Depression is not a normal part of aging, but many believe that it is. Late-life depression affects over six million adults, most of them women, however only 10% of these people ever seeks treatment. Those older adults who are suffering from depression often believe that they can handle it themselves and do not seek professional help.
Clinical depression can be triggered by other chronic illnesses common in later life such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and arthritis. Older adults are considered the group most at risk for suicide.
Recognizing The Symptoms of Clinical Depression
- Feeling sad or irritable throughout the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Changes in normal sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleep, interrupted sleep, early morning awakening or increase in sleep)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling worthless, hopeless or unreasonably guilty
- Inability to concentrate, remember things or make decisions
- Restlessness or decreased activity
- Complaints of physical aches and pains for which no medical causes can be found
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death (not just fear of dying
Depression is one of the most commonly recognized mental health problems. However many older adults may also suffer from anxiety disorder, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), just to name a few. It is estimated that 4 to 8 million people experience a panic disorder and 5 million of the general population will have OCD at some point in their lives. Mental illness is not hopeless. There are many disorders that respond well to treatment. We encourage people to seek help (see resources and links below).
If you have any questions about depression or other mental health problems, contact your primary care physician or your local Mental Health Association office.