Depression Comes With Old Age — Myth or Fact?
Depression is a term that we hear being casually used by many in our day-to-day life.
In fact, a lot of us have been in situations where we felt low or sad. However, is it not normal to be sad at certain points in our life? Are the ups and downs not part of life?
When does being sad become a problem?
In this post, we’ll address the above questions and highlight the importance of getting proper care and depression treatment in Dubai (or wherever you’re located).
What Is Depression?
Depression (clinical depression or major depressive disorder) is a mood disorder that causes constant feelings of sadness and loss of interest in life.
It can interfere with your day-to-day functions and cause withdrawal. In contrast to normal sadness, depression disables a person from feeling any positive emotions or pleasure, and causes many other physical symptoms that negatively impact one’s quality of life. Examples of these symptoms include memory loss, fatigue and chronic pain.
In particular, there are symptoms of depression you need to watch out for:
- Sense of hopelessness and not being able to meet expectations.
- Loss of interest in tasks or activities that would otherwise cause happiness or excitement.
- Constant fear or anxiety that may seem irrelevant or was not present before.
- Changes in appetite.
- Disturbed sleep, or changes in one’s overall sleeping pattern.
- Trouble with making decisions, thinking or concentrating.
- Suicidal thoughts or talking about death too often.
Types of Depression Among the Elderly
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a normal part of growing old.
That being said, the elderly are at a higher risk of developing depression. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of them develop illnesses that limit their functional abilities.
For example, the inability to look after themselves and having to rely on other people to do basic tasks could cause major changes in their mood.
There are different types of depression old people may face:
- Major Depressive Disorder– This includes symptoms lasting at least two weeks that interfere with the person’s ability to perform daily tasks.
- Depressive Disorder Due to a Medical Condition– Depression related to a separate illness, like Parkinson’s disease or heart failure. This is mainly triggered by overthinking one’s medical condition.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)– Being stuck in a depressed mood for at least two years, although the person may still be able to perform daily tasks (unlike someone diagnosed with major depressive disorder).
- Substance or Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder– Depression related to substance abuse or taking medication. This includes the intake of substances like alcohol or pain medication.
Factors That Can Increase the Risk of Developing Depression
Social isolation is another factor that can lead to the development of depression in old age. Many of the elderly lose their friends and loved ones around them (e.g., due to distance or natural causes) and start feeling lonely.
In order to combat this, professional help is recommended.
If you are wondering whether you are at risk for depression later in life, here are some things that could increase your chances of becoming depressed:
- Lack ofexercise or physical activity.
- Functional limitations that make engaging in activities of daily living difficult.
- Addiction and/oralcoholism(included in substance-induced depressive disorder).
- Genes – people who have a family history of depression have an increased risk.
- Stress – this can include caregiver stress.
By knowing these things, you can take steps to prevent yourself from getting depressed.
Ways to Support an Elderly Person With Depression
If a family member or loved one is suffering from depression, here are a few things you can do to show your care and support:
It is absolutely important to be patient with the elderly, especially if they are depressed.
For many, depression is an ongoing battle throughout their lifetime; hence, be prepared for relapses. If they do or say anything hurtful, remember that this is not who they really are. All they require from you at such times is your love and support.
Spend Quality Time
Some of the most common triggers when it comes to depression among the elderly is the thought that they are a burden to others. By thinking this way, the elderly assume that no one wants to voluntarily spend time with them.
Show them that this is not true and you enjoy their company. Making them feel wanted and cared for allows them to feel less lonely and more like themselves.
Promote a Sense of Purpose
Losing one’s sense of purpose can easily aggravate depression and lead to anxiety about growing old in Dubai (or any other place) whatever your age.
The elderly folk are especially more prone to internalizing the idea that they have served their purpose in life, and it is now time to just survive till their time comes.
Let them know this is not true and their purpose lies in their own hands. Try to get them interested in a new hobby, such as volunteering (if they are physically able), knitting, gardening, or anything else that makes them happy.
Some Good News
Although people in general experience frustration and loneliness at some point in their life; fortunately, data shows that the majority of older adults are not depressed.
According to statistics, the number of older people living in a community with major depression ranges from less than 1% to about 5%. However, the number increases to 13.5% among those who require home healthcare and to 11.5% in older hospitalized patients.
What You Can Do
Whether you’re young or old, here are some things you can do if you feel like you are suffering from depression:
- Develop a routine – Having a routine can give your life some structure and make you feel in control. This is far healthier than sitting at home all day and being idle.
- Set goals – Having depression can make you feel worthless, so set small goals for yourself and celebrate your accomplishments. Doing these things will increase your positive thinking and lead to bigger goals and targets.
- Exercise – Physical activity or exercise releases chemicals in your brains called endorphins. These can improve your mood drastically and can even rewire your brain in a positive way, if done frequently or regularly.
- Sleep – It is no secret that depression could lead to major disturbances in your quality of sleep. Pushing yourself to have a good sleeping schedule can make you feel less tired and irritable.
The Importance of Getting Proper Treatment
Many old people are often misdiagnosed with depression, and some doctors may assume their patient’s symptoms of depression are just due to old age or other illnesses.
If you are or somebody you know is suffering from depression, please ensure they get the proper depression treatment in Dubai (or wherever you’re located).
Depression is a treatable mental disorder, and with the right therapeutic plan and or medication, it’s possible to be back on the road to a healthier and happier life.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.