Everyone has experienced a period of sadness during his or her lifetime. Sometimes these feelings of sadness are in response to something that has happened such as the loss of a loved one or a difficult time at home. But, there is a difference between feeling sad in response to a life event and experiencing a clinical depression. Depression is not just “feeling blue” or feeling grief after a loss. Depression is a feeling of sadness that lasts for many weeks and does not go away. Depression interferes with your daily activities and often includes changes in sleep, changes in appetite, and a general loss of energy.
Depression is a common illness that affects millions of Americans each year, but it is a treatable illness. Depression is not a personal weakness. You cannot develop depression from reading sad stories or catch it from someone else. Depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Men and women of all ages, genders, races, ethnic groups, and economic status can experience depression. Famous people including actors, successful business people, and politicians have spoken out about their experiences with late-life depression.
The signs that an older person may be suffering from depression include the inability to sleep, memory problems, confusion, withdrawal from social situations, and irritability.
As we age, there are life events that can trigger a clinical depression. Physical health conditions such as heart attack, stroke, hip fracture, bypass surgery, and macular degeneration are often associated with the development of depression. Hormonal changes in women have been shown to trigger depression. Increased alcohol or drug use (including over-the-counter medications) may lead to a clinical depression. Certain medications prescribed by your physician or a combination of medications can cause a clinical depression.
For more information, visit the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation at www.gmhfonline.org.