June 21st, 2011
10:23 AM ET

Can depression cause inability to focus?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Asked by Rachel from Southern California

I am a college student, recently diagnosed with depression, and am taking steps to figure out if I have ADHD because of a tremendous inability to focus and retain information. It is almost like, when I'm trying to focus on something someone says, it slips right through me like water.

I am curious to know what prospects I have of gaining my cognitive abilities back if I start taking Lexapro or other antidepressants. If these are going to impair my ability to concentrate and focus even more, then I am not sure how to weigh the cost-benefits of taking them, because I am in school.

In short, are antidepressants more helpful or hurtful to my cognitive functions? Can I look forward to reversing the concentration and memory retention problems I am currently undergoing?

Expert answer

I am very sorry to hear about your situation. College is tough enough without having to struggle with depression.

When most people think of depression, the first things that come to mind are sadness, a loss of enjoyment in life, and perhaps that great dark sense of foreboding and fear that so often accompany the disorder.

And while these are all very painful, and central, parts of the condition, other symptoms of depression can be at least as damaging, and you are struggling with one of those: trouble concentrating.

So the first thing you should know is that the problems with focusing and remembering that you are experiencing are classic depressive symptoms and therefore may not be indicative of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

It's pretty easy to figure this one out. Did you always have trouble concentrating and remembering things? If you can clearly answer yes to this, then you may have ADHD that preceded your depression. This would not be surprising - it appears that ADHD in childhood is a risk factor for a variety of psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

On the other hand, if your problems with concentration and memory only began with the start of your depression, then they are almost certainly depressive symptoms that will resolve when your depression is fully treated.

Let me answer your question about Lexapro (escitalopram) by assuming that your memory and focus problems are symptoms of your depression and not related to any pre-existing ADHD.

In this case the surest way to resolve these issues is to get rid of your depression, and to do so as quickly as possible. If you take Lexapro and it resolves the depression, it will also greatly improve your ability to focus and remember things.

Note that this does not appear to be a direct effect of the antidepressant, but rather results when the antidepressant resolves the depression.

Antidepressants don't improve memory or concentration, per se. But anything that makes your depression go away will fix your cognitive difficulties precisely because they are part of the depression.

A final comment: Don't forget that antidepressants are not your only option. Many studies show that certain types of psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral activation and interpersonal psychotherapy) work as well as antidepressants.

soundoff (948 Responses)
  1. Internet Marketing Services California


    May 9, 2021 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Windows Near Me

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    May 9, 2021 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. online betting malaysia

    This is my first time visit at here and i am in fact happy to read
    all at alone place.

    May 10, 2021 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Seo Marketing Help

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!


    May 10, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Digital Marketing Company Near Me

    After looking over a number of the blog articles on your website, I really appreciate your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site too and let me know what you think.


    May 10, 2021 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Digital Marketing Experts


    May 10, 2021 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Video Marketing Business


    May 10, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Seo Marketing Ideas

    I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    May 10, 2021 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Digital Marketing Company


    May 11, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Digital Marketing Firms Orange County

    You're so cool! I don't suppose I have read through anything like that before. So great to discover another person with a few genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    May 11, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Seo Marketing Job


    May 11, 2021 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Internet Marketing Service


    May 11, 2021 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Slot Pragmatic

    Nice post. I was checking constantly this weblog and
    I'm inspired! Extremely useful info particularly the ultimate section 🙂 I take care of
    such information a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a long time.
    Thanks and good luck.

    May 11, 2021 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Local Marketing Videos

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 11, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. camera shop orange county

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.


    May 11, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. does rv insurance cover roof leaks


    May 11, 2021 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Shades Orange County

    Excellent article. I am going through many of these issues as well..


    May 12, 2021 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sprinter Van Recall Repair Near Me

    After looking at a number of the blog posts on your site, I truly appreciate your technique of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my web site too and let me know how you feel.


    May 12, 2021 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. horse trailers in california

    Hi, I do think your blog could possibly be having internet browser compatibility issues. When I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in I.E., it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, great blog!


    May 12, 2021 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. vinyl wraps for rv


    May 12, 2021 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Interior Remodeling Near Me

    Excellent blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 12, 2021 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Driver Seats Orange County


    May 12, 2021 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sprinter Repair Costs


    May 12, 2021 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    May 12, 2021 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Body Shop California

    I quite like reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!


    May 12, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Storage Near Me

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Many thanks for supplying this info.


    May 13, 2021 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. trailer repair shop near me

    Hello there! I simply want to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have right here on this post. I'll be coming back to your website for more soon.


    May 13, 2021 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Vanlife Repair Costs For Mercedes Sprinter


    May 13, 2021 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. rv dealers orange county ca

    Can I just say what a relief to uncover an individual who really understands what they are discussing online. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you're not more popular since you surely have the gift.


    May 13, 2021 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV TV Los Angeles


    May 13, 2021 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Body Shop Los Angeles


    May 13, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. storno brzinol

    I do agree with all the ideas you've presented in your post. They're very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for novices. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.


    May 13, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Windshield Los Angeles

    Excellent article. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    May 13, 2021 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. rv repair riverside ca


    May 13, 2021 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. certified rv repair

    I was able to find good advice from your articles.


    May 13, 2021 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. fun88 ล็อกอิน

    This post is genuinely a nice one it helps new internet people,
    who are wishing for blogging.

    May 13, 2021 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. High Roof Sprinter Repair Panels


    May 13, 2021 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. travel trailer floor repair videos

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am having difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anyone else having similar RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 13, 2021 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. nearest trailer repair


    May 13, 2021 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. camper frame repair


    May 14, 2021 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. windshield repair around me

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying this info.


    May 14, 2021 at 02:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. slide out repair

    This is a topic which is near to my heart... Many thanks! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 14, 2021 at 06:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. rv wraps near me

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thank you!


    May 14, 2021 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. camera repair orange county

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 14, 2021 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Maserati Levante Lease Specials

    I absolutely love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m wanting to create my very own website and would love to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Many thanks!


    May 14, 2021 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Sclera Contacts


    May 14, 2021 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. 2014 Maserati Quattroporte Gts For Sale

    After I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service? Cheers!


    May 14, 2021 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. house for sale sandpoint idaho


    May 14, 2021 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Eye Appointment Near Me


    May 14, 2021 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Color Blind Glasses


    May 14, 2021 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Leave a Reply to Forklifts Near Me


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.