Anxiety and cognitive symptoms: why treat them as soon as possible

Anxious, short-term and end-to-end reactions, improve cognitive functions by allowing us to face and overcome the danger.

Anxiety disorders and depression may be characterized by chronic cognitive symptoms that compromise the quality of life. The most frequent symptoms include: difficulty of attention or concentration, memory voids and obsessive ruminations resulting in exhaustion. If it’s present a sleep disorder too, the subject’s cognitive and physical performance may be further compromised.

Older people may chronically suffer from anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders. The presence of such symptoms would favor the onset of cognitive deterioration. In recent years, published studies have evaluated the effect of anxiety symptoms on the decline in cognitive functions of elderly patients. One of these studies was carried out on 682 elderly people with dementia or cognitive deterioration diagnosis: 43% of participants (138) had psychiatric symptoms in the previous month of diagnosis such as depression, apathy and irritability. 372 subjects had at least one psychiatric symptom at the onset of dementia. Psychiatric symptoms, therefore, seem to favor cognitive deterioration (Lyketsos et al., 2002).

Video titled “What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety?”, uploaded on youtube on 2017, 7th of march.

A recent study compares the brain of people with depression (possibly with anxiety disorder) and the brain of healthy subjects. Alterated areas in depressed subjects appear to be located in the cingulate gyrus, hippocampus and orbital cortex. Frontal cortical areas are important for verbal fluency, so the anxiety-depressive disorder, especially if chronic, may favor an impoverishment of linguistic functions. Obsessive ruminations may also impoverish the problem solving skills of people by favoring polarization of attention on specific contents (Hellerstein, 2011).Anxiety disorders, therefore, may result in a complex psychic discomfort that lasts over time. Cognitive symptoms should be evaluated and treated early to prevent chronic progression improving the quality of life. It is useful to rely on a psychiatrist to receive proper therapy that may consist on a pharmacological treatment or psychotherapy.

References:

Lyketsos CG et al (2002). Prevalence of Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment. JAMA. 288 (12): 1475-83.

Hellerstein D (2011). Depression and Anxiety Disorders Damage Your Brain, Especially When Untreated. Heal your Brain.

Tiziana Corteccioni

About Tiziana Corteccioni

Tiziana Corteccioni

MD, Specialist in Psychiatry, Psychotherapist, Cognitive behavioral therapist.

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