Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism
Avoiding people and social interaction
Physical discomforts or ailments that fail to subside or respond to appropriate treatment
Changes in appetite (eating too little or too much)
Self-destructive and suicidal behavior
Fixation/obsession with death
Loss of interest and decreased pleasure in activities we used to enjoy
Decreased levels of self-esteem and self-worth
Sleep problems (Not getting enough sleep, excessive sleeping, inability to sleep through the night, etc.)
Increased/excessive use of alcohol or other drugs
Many of us grew up during a time when the topic of “depression” was feared, shunned, or ignored. Too often, its symptoms were not addressed. Thankfully, depression is better understood today. Today, depression is known to be a clinical medical condition that can be treated effectively. Today, there is more family, social, and professional support available to help people of all ages deal with and overcome depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those of us in our “seasoned” years are at increased risk for depression. Unfortunately, some of us who are experiencing depression do not seek help, often because we don't recognize that what we are feeling is more than “sadness” or “the blues.” (See symptoms of clinical depression below) We don’t realize we could feel better with appropriate attention.
As we enter our later years, we all face major life changes, challenges, and losses that are difficult to confront or accept. It’s quite “normal” to feel sad or down at times about saying good bye to our youth, the active lives we once led, and the people we loved along the way. But, in most cases, natural feelings of sadness and grief are not constant and do not last for a prolonged period of time. They usually come and go, and most eventually ease or diminish. When you can’t seem to escape negative feelings, when they affect your ability to function, or you experience an overall sense of despair, melancholy or detachment, it could signal depression.
Although clinical depression may be common among older generations, it is NOT a natural part of aging. Living with depression that is not treated can have a significant, destructive impact on our physical health and quality of life. Depression in later life can increase our risk for illness, disability, and cognitive decline. That’s why it is so vitally important to seek professional help if you think there is a chance you might be experiencing clinical depression.
If you have symptoms of depression, please do not wait until the situation becomes more serious. Talk openly with your doctor about what you are going through. Be completely honest. There are many ways to treat depression, but your doctor needs to know how you are really feeling to find the best options for you.
Growing older can be difficult. It can be challenging. Growing older while dealing with depression makes everything much harder. No matter our age, there is always more to relish about life. We can't let depression steal our ability to enjoy what each day brings.
Here are some (but not all) of the more common symptoms of depression in older people: