Depression in Older Adults
Clinical depression is not a normal part of aging. Studies show most older adults are satisfied with their lives. This is despite the fact they experience more health issues than younger adults. (NIA/NIH).
However, it is common to feel down at times – most of us will experience that throughout our lives. It’s often due to a circumstance or situation and is short lived. It’s when those feelings last for weeks or months that you may be suffering from actual depression – a serious mood disorder.
What are some related risk factors? Isolation – lack of social interaction; changes in the brain can affect mood; the death of a loved one or other significant losses; a medical diagnosis; sleep; family history of depression; use of alcohol/drugs; stress – especially when related to caregiving for someone with a disability or chronic illness. Sometimes, people experience depression for no discernible reason.
Signs of depression may differ from person to person. Not everyone will experience all these symptoms – it may be a combination of a few of them:
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Irritability and anxiousness – trouble sitting still
- Loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
- Decreased energy or fatigue; physically feeling “unwell”
- Loss of hope; feelings of guilt or of being worthless
- Cognitive issues – trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Sleep – interrupted sleep, waking early or sleeping late
- Changes in appetite
Seeking medical attention for depression is imperative because it is treatable. Through a physical exam, a medical professional will check for symptoms brought on by certain medications or medical conditions. This will provide the doctor with valuable information needed to formulate a treatment plan.
Two of the more common options are proven to be very effective, especially when combined:
Medications – There are many medication options available – your physician will prescribe the one deemed most appropriate for the patient.
Psychotherapy –With the help of professionals, patients can identify troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They can then work with the therapist in developing the right course of treatment.
While asking for help is difficult, it is a necessary first step in taking care of your mental health.
For further information and resources visit www.nia.nih.gov