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Is depression a sign of dementia?

Abigail Ryan, PhD
Neurologist

Depression is not a sign of dementia, but the two disorders have many overlapping symptoms (e.g., concentration difficulties, social withdrawal, loss of interest in preferred hobbies, changes in sleep). Many people with dementia also have depression, and it is important to find out if both dementia and depression are present so both can be treated effectively.

Dr. Zaldy S. Tan, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

While some studies have associated depression with an increased risk for dementia, depression itself does not predict that a person will develop dementia. Dementia and depression are two distinct diseases with different presentations, treatments and prognosis. However, some depressed persons may be misdiagnosed to have dementia so an expert evaluation is necessary to distinguish the two conditions. A physician memory specialist evaluation can distinguish between these two common and serious conditions.

Dr. David B. Reuben, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Depression can be a sign of dementia. But depression on its own has some of the same symptoms. Both depression and dementia can cause impaired concentration, sadness and problems with memory. However, when people only have depression, their orientation is almost always intact. They know who they are. They know where they are. They know what the situation is.

However, sometimes the earliest symptoms of dementia will be depression.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.