Everyone feels down or sad sometimes, but these feelings usually pass after a few days. When you have depression, you have trouble with daily life for weeks at a time. Depression is a serious illness that needs treatment. If left untreated, depression can lead to other health-related issues.
Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. It may be overlooked because, for some older adults who have depression, sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less obvious symptoms of depression or they might not be willing to talk about their feelings.
So, what causes depression? Several factors or a combination of factors may contribute to depression: First, people with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not have the illness. Older adults who had depression when they were younger are also more at risk for developing depression later in life. Secondly, stress such as the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger depression. Thirdly, for older adults who experience depression for the first time later in life, the depression may be related to changes that occur in the body and brain as the person ages. For example, older adults may suffer from restricted blood flow, a condition called ischemia. Over time, blood vessels may stiffen and prevent blood from flowing normally to the body’s organs, including the brain. If this happens, a person with no family history of depression may develop what is sometimes called “vascular depression”. Finally, depression can also co-cur with other serious medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes, medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression? Different people have different symptoms. Some of them may include: feeling “sad” or empty, feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious or guilty, loss of interest in favourite activities, feeling very tired, not being able to concentrate or remember details, not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, overeating or not wanting to eat at all, aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems and, finally, thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
Researchers still have a long way to go before they fully understand why people become depressed. However, there is enough evidence to prove that, as with many illnesses, getting treatment early is more effective and reduces the chance of recurrence The treatments used today do work. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor. By doing a complete physical exam, interview and lab tests, the doctor can rule out any medications or conditions that cause symptoms similar to depression. After other conditions are ruled out, the doctor will work with you to choose the most appropriate treatment to get you back to healthy mental aging.
Submitted Agassiz Community Health Centre