How Depression Affects Older Adults
Depression has a profound effect on the central nervous system. Unfortunately, many of these depression symptoms are ignored by those experiencing them.
In older adults, symptoms of depression can be overlooked, just because they believe their symptoms are related to the aging process, rather than major depressive disorder.
Older adults may experience issues related to memory loss, slow reaction time, difficulties performing everyday activities, chronic fatigue, trouble sleeping at night, irritability, body aches and pains, feelings of loneliness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, inability to concentrate, and difficulty making decisions.
Many medical ailments also share these common symptoms, so it is important to share everything that you are experiencing with your doctor. In addition to depression, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis have similar warning signs.
Symptoms such as these cannot simply be passed off as “getting older,” as all of these are common complaints had by those suffering from depression. Rather than ignoring what your body is trying to tell you, make an appointment with your doctor to thoroughly explore all of the symptoms that you have been feeling in the past few months.
Coping with Depression Symptoms
There are many small changes that you can begin to introduce to your daily life to cope with the symptoms of depression.
Recognize Your Triggers
First and foremost, it is essential to recognize the sources of stress in your life and minimize them as much as possible. Although small amounts of stress are mostly unavoidable, you should not feel like you are at the end of your rope on a daily basis.
If there is anything that you can do to lessen the number of responsibilities on your plate, you owe it to yourself to do so. You will feel healthier and better able to take on the projects that you are left with.
Writing for Stress Relief
Many people find it soothing to get their thoughts and feelings down on paper. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to someone else, writing can offer you an outlet in which to express your deepest, darkest fears.
Writing has been proven to be a useful stress management tool by allowing you to be open and vulnerable, without the fear of rejection you may feel when talking to another person. Try to be completely honest when you write, releasing any of the bottled feelings or emotions that have been causing you pain and suffering.
If you suffer from confusion and trouble concentrating as a result of your depression, writing your ideas down can also be an effective way of recording your day. If you find it useful to give yourself a set of tasks or tend to forget about appointments the moment you make them, try using a planner or agenda to help you organize your life.
Develop a Routine
Sticking to the schedules that you create for yourself will also help you maintain a routine, which is very helpful in maintaining your motivation. Avoid feeling unproductive by scheduling at least one enjoyable activity per day and keep a sense of balance in your life.
Sometimes just practicing activities like mindfulness, yoga, meditation and breathing exercises can help manage your depression, stress and even anxiety.
Relaxation techniques can help slow down the mind, boost overall mood, and allow the muscles to relax. The main focus of relaxation techniques is to help manage the "flight" response – the one that is common in many people with depression and anxiety, or who feel stuck or withdrawn.
Whichever relaxation technique you use is up to you, there is no right or wrong choice – you can either incorporate one technique into your coping strategy or add all of them to your coping toolbox.
Treating Major Depressive Disorder
Although the treatment of major depressive disorder may be a lengthy process, it is one you should take. You are worth the effort, and you will feel much better after having taken the time to do so.
Working with a therapist is an integral part of managing your depression, as they will teach you the tools that you need to manage and minimize the stress in your daily life. A therapist can offer you an objective opinion on the issues that you are facing and can provide actionable advice on how to tackle them.
Whether with a psychiatrist or a therapist, there are proven benefits to CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in the treatment of depression. CBT can offer you the tools and skills necessary to retrain your brain and learn to cope with the emotional symptoms of depression.
Anti-depressants and other medications are important in the treatment of depression for many people, but they are not for everyone. Medications must be discussed in detail with your doctor to discover if they may be an option for you.
If you are feeling stuck or isolated because of your depression, there is no reason to hesitate to talk to trusted family members or friends, or seek a depression support group – online or in-person.
While you may think sometimes that asking for help is a sign of weakness, it's important to know that reaching out doesn't mean you’re a burden to others. These family members, friends and support groups are there to help you by listening to your troubles, provide practical advice (i.e., coping skills), and a shoulder to even cry on.
What Causes Depression?
The truth is, no one in the medical community knows for certain what causes depression. In some cases, people experience depression while suffering from another serious medical illness or undergoing a significant life change, like the death of a loved one or a major move.
There is a possible hereditary component to depression, as some people have a family history of the disease. In these cases, there may be no known cause or reason behind the onset of their depression.
Although the cause of depression is unclear, many factors are known to increase one's risk of developing depression, including:
- Past physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Medications, such as isotretinoin, interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids
- Personal conflicts with family or friends
- Death or the loss of a loved one
- Genetics or a family history of depression
- Major life events, whether positive or negative
- Personal problems, such as social isolation
- Serious medical illnesses
- Substance abuse
Overall, depression is a complex mental illness with a multitude of contributing factors. If you notice any emotional or physical symptoms of depression in yourself or a loved one, please don't wait and get help right away.
Seeking treatment or help as soon as possible can help make living with depression a little easier. Just remember this: you are worth the effort and you deserve to live a life without depression overlooking your everyday life. So don't give up on yourself or a loved one who is experiencing depression.