How Depression and Anxiety Can Affect Seniors’ Well Being

Last Updated: 09.07.20

 

Imagine how it would be if we all had inside of us a system that would indicate whenever something is wrong with our mental health just like a weather radio does. Reviewing mental health problems is not the same as reviewing weather radios, but here you have some options if you want to better understand how they work.

However, we can still do that in a manner that everyone can understand what mental health issues are, how they affect people’s lives and what we can do about it. In this article, we are going to talk about how two of the most important mental health issues – depression and anxiety – are affecting seniors and what we can do to improve that.

 

What research says about depression and anxiety among seniors

Everyday life has become stressful and there are studies that suggest that the level of anxiety among 16-year-olds now is the same as a patient in a mental health institution used to have back in the 50s. If a 16-year-old can experience that kind of pressure, imagine how a senior can deal with that, considering all the other health issues that come along with age.

The World Health Organisation takes mental health among older adults very seriously and they have developed a lot of public policies that can help people facing them, which include better awareness of these problems and also access to treatment and therapy.

After intense research, they came to the conclusion that the presence of mental health issues among people over 60 has risen to 15 percent, and the population over 60 is constantly increasing, being estimated that, between 2015 and 2050, we will see the percentage of older people doubled. People over 60 are now about 12 percent, but by 2050 it will rise to 22 percent.

But what does that mean? It simply means that there will be many more seniors populating the Earth and we have to pay greater attention to their well-being. The first most important thing is for seniors and people taking care of them to be well documented about what these problems mean, what they imply and how we can address them efficiently.

Unfortunately, people over 85 years old have the highest suicide rate among any age group and that should be something that concerns every one of us.

 

 

 

Let’s talk about it

Studies have come to the conclusion that the most important mental health problems among seniors are depression and anxiety. These conditions have such abstract terms that not everybody instantly can identify their meaning. 

What we are going to talk about next is how we can identify these issues among the people we love, or identifying them while happening to us, but on friendly terms. We are going to tell you what the symptoms are and what you can do to change the lives of the elderly struggling with these conditions.

 

Depression

Most people correlate depression to a state of sadness that can be overcome with will power. Didn’t you often hear people saying ‘get over it!’ or ‘be positive, it’s all in your head!’? Well, it is all in your head, but not in the way they think it is.

Depression is a mental health issue that involves an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brains of people who are affected by this, it is not just a bad mood that can be changed with the blink of an eye.

It is a condition that can be treated with medication or other forms of therapy like psychotherapy and exercise, but it has to be addressed as a condition, not just a bad mood.

 

What are the symptoms?

People with depression often experience a profound sadness that doesn’t go away for a long period of time. Sometimes they can’t sleep and sometimes they sleep more than necessary, sometimes you can surprise them sleeping all day, even if they have slept all night long.

They have low energy levels most of the time, they have a hard time making decisions and staying concentrated and they lose interest in activities that used to make them happy. This is because they don’t feel pleasure anymore.

You may also see a behavioral change in their self-worth, they start feeling worthless and sometimes guilty for not being able to pull themselves together.

 

 

Here are the causes

Although depression has common causes among all ages, seniors, due to their age, develop other problems that can cause the development of this condition, so we are going to address them accordingly.

Seniors often develop chronic health issues that can lead to disability. Such conditions, as well as chronic pain and progressive vision and hearing loss, can lead to depression.

Social factors like decreased income and social activity due to age are some of the most common factors. After the age of 60, because of their illnesses and their friends’ illnesses, social encounters seem to get less frequent and seniors can feel extremely lonely.

Also, many of them can lose their loved ones because of their age. Sometimes these events can be overwhelming and a lot of seniors experience prolonged mourning due to these losses.

 

The anxiety carousel

The causes of anxiety in seniors can be related to the causes of depression. However, the symptoms can differ. There are many types of anxiety disorders and we are going to discuss them here.

Because seniors experience a lot of problems that they haven’t had before, they are prone to anxiety disorders. Some of them also can’t get their minds off the fact that they are not able to do a lot of things that they were able to do when they were young, and many of them are afraid of loneliness and all these feelings put together can trigger anxiety.

 

Anxiety disorders

Panic disorder is a condition that involves numerous panic attacks a day. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by chronic anxiety and constant worry about things that one can not control. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that involves persistent symptoms of anxiety due to a traumatic experience like abuse, accidents and the loss of a loved one.

Anxiety among seniors is not a normal thing to experience. Some people think that as you get older, these symptoms have to be something that everybody has to live with and that it is not a problem that should be addressed as a health condition.

That is why many seniors do nothing about it. They think that it’s a normal thing to be experiencing fear and anxiety. Well, it is not. The most common types of anxiety disorders encountered in the elderly are generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder.

People experiencing them have a sense of insecurity and they feel like there is always an imminent danger present in their lives. They can experience physical symptoms like trembling, nausea, and headaches, as well as fatigue and muscle tension.

 

 

Final thoughts

Because seniors have other health problems correlated with anxiety and depression, these conditions are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. That is why it is essential to have a good understanding of their implications and of how we can identify them in ourselves and the ones around us.

All of the life changes that come with aging can be overwhelming for a lot of people and it is not something to be ashamed of. Often people experiencing these problems for the first time think that it results in stigma, but if they would stop and analyze the ones around them, they would realize that almost everybody has or has had problems involving anxiety and depression.

Dealing with these issues is not something that can’t be overcome and is not the end of the world. Taking care of your physical health is as important as taking care of your mental health.

The support of the family and the people around us is very important, so is getting help from professionals. It’s important to understand that depression and anxiety often can not be treated with physical activity and healthy dieting.

A medical professional is the one who gets to decide if a person dealing with depression or anxiety, or both, have to undergo medical treatment and psychotherapy, so never assume that it is ok to treat the problem by yourself. There are many great and efficient ways to keep it under control and you should do what needs to be done to have great results.

 

Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a lifelong learner with extensive work experience in the public health field. She is passionate about science and psychology and is constantly curious about how these can change people’s lives for the better. Her goal is to gather valuable information that can help her readers.

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