research we can see exactly what the triggers are for each person. This is what is so innovative about this research. In other studies, they often look at the averages of a group of people, we’ve really looked at the individual. We also shared the personal final report with the person and practitioner. About half of the participants indicated that this was very straightforward and helped them.

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Is it possible to adapt treatment to personal differences?

If you know your personal triggers, you can adjust your treatment accordingly. This sounds easy, but in practice, there are some obstacles. In the study we noticed that only a small group wanted to participate. You ask a lot of people, filling out a notebook twice a day is very intense. The people who participated were very positive, but there is a large group of people who do not reach them. In addition, it is not certain whether a personalized approach works better than current treatments. Various studies are still underway to find out.

Keep a diary for yourself

According to Zuidersma, it never hurts to keep a journal if you have symptoms of depression. This way you can get an overview of your complaint and triggers. Don’t make it too complicated. For example, track your sleep, mood, movement or social interaction. Or note whether a particular hobby affects your mood. If you find it difficult, you can fill it in with someone else. You may actually discover a style that works or doesn’t work for you. You can also take this diary with you to your doctor or practitioner. This way you can prepare for the conversation about memory complaints and depressive complaints.