Concentration Issues and Depression: What to Ask Your Doctor

Concentration Issues and Depression: What to Ask Your Doctor

This article is for people with major depressive disorder (MDD) and their partners, or anyone who wants to learn more about MDD. The goal of this patient education activity is to help patients engage in shared decision-making with their doctor about managing their MDD symptoms.

You will learn about:

  • What MDD is

  • Symptoms of MDD

  • Concentration and cognition (how you think) in MDD

  • MDD treatment and possible side effects

  • Questions to ask your doctor

Watch this video first to learn how you can get the most out of WebMD Education programs.

Test Your Knowledge

Before you start, please answer this question. At the end of the program, you'll have a chance to answer the question again and then see the correct answer.

What Is MDD?

Major depressive disorder -- or MDD -- is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness that won’t go away and a loss of interest in things you normally enjoy.

Everyone feels down once in a while, but MDD is more than just getting the “blues.” With MDD, people feel depressed most of the time for most days of the week. It affects how you feel, think, and act, and can lead to emotional and physical problems. For many people, symptoms are bad enough to cause problems in daily activities.

Symptoms of MDD

With MDD, symptoms occur most of the day and nearly every day for 2 weeks or more. The main symptom is a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness or lack of energy

  • Feeling sluggish and physically or mentally slowed down

  • Sleep problems

  • Weight loss or gain 

  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness

  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

MDD and Concentration Issues

In addition to mood problems, problems with concentration and cognition (how you think) can happen when you have MDD. Some people call this “brain fog.”

A lack of interest and energy are common symptoms of MDD. These can cause problems with concentration and cognition, which can then interfere with your ability to focus. Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things can all be symptoms of MDD.

If you’re having trouble concentrating or thinking, be sure to tell your doctor. This could help find the best treatment for you.

Treatment for MDD

MDD is treatable. The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms and increase your quality of life and daily functioning. This is done by improving mood and managing any other symptoms you may have.

Your doctor may recommend medicine, counseling (therapy), or both. If your doctor recommends medicine, they will work to find the best one to manage your symptoms that has the fewest side effects. There are also other treatments that your doctor can recommend if medicine doesn’t work or your symptoms are severe.

Antidepressants for MDD

Antidepressants are the main medicines used to treat MDD. Some may manage certain symptoms better than others.

Types of antidepressants include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

  • Atypical antidepressants

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Your doctor may also recommend a combination of antidepressants and/or other medicines.

Side Effects of Antidepressants

All medicines can have side effects, and not everyone will have the same ones.

Side effects that may happen with antidepressants include:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Increased appetite, weight gain

  • Fatigue (tiredness), drowsiness

  • Insomnia or unusual dreams

  • Constipation

  • Dry mouth

  • Blurred vision

  • Dizziness

  • Agitation or feeling jittery

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Sexual issues -- lowered sexual desire (libido), decreased orgasm, erectile dysfunction

Some side effects can go away after a week or two, but others may last longer. Keep track of any side effects to discuss them with your doctor.

Not all side effects are listed here. Ask your doctor, healthcare team, or pharmacist for a complete list.

Talking About MDD and Concentration Issues

Is it your medicine or your MDD? This is an important question to ask during treatment.

Discuss any symptoms or side effects with your doctor. Together, you can find ways to manage them. This includes concentration issues. While concentration issues can be a symptom of MDD, some treatments may have side effects that can make you feel drowsy or dizzy. Certain antidepressants may be more helpful for concentration issues than others.

Some people may be reluctant to bring up cognition or concentration issues, but talking openly with your doctor is the first step to finding a solution. Your doctor may recommend switching to another treatment, or adding a treatment to help manage side effects.

A woman talks about her experiences with MDD and concentration issues, and her personal journey to finding the right treatment.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Talk to your doctor regularly and be sure to keep your appointments. Don’t skip or change treatment without checking with your doctor first.

Questions you can ask your doctor about your MDD can include:

  • What symptoms should I look for?

  • What types of treatment would be best for me?

  • What medicines are available and what are their side effects?

  • Are there any lifestyle changes I should make?

  • What should I do if I feel anxious or stressed?

  • Are there options for appointments if I can’t visit in person?

  • Are there resources, tools, or other support available that you can recommend?

Test Your Knowledge

Survey Question

Congratulations! You have successfully completed the program Concentration Issues and Depression: What to Ask Your Doctor

View Additional Materials View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful

Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety

Depression in Women: 5 Things You Should Know

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director, Learning & Development, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Senior Scientific Content Manager, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Share this:

URAC: Accredited Health Web Site HonCode: Health on the Net Foundation AdChoices