Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly

While depression manifests typical symptoms among most who suffer from it, it can be a lot different among the elderly. Older people don't normally paint a typical picture of depression - anti-sociability, lack of attention to self, loss of appetite, etc. In fact, many depressed elderly claim not have any feelings of sadness at all. Instead, they note a lack of motivation and energy which they usually attribute as a normal process of aging. They do get the physical symptoms such as joint paint and headaches, which in fact are predominant signs of depression - but most often, these too are passed off as a normal part of the aging process.

It is vital for elderly people, as well as those who live with them, to recognize the red flags that signal the start of depression. Early detection and treatment can enable old people to enjoy the remaining years of their lives and make it pleasurable for both themselves and their loved ones.

Sadness, fatigue, a sudden loss of weight and appetite are typical symptoms of depression - both in the elderly and in younger people. But older people will argue that these are all normal processes in their lives. They will give you reasons that their stomach size is shrinking with age, their taste buds have become more sensitive, or they require less food because they have lesser activities or will need to keep their weight down.

They will also tell you that they refuse to engage in activities they used to indulge in or are reluctant to be with friends because of normal fatigue that comes with old age. But sudden social withdrawal and isolation deserves a second look, since there may be deeper underlying causes of fears for such. Another evident sign of depression among the elderly are disturbances in sleep patterns. This can range from a difficulty falling or staying asleep, oversleeping, or sleepiness during the day despite an apparently whole night's rest.

It is also typical for depressed older people to experience a loss of self-worth, worries of becoming a burden to those around them and some self-loathing. Some of the elderly may turn to alcohol or other substance and drugs to mask the symptoms, so it is important to watch if there is an over-indulgence in substances and anti-depression or anti-anxiety drugs. Another telltale sign of depression in old individuals is having some fixation on death, explicit statements of wanting to die or having suicidal tendencies and thoughts.

Watch out for any of these signs among your elderly loved ones. They may not acknowledge it, but knowing depression is there when you see some of the signs can encourage you to seek professional help and treatment for them.

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