The Seasoned Years and Depression
Many of us grew up during a time when the topic of “depression” was feared, shunned, or ignored… and, far too often, its symptoms were not addressed. Thankfully, depression is better understood these days. Today, depression is known to be a clinical medical condition that can be treated effectively. There’s more family, social, and professional support available than ever before 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, quite 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 the right kind of help.
As we enter our later years, we all face major life changes, challenges, and losses that are difficult to confront or accept. It’s “normal” to feel sad or down at times about having to say good bye to our youth, missing the active lives we once led, and losing people we love.
Natural feelings of sadness and grief are not constant, however, and they do not last for prolonged periods of time. They usually come and go, and the heavy weight of the feelings eventually eases or diminishes. When we can’t seem to escape negative feelings, when they affect your ability to function, or we experience an overall sense of despair, melancholy, or detachment, the feelings could signal depression.
Although clinical depression is common among older generations, it is NOT a natural part of aging. Living with untreated depression in later life can have a significant, destructive impact on physical health and quality of life. It 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.
Aging can be difficult. It can be challenging. And growing older while dealing with depression makes everything much, much harder. No matter our age, there is always more to enjoy and relish about life. We can’t let depression steal our ability to make the most of what each day brings.
Below are some (but not all) of the more common symptoms of depression in older people.
Some Symptoms of Depression
- Persistent sadness
- Excessive worrying
- Diminished energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite (eating too little or too much)
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism
- Decreased levels of self-esteem and self-worth
- Sleep problems (Not getting enough sleep, excessive sleeping, inability to sleep through the night, etc.)
- Loss of interest and decreased pleasure in activities we used to enjoy
- Avoiding people and social interaction
- Physical discomforts or ailments that fail to subside or respond to appropriate treatment
- Increased/excessive use of alcohol or other drugs
- Self-destructive and suicidal behavior
- Fixation/obsession with death
* Please speak with your doctor or a mental health professional if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression.