Depression is one of the largest health concerns facing the medical community today. It affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and the number of diagnosed patients is increasing twenty percent each year. Depression takes its toll not only on the mind but on the body as well. Sadly, only a small fraction of those who show signs of clinical depression are receiving treatment for the disease. This is an increasing concern because depression is most prevalent in people ages 45-68.
Understanding depression at any age begins with understanding the signs. In general, red flags include:
Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
Weight loss or loss of appetite
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
It should be noted that if you have one or several of these symptoms, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. You should first seek the opinion of a health professional. Despite the seemingly clear nature of the above symptoms, depression is rarely what it seems. Most people immediately associate depression with sadness, and in fairness, it generally is a strong indicator. But for many people, and much more so for seniors, depression without sadness is quite common. In this age group (45-66), physical complaints such as worsening arthritis or headaches are the predominant symptoms of depression. Symptoms more specific to older adults are as follows:
Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Anxiety and worries
Lack of motivation and energy
Slowed movement and speech
Loss of interest in socializing and hobbies
Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medication, neglecting personal hygiene)
Depression in older adults is understandable. The loss of a spouse, family members and friends are all the more common as we age. Health problems begin to emerge or increase during this time as well. These and other factors can cause stress, which often manifests itself as depression.
While the above may paint a bleak picture, the reality is, with proper treatment, up to eighty percent of all depression cases can be effectively managed with a combination of brief, structured forms of therapy and antidepressant medications. In fact, never before has depression been so well-understood and treatable. The major reasons depression remains so prevalent is a simple misunderstanding of the disease and its symptoms and the unfortunate social stigma that still surrounds depression. You must realize that depression is neither a character flaw nor a sign of weakness. It is a well-established disorder, as real as kidney disease or clogged arteries. At Viva Medicare, we recommend talking to your doctor if you are feeling any of the symptoms discussed. And if you or someone you know may be experiencing the signs of depression, seek professional help. Know that depression is treatable, and happiness is its reward.