One of the classic signs of depression is a dramatic change in eating patterns. Some people lose all desire to eat; others develop voracious appetites, especially for carbohydrates. People with depression typically have little energy. Other common signs of depression include an unshakable feeling of sadness, inability to experience pleasure, early awakening or multiple awakenings throughout the night, insomnia, excessive sleepiness, other sleep disorders, inability to concentrate, and indecisiveness. Feeling of worthlessness or guilt may be accompanied by recurrent thoughts of death. Anyone who has some or all of these symptoms nearly every day for more than 2 weeks may be suffering from major depression.
Unfortunately, people over the age of 65 are four times more likely to suffer from depression than younger people. However, elderly sufferers do not always exhibit the classic signs. Instead, they may show signs of dementia, complain of aches and pains, and appear agitated, anxious, or irritable. Researchers estimate that almost one-third of widows and widowers meet the criteria for depression in the first 4 weeks after the death of a spouse. Half of these people are still clinically depressed after a year. If you notice symptoms of depression in someone, try to persuade the person to see a doctor.
People with Parkinson's disease, stroke, arthritis, thyroid disorders, and cancer often suffer from depression. But the person may feel depressed because he has a serious illness or because the underlying disease has triggered a chemical change in the brain. Depression also can be a side effect of many medications taken for other existing conditions. These include beta-blockers for hypertension, digoxin and other drugs for heart disease, indomethacin and other painkillers, corticosteroids (including prednisone), antiparkinsonism drugs, antihistamines, and oral contraceptives and other hormonal agents.