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Depression and anxiety are common side effects of many conditions and changes that come with old age. Mental Health America explained that of the estimated 34 million adults over 65 years old in the U.S., around 2 million of them experience some form of depression. Even though anxiety and depression can result in isolation and other serious side effects, too many people go without seeking treatment. It's essential that seniors understand the importance of finding the support to overcome depression and anxiety.
As World Mental Health Day takes place in October every year, now is a great time for older adults to learn about what causes depression, when to seek help and how to do so. According to Mental Health America, the National Institute of Mental Health explained that 80 percent of those with depression can be successfully treated when they are prescribed the right medication by a health professional or receive help from a psychotherapist.
Understanding the benefits of treatments and when depression should be considered a problem are the first steps to maintaining mental well-being and recovering from anxiety and depression. Here's what seniors should know about depression and seeking help:
Understanding the causes
Adults should understand that feeling depressed in nothing to be ashamed of and that there are many common causes of anxiety and depression. The NIMH mentioned that while some forms of depression run in families due to certain genes or a history of the illness, environmental factors often play the biggest role.
People face many changes during old age, including retirement, age-related conditions, like dementia, and the loss of loved ones. Helpguide.org noted that these factors can lead to isolation and a series of additional negative feelings that, without the right support, can result in side effects like loss of appetite and sleep disturbances.
When to seek help
There's a clear difference between healthy anxiety or sadness that people sometimes experience and depression. The easiest way to tell them apart is by realizing that there's often a combination of symptoms that depressed adults feel in addition to sadness.
"Social withdrawal can accompany sadness in those who are depressed."
Helpguide.org noted that fatigue, a sudden loss of interest in hobbies, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, feelings of hopelessness and social withdrawal usually accompany sadness when people are depressed. It's also common for adults to be depressed without feeling sad. For example, their symptoms may involve experiencing a lack of energy or motivation and becoming very irritable or anxious.
People providing senior care may also notice that their patient or loved one has begun to show physical changes, such as slowed speech or movements and unexplained aches or pains. Seniors and their caregivers should ensure that they are able to recognize these symptoms, as they're signs that it's time to find help.
The American Psychological Association pointed out that those who fail to seek support often end up dealing with depression symptoms for long periods of time when this could be avoided with the proper treatment. The longer people wait to ask for help, the worse the side effects get due to the build-up of unexpressed emotions.
Available treatment methods
Depending on the person and the severity of their depression, sometimes simply seeking support from loved ones or caregivers at senior care homes can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. However, for those who are severely affected by the illness, it's common for them to deny any feelings of sadness or depression.
"Adults can start their recovery by confiding in a loved one."
If seniors feel resistant to or self-conscious about informing someone how they're feeling, they can start by confiding in a loved one who can walk them through the process of seeking medical assistance. A doctor will then find them the professional help and medication they require.
The APA explained that it's often most effective to combine medical treatments with social support and talk therapy. While surrounding themselves with family members, friends and caregivers that they trust will prevent seniors from experiencing social isolation, psychotherapy will simultaneously work to pinpoint the causes of depression and which aspects of these events or activities can be improved. Medication is also useful for treating the side effects of depression in some people, but must often be accompanied by nonmedical treatments.
All of the factors that go into maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as consuming a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, sleeping well, engaging in social activities and going for regular checkups at the doctor's office will help to lower people's chances of becoming depressed. They can even work to treat existing depression symptoms, especially when paired with therapy and other forms of treatment.