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Published on February 01, 2019

Depression is Not a Normal Part of Aging

Depression affects one in five people at some point during their life. However, it is not something that happens because you get older. People of all ages experience depression. It is real and treatable.

It’s important to understand the symptoms of depression and know how to seek help. This way you or those you love can enjoy life to the fullest no matter your age.

Older Adults are at Increased Risk for Depression

The risk for depression increases in people who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have two or more. This puts older adults at a higher risk for developing depression. It is extremely important for people to seek treatment and follow treatment recommendations for both their chronic health condition(s) and depression. Untreated depression can make it difficult to follow the treatment plan for your chronic health condition. It also can make conditions worse. Even if you don’t have a chronic health condition, untreated depression can become severe and life threatening – it also can lead to other chronic health conditions.

Signs of Depression

Depression is different than having “the blues” or the emotions we feel when grieving a loss. It is a true medical condition that is treatable like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Avoiding family and friends, spending more time alone
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not get better with treatment

When any of these symptoms disrupt daily life for two weeks or more, it’s time to seek help.

Screening for Depression

If you or someone you care about experiences any of the above symptoms, we encourage you to seek help. Bryan Health offers a free, confidential depression screening at: bryanhealth.org/mental-health.

This screening will let you know if you are at risk and provide information on next steps. You can print the results and take to your next doctor appointment or meet with a mental health provider. While the screening is not a formal assessment or diagnosis, it will provide information on whether you could be suffering from depression and should seek help from a professional.

If you do not have access to a computer and suspect depression, call your doctor or a mental health provider. The Bryan Counseling Center has mental health professionals trained to diagnose and treat depression. Our staff also includes health psychologists who are specially trained to help people who have both depression and a chronic health condition(s).

You Can Feel Better

Too many times depression goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults. People don’t seek help because they believe it is “normal” to feel the way they feel. However, with appropriate treatment, you can feel better.

Enjoy Life as You Grow Older and Prevent Depression

Exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, being involved in activities you enjoy and staying connected with family and friends are all ways to promote good mental health – and to improve depression along with other treatment options.

Depression can happen to anyone at any age. It is not a normal part of aging or something that should be “expected” or “tolerated”. Depression is a medical condition that can be treated. Everyone deserves the ability to grow old gracefully and joyfully.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, seek a professional evaluation and treatment.

To learn more about Bryan Mental Health Services, please visit bryanhealth.org/mental-health or call 402-481-5991.

dave miers

About Dr. Dave Miers

Dave Miers, PhD, is the counseling and program development manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb.

He helped establish the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition in 1999 and chaired/co-chaired this Coalition until 2017. He currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dr. Miers is a member of the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Dr. Miers has published research and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers helped develop the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, Neb. He also helped develop other LOSS teams in Nebraska and is active with LOSS team development on a national level.

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