Experiencing Depression as a Senior

Experiencing Depression as a Senior

It is believed that around 25% of all seniors will suffer from depression at some point – a higher proportion than the rest of the adult population.  Thankfully, as a society we are becoming more comfortable talking about mental illness generally and depression specifically – so knowing what the signs are, and steps that can be taken to address possible depression can be useful if you think you or a loved one may be suffering from this illness.

 What Is Depression?

While all of us are likely to experience feelings of sadness at different points in life, depression differs in that these feelings typically last for longer than two weeks and can impact everyday functioning.  The DSM-5 measure classifies depression as experiencing at least five symptoms for an extended period of time from a list of issues such as daily fatigue, insomnia, diminished interest in all activities and feelings of worthlessness.

 Why Is Depression Prevalent In The Senior Population?

There are many factors that may contribute to increased risk of depression in the senior population.  There are some life changes that occur with aging that may trigger feelings of depression – losses of various kinds: from the death of a loved one, to the loss of physical abilities and associated freedoms, to the loss of social support systems.  With the changes in family structure, and grown children being more geographically dispersed, there is a greater chance of an elderly person living in isolation and experiencing loneliness and depression as a result.  With the onset of other illnesses, depression may be more likely to occur either as a result of the illness itself or as a side-effect of drugs used to treat the primary issue.

 Options To Treat Depression

If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, a good first step is to discuss your concerns with your Primary Care Physician.  There may be changes that can be made to an existing treatment plan that could alleviate the symptoms being experienced, along with other treatments such as counseling and psychotherapy, or medication to specifically address depression.

Along with medical interventions, building a support system can be very helpful for someone suffering from depression.  Finding strategies to keep in contact with the outside world can be beneficial, be that by meeting up with friends, joining special interest groups with people who share similar interests, or volunteering.  It’s important to know that you are not alone, and that help is out there.

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