On May 10, 2019, Twitter user @skxllcity posted a seemingly earnest tweet alerting the masses about a potential side effect of depression and anxiety: memory loss.
The tweet received more than 170,000 likes, more than 50,000 retweets, and its replies are flooded with people sharing their own experiences with memory loss rooted in trauma and mental illness, as well as other side effects of depression and anxiety, like slowed cognition. Nice, teachable moment, especially given the fact that depression and anxiety can lead to memory loss; research has shown that depression and short-term memory loss are linked, and generalized anxiety disorder has been linked with longer memory gaps, due to the “exhausting” frequency with which anxiety activates the brain’s stress response, according to a report by Allure. Depression and anxiety are also both linked with sleep interruptions, which can exacerbate existing memory issues because low-quality sleep impacts the brain’s ability to focus on absorbing and recalling information, according to WebMD. Luckily, memory loss linked to trauma or mental illness isn’t necessarily permanent and can be alleviated with the help of a mental health professional, per the Allure report.
Something about the implicit call for people to “talk about the fact that anxiety and depression can give you major memory loss??” resonated across Twitter, and the same phrase has been tweeted hundreds of times since its first appearance online, often getting hundreds or thousands of likes and retweets.
Even K-Pop stans are in on it now, which is how you know the phrase is officially Viral.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders, and the concept of “memory loss” is nebulous enough that it feels possible to apply it to any memory gaps, even if they’re just a result of the passage of time. Being unable to remember entire months or even years of your life surrounding a traumatic experience fits the bill for depression or anxiety-induced memory loss in a way that a smaller lapse, like forgetting the number of your third grade locker, probably doesn’t.
The virality of the tweets seem like an example of faux outrage or credulity to generate engagement on information that is relatively intuitive and basic (and, in certain cases, actually wrong); it’s such an exploited formula that it’s almost worth being skeptical of any information framed this way online. But yes, if we must confirm the facts yet again: There is a link between depression, anxiety, and memory loss, and people are definitely talking about it.
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