By Laura Chapman
Depression is often misconceived as a disease that only affects the young, starting with the imbalanced hormones and body changes of puberty, and the busy, stressful world of the working. However, depression doesn’t need a reason, and an increasing number of elderly people are being diagnosed with the condition. In fact, it’s been discovered that 15% of adults over the age of 65 now suffer from depression.
As with younger sufferers of depression, one of the causes of depression amongst the elderly is the changes in their body occurring that come with old age. Also, illness, weakness, tiredness, and realising their limitations are all physical causes that can contribute to them developing the condition. However, as it is mainly a mental condition – although it can have physical symptoms – the major causes tend to be mental. For example, loneliness after losing a spouse is a major trigger of depression amongst the elderly. Additionally, feeling as if they have no purpose can contribute to the feeling of helplessness; they can no longer work, their children – if they have them – will have moved out and have their own families to look after; they feel they’re no longer needed.
Fortunately, as with depression in anyone at any age, diagnoses is straightforward and treatment is readily available. Additional health problems or sensitivity to the side effects may prevent them from being able to take certain antidepressants. However, therapy and counselling is very effective when it comes to treating the mental illness. Talking over the feelings that they’re not used to, discussing why they may feel them and how they can cope with them on their own in future will help them process what’s happening. Talking to another adult will also help with any elements of loneliness that many elderly people feel when they reach their later years, giving them a chance to share their life with someone else who wants to listen.
Laura has recently compiled and published a guide on depression amongst older people and wanted to share it with CHAI, check it out! http://www.psychguides.com/guides/living-with-depression-in-older-adults/