Melancholy and the function of forgetting. A psychopathological note about depression and memory

Riccardo Piero Dalle Luche

Department Mental Health North West Tuscany, Massa Carrara, Italy

A long lasting psychopathologic tradition concerns the alteration of time perception and of the structure of lived-time in severely depressed (melancholic) patients. This literature can be reappraised in light of the more recent study on the functioning of memory and especially of emotional autobiographical memory. In depressive episodes, the memory of past events overrides the present, preventing the individual from synchronizing with the environment and planning the future. Forgetting the events would be a major strategy for recovery; however, most of the patients are not able to disengage themselves emotionally from the past. This is true not only for melancholic depression, but for complicated bereavement too. From this point of view, melancholy can be considered an illness in which the balance between recalling and forgetting is altered. Based on a phenomenological method, the use of neurocognitive assessment instruments on melancholic patients could shed light on the pathogenesis of depressive episodes with melancholic features.

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