The changes that often come in later life—retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, medical problems—can lead to depression. Depression prevents you from enjoying life like you used to. But its effects go far beyond mood. It also impacts your energy, sleep, appetite, and physical health. However, depression is not an inevitable part of aging, and there are many steps you can take to overcome the symptoms, no matter the challenges you face.
Signs and symptoms of depression in older adults and the elderly
Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:
- Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
- Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
Depression is a common problem in older adults. The symptoms of depression affect every aspect of your life, including your energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in work, hobbies, and relationships.
Unfortunately, all too many depressed seniors fail to recognize the symptoms of depression, or don’t take the steps to get the help they need. There are many reasons depression in older adults and the elderly is so often overlooked:
- You may assume you have good reason to be down or that depression is just part of aging.
- You may be isolated—which in itself can lead to depression—with few around to notice your distress.
- You may not realize that your physical complaints are signs of depression.
- You may be reluctant to talk about your feelings or ask for help.