Everyone has a bad day here or there. However, sometimes we have more bad days than we’d hope, and we’re not sure why. If you’ve been feeling blue a little more often than you’d like, it’s a good idea to learn about the signs of depression in seniors.
We know a lot more about depression than we used to. Unfortunately, there are still some misconceptions about it, especially among seniors.
Up to 70 percent of seniors admit they know little about depression. Nearly 60 percent believe it’s a natural part of aging, and only 40 percent would seek help from a professional if they believed they were suffering from it. The truth is, depression is not a natural part of aging, and getting help in managing it is essential. And unfortunately, depression is often misdiagnosed in seniors.
It’s important for you to understand the signs of depression in seniors so you can be the best advocate for your own mental health.
How Do I Know If I’m Depressed?
How do you know if you’re experiencing sadness, or if you’re actually depressed? Sadness is usually linked to an identifiable reason, such as a loss or a disappointment, and it typically goes away on its own. Sadness is uncomfortable, but it’s a healthy and normal emotional reaction.
Depression is different. It’s a bad feeling that doesn’t go away, and it affects you physically as well as mentally. It can be triggered by a life event, such as an illness or the loss of a loved one, but sometimes it happens without cause or warning.
Depression can be scary to talk about. The most important thing to know about depression is that with treatment, it can get better. Nobody with depression is beyond help, and if you know what you’re dealing with, you can ask for the assistance you need.
Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of depression so that you can seek help ASAP if you believe you are depressed.
Signs of Depression in Seniors
Persistent Feelings of Sadness or Hopelessness
If you’re sad every day and you don’t know why, you may be depressed. Some people with depression feel like they shouldn’t seek help because they don’t deserve it, or that there’s no point because they’ll never get well. If you have thoughts like this, it’s helpful to recognize them as symptoms of depression and not to let them guide your actions.
Withdrawing from Activities and Relationships
Sometimes we lose interest in a hobby, or grow apart from an old friend. That’s normal, and nothing to worry about. However, if you’re withdrawing from lots of things you used to do, depression could be the reason why. Sometimes depressed people isolate themselves because they no longer experience joy from those interactions. It’s a good idea to stay engaged with friends and activities, because social isolation can make depression worse, and have other negative effects on your health.
Changes in Sleep and Appetite
As you grow older, some slight changes in your appetite and sleeping schedule are to be expected. If you experience drastic changes in these areas, however, you should pay attention. Do you have new sleeping problems, like insomnia or sleeping through multiple alarms? Are you eating much more than you used to, or struggling to eat anything at all? These are the signs of depression that are most often missed or misdiagnosed, so be sure to tell your doctor if you suspect something is wrong.
Mental and Physical Fatigue
One of the most difficult parts of depression is the fatigue people experience as a result. Sometimes that can manifest as confusion, or “fuzzy thinking,” where you struggle to remember facts and ideas. Sometimes it can also manifest as emotional burnout. Are you more easily irritated than usual, or are you crying more? A lack of mental energy could be why.
Depression fatigue also affects you physically. If you’re struggling to find the energy to take care of things like showering and brushing your teeth, depression may be the cause. Some people even experience unexplained aches and pains because of depression.
Depression is complex, and the signs of depression in seniors can be easy to miss. If you’re experiencing any combination of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor to get the help you need. You’re worth it!
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