Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders among American adults. There are many different ways that people can experience depression though the most common are: major depression, persistent depressive disorder, and minor depression. Each person’s experience with depression can vary greatly in terms of severity and length. However, regardless of how depression manifests itself, it is important to recognize. Depression in seniors is especially common with more than 2 million Americans older than 65 suffering in some form. Whether you work with seniors on a regular basis, have an elderly loved one in your life, or are a senior yourself, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of this mental health issue.
Depression in Seniors
Signs & Symptoms
It is important to understand that there are many different signs and symptoms of depression in seniors. While any of these could be present, they do not necessarily all have to be. For example, if you or your senior demonstrates irritability, sadness, a feeling of hopelessness it is possible that they are suffering from depression. However, there are many other signs and symptoms as well. Anxiety, pessimism, guilt, loss of interests, lack of energy and more are all signs to look for if you think your senior might be depressed. Perhaps one of the most surprising symptoms of depression in seniors is physical pain. Headaches, cramps and other forms of physical discomfort without an obvious cause can result from depression. If you or your senior has suicidal thoughts, it is important to contact professional help. Whether that means contacting your personal doctor or the hospital or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), this is a sign that they may need professional support.
Although anyone can suffer from depression, there are a number of factors that put some people at greater risk. For example, women are more likely than men to experience depression. Additionally, those with some other chronic medical illness are at increased risk. Other risk factors include having a disability, sleeping poorly, feeling lonely, and having a family history of depression. Finally, using certain medications, suffering from a brain disease, misuse of alcohol and drugs, and experiencing stressful life events can all increase the risk that someone experiences depression. However, not everyone in these categories will experience depression. This said it is important to be aware of your or your senior’s risk factors. The more risk factors present, the more likely they are to be depressed. Always watch out for the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
If you or your senior suffers from depression there are many resources for support. For caregivers and loved ones, the most important first step is to make sure your senior knows that you are there for him or her. Beyond personal support, there are many steps you can take to help. Antidepressant drugs do help to mitigate most seniors symptoms. Not all options involve medication though. Often lifestyle changes can help to combat depression in seniors. Mental Health America suggests that more than 80% of people with depression can be successfully treated with medication or psychotherapy or both. If you are interested in learning more about what options might work for you, consult with your doctor. Physicians are a great resource for support as well.
Depression in seniors is all too common and severely impacts the quality of life. For people who spend time regular time with seniors, watch out for the signs of depression and offer support when possible. For seniors who may be suffering from depression, there are great resources available. Refer to our frequently asked questions about depression if you have further concerns. As always, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Chances are that someone can help more than you might expect.