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Last Updated on April 28, 2023

It’s estimated that one in five Americans 65 years of age or older have some type of depression. But since it’s sometimes not easy to distinguish between depression and other illnesses that are typical in elderly adults, for example dementia, depression often goes unrecognized.

It’s not, although some people believe that depression is a normal element of getting old. It is common to feel depressed or blue when you experience the departure of a loved one or decline, such as health problems or life changes. Nevertheless, while your depression symptoms hinder your day-to-day tasks and are drawn-out, it is an illness that will be diagnosed and treated.

Melancholy and Age: Why They Are Associated

Melancholy is believed to be due to imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that help communication between brain cells. It might be that these imbalances are somewhat more inclined to occur as an individual ages.

“Among the enzymes that breaks down neurotransmitters [increases] as we age,” says Gary Sachs, MD, founder and manager of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “It can be that you’ve got less of the happiness-giving neurotransmission” as you age, he says.

With lower rates of pleasure-giving neurotransmission, says Dr. Sachs, it requires more stimulation to give you happiness.

Because participating in physical activity helps you to produce various factors which help prolong neurons (nerve cells that carry messages through the body), Sachs thinks the decline in physical activity common in aging may additionally bring about depression.

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“We’re in fact losing some of our central nervous system” as we age, says Sachs. “Because of that, it just tips the balance more toward that exposure” to depression.

Melancholy: Signs to search for

The following symptoms may indicate depression:

  • Nervousness
  • Feeling empty
  • Feeling worthless
  • Not appreciating things you used to
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling unloved
  • Feeling that life is not worth living
  • Excessive sleep
  • Increased eating
  • Exhaustion
  • Sluggishness
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Persistent pain

Feel sad or you must call your physician if you’ve been experiencing these symptoms. Your symptoms may indicate depression or another illness. Either way, it is very important to talk to your physician.

Melancholy: Treating Older Adults

Depending on your own symptoms, your doctor may recommend counseling or drugs to take care of your depression. Antidepressant medications can help correct imbalances in neurotransmitters. Counseling, also known as “talk therapy,” will enable you to learn new ways to think and behave to reduce your symptoms of depression.

Getting treated for depression is very important to anyone, but particularly so for older adults. Melancholy can put you at higher danger of committing suicide, and for senior adults that risk is disproportionately high. Americans ages 65 and older made up 16 percent of all suicide deaths in 2004.

Chat of suicide needs immediate consideration. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you are able to phone the toll free, private National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), twenty-four hours a day to speak with a trained professional.

Whatever the intensity of your symptoms, you must get treatment and recover the quality of life which you should be loving.

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