Depression in Older Adults
Going through life, everyone has their ups and downs. But depression is a serious illness that can make daily life difficult to manage for weeks, months or even years. Sometimes called “clinical depression” or “depressive disorder,” depression is unfortunately common amongst older adults. However, this doesn’t mean that it has to be a part of your daily life.
As we age, there are many instances where depression may set in, such as losing a loved one, being diagnosed with an illness or even going into retirement. Most people are able to keep their emotions in balance, but it’s completely normal to have feelings of sadness or uneasiness when a big life event occurs. If you or someone you know has had a major life change happen, it’s important to periodically to check in with them so that they know they have a support system available.
Sometimes it can be tricky to spot the symptoms of depression. We’ve put together a list of ways to spot when something’s off and how you can help.
Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults
Recognizing the symptoms of depression can be difficult, as many people don’t even realize that they may be at risk for clinical depression. This is especially the case for older adults since symptoms for depression can vary from the symptoms for younger people. That’s why it’s important to make an effort to stay in check with how you’re feeling.
Depression has a variety of ways of expressing itself, below are some common symptoms to help those concerned if they might be depressed:
- Decreased energy or lack of motivation
- Increased irritability
- Trouble recalling, remembering, or making decisions
- A drastic change in diet or eating habits
- Sudden loss of interest in hobbies or other pleasurable activities
- Feeling empty, worthless, useless, anxious, or persistent sadness
- More frequent crying
- Increase in oversleeping or a sudden spike in the inability to sleep
- Thoughts of death or suicide
While the symptoms listed above are general concerns for those who might be depressed, it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose older adults based on solely the above symptoms. Below are some of the reasons why depression in older adults can sometimes differ from younger adults:
- As we age, it can be harder to talk about our feelings
- Symptoms of depression can mistakenly seem like other diseases or medicinal side effects
- First-time depression occurring later in life may be ignored and perceived as less severe by older adults
- Other severe illnesses, such as heart disease, can exist with, or even cause, depression
Because of the above circumstances, doctors and other medical professionals can sometimes be hesitant or unable to detect depression. So, if you feel you may be depressed and have yet to discuss this with your doctor, be sure to contact them to consult with them about your concerns.
Treatment of Depression in Older Adults
Clinical depression is a mental illness that can be improved or even treated once detected. However, the required treatment will vary depending on the individual. Some people may even require partaking in multiple treatments at one time to completely treat their depression. No matter the treatment though, the best first step to take is to consult your doctor about your options.
A common treatment option is therapy. Therapy sessions where one talks, such as problem-solving or interpersonal therapy, can be great options for those who may feel overwhelmed or don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to. Therapy can provide you with the sense of being understood, a sense of relief and the satisfaction of moving through internal conflicts that might be causing depression.
A second treatment option that some choose is antidepressants. These are medicines that affect your brain’s chemicals to help balance your levels of stress or your mood. You should work together with your doctor to determine the best medicine for you, especially since older adults generally have other medications that they are taking. Many find that a balance between medication and therapy is a great option for alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Retirement with Peace of Mind at The Vista
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