Aging and Depression

Aging And Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders affecting 7% of adults in the United States in any given year. According to the World Health Organization, it is the leading cause of worldwide disability. Men and women may experience depression differently, with women being affected twice as often as men, and men more prone to suicide because of it. In this article we’ll discuss more about depression and aging.

Sadness vs. Depression

Everyone has felt depressed due to circumstances like a setback in one’s career or the ending of an important relationship.  However, for most people, this sadness is temporary. Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue due to a circumstance. It is a common but serious mood disorder that needs treatment causing severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and function in day to day life.

Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is relatively long-lasting, can get worse over time, and significantly interferes with a person’s daily activities.

A common misperception is that depression is a sign of weakness or a character flaw that someone should be able to snap themselves out of. However, most people who experience depression need support or treatment to get better.

Depression & Aging

Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging. In fact, studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems.

However, important life changes happen as we get older and these will usually cause feelings of uneasiness, stress, anxiety or sadness. Examples include:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Moving into a senior living community
  • Dealing with a serious illness
  • Retirement
  • Children moving away
  • Changing roles within a family
  • experiences of isolation
  • Loss of productive and purposeful work/activity

Signs Of Depression

So signs of depression can include the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness, or having trouble sitting still
  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Frequent crying
  • Eating more or less than usual, usually with unplanned weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death, suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause that do not ease with treatment

If you have a combination of these signs persisting for more than 2 weeks, you could be suffering from depression.

Depression In Older Adults

Depression in older adults may be difficult to recognize because often sadness is not the main symptom. Elders may have other, less obvious symptoms of depression and may not be willing to talk about their feelings.

Signs Of Depression In Older Adults

Some of the more common signs of depression in older adults can include the following:

  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Seeming irritable or grumpy
  • Confusion
  • Attention problems

Older adults may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression or have medical conditions, such as heart diseasestroke, or cancer, which may cause symptoms.

Vascular Depression

For older adults who experience depression for the first time later in life, the depression can be related to changes that occur in the brain and body as a person gets older. Older adults may suffer from restricted blood flow and over time, vessels may stiffen and prevent the blood from flowing normally to the body’s organs, including the brain.

When this happens, an older adult with no family history of depression may develop what is sometimes called “vascular depression” due to lack of oxygenation. Those with vascular depression are also typically at risk for heart disease, stroke, or other vascular illness.

Orchard at Brookhaven seeks to prevent depression for residents through education, collaboration, and encouraging activities for the body, mind and spirit. Transitional counseling, private therapy, support groups, assessment, and medical treatment are all available should depression be of concern. For more information please schedule a consultation.

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