“Cheer up” may not be exactly what you want to hear if you’re feeling depressed. But, there is news to feel good about.
Depression is one of the most successfully treated illnesses. According to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, when properly diagnosed and treated, more than 80 percent of depression sufferers recover and return to their normal lives.
Depression can have many causes. Have you ever wondered why some people feel worse during the winter? Particularly at this time of year when days are shorter, moods can be affected by variations in light during the winter months. This has long been recognized as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and can be accompanied by those blues that build around the holidays. Sources of depression may also include other illnesses and the side effects of medications, change of environment or grief.
Whatever the reason, depression can be treated in many ways. SAD symptoms can be managed with phototherapy, which uses a device constructed of white fluorescent lights to combat the effects of light deprivation, or walks on winter days may be prescribed.
Whether seasonal or reoccurring, psychotherapy and counseling can play a significant role in overcoming depression, with or without antidepressants. A comprehensive consultation with a medical professional will help decide whether an antidepressant is needed and which medication is best suited to you.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Depression is characterized by symptoms that interfere with the ability to function normally, often for a prolonged time period. Symptoms in older adults may vary greatly; however, signs to look for include:
• persistent sadness or crying
• feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or despair
• a rundown feeling
• withdrawal from regular social activities
• difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
• memory loss or difficulty concentrating
• excessive worrying about finances or health problems
• pacing and fidgeting
• significant weight loss or gain
• thoughts of suicide or death
Many times, clues are overlooked, mistaken for natural signs of again or even thought to be signs or dementia. But don’t dismiss them. Undiagnosed and untreated depression in older adults causes needless suffering for the individual and family members. Recognizing depression is an important first step. And the good news is there are treatments – treatments that work.
Health Keys Winter 2005/2006