There are many stresses in life that may lead to depression, and growing old can be a key one. One very important for those suffering from depression is to know that it is not normal, and rarely will they come through it without professional help.
In older people, one trigger for depression is difficulty in the transition from a productive working life to retirement. For others, the loss of a spouse can progress from grief to depression, and being the sole caregiver to someone with an illness or disability is responsible.
As we age we experience many disappointments: the death or illness of friends and family, loss of mobility, uncertain financial security, medical bills and so on. These events can lead to depression.
Most people can overcome these obstacles, but for others they may be more significant and, especially if they are compounded, they may seem insurmountable. While a 'sadness' may pass following an event, depression is very deep-seated, and can leave you feeling down, unable to make decisions, with a general feeling of malaise. It affects you both physically and mentally.
Clinical depression is a psychological problem that should not be ignored, but treated as soon as possible with counseling or psychotherapy.
While most older people are content with their lives, as many as three percent of over-65s experience clinical depression. On the bright side however, around 80 percent of them can be successfully treated with psychotherapy. For some medication gives excellent results.
There are several types of clinical depression:
1. Dysthmyia - a type of depression that may persist for a long time before diagnosis.
2. Reactive depression - which occurs after a major loss or in response to a serious life event.
3. Major depression - this serious form of the illness renders the sufferer almost incapable of carrying on everyday life. A person may experience this once in their life, or it may recur. Counseling and medication are often used in combination in this instance.
4. Bipolar - this often referred to as manic-depressive illness and manifests itself as severe mood swings, alternating from extreme highs to lows. Bipolar disorder usually first appears when a person is in their twenties but may not be diagnosed until as late as their fifties.
Some symptoms of depression
If you suspect the following symptoms of yourself or a loved one, you should consult a health professional with your concerns and request an evaluation.
· Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
· A persistent sad or anxious mood
· Loss of energy
· Sleeping and eating problems
· Uncharacteristic feeling of pessimism
· Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness or guilt
· Unpredictable and excessive crying
· Fractiousness and irritability
· Excessive grief that extends beyond three months
· Extremely 'low' periods followed by excessive 'highs'
· Racing thoughts and fat speech
· Decreased need for sleep
The most difficult part of getting help for sufferers is the person themselves. People with depression often believe that it will go away in time, that they can manage it, or that they are too old to change. Others believe there is a stigma attached to having what is essentially a mental illness.
The truth is that it is highly treatable problem and dramatic improvements can be seen in a matter of weeks. Antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two are the usual methods of treatment, depending on the severity and nature of the illness.
Family doctors, clinics and family medical centers can provide diagnosis and treatment for depression, but a consultation with a psychologist should also form part of the treatment process.
Do remember that feeling depressed, especially in your retirement, is not normal and that any pessimistic or 'empty' feelings that persist for more than a few weeks should be investigated by a health professional.