Depression Not A Discriminatory Disease
Depression attacks everyone regardless of race, ethnic background, weight, health condition, and of course age. Depression is defined psychologically speaking as a psychotic or neurotic condition characterized by inability, feelings of heaviness and melancholy, extreme sadness, hopelessness, and often insomnia. (Trimm) Depression affects every area of someone’s life. It affects sleep, weight, physical health overall, and of course mental health. Depression was something that was not discussed in the media until the late twentieth century, it has always been a hush hush subject, and looked at as taboo to discuss. However, how can anything be resolved if it’s not confronted? Aging adults often experience depression and it goes unnoticed by loved ones and care givers. Their treatment is not provided and the depression can control ones’ life and even end it in some cases.
Depression in its many forms affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans who are 65 years or older. Most older people with depression have been suffering from episodes of the illness during much of their lives. For others, depression has a first onset in late life — even for those in their 80s and 90s. Depression in older persons is closely associated with dependency and disability and causes great suffering for the individual and the family. (Dilip)
Depression can be an onset of a tragic or life altering event or even just as someone’s life seems to begin to feel hopeless, no one thing has been determined to bring about depression. (Reynolds) Often when people feel they are losing their identity or that they are no longer needed in the lives of others, they can experience some form of depression. Depression isn’t the same for everyone. There are different levels of depression and people react differently to each stage. Of course, there are standards in the medical field of what is experienced in each level; some may refer to them as generalizations.
There are many signs of depression, such as;
Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
Weight loss; loss of appetite
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts (Segal )
Not all of the above warning signs are present and often they are well hidden either consciously or without any doing of the patient. “…particularly difficult to diagnose due to medical illness, dementia syndromes, and heterogeneity of patient populations.” (Reynolds) Sometimes, the patient will intentionally hide their illness because they don’t feel it is important or that there is any treatment so why mention it. Again, the majority of the elderly lived in a society where it was improper to discuss their feelings or any problems they may be feeling involving their emotions. Other times, it is hard to determine like Dr. Reynolds points out because of their preexisting medical conditions or an undiagnosed condition that has similar traits.
Depression affects how the body reacts to food. Some do not want to eat when depressed and others binge when depressed. Often you find anorexic and obese patients do suffer from some form of depression, rather severe or minor. In the last decade the numbers in patients suffering from obesity and depression has risen. “Currently, more than 64% of US adults are either overweight or obese, according to results from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This figure represents a 14% increase in the prevalence rate from NHANES III (1988-94) and a 36% increase from NHANES II (1976 -80). (Prevalence is the percentage of the population that falls into the designated category.) “(US Dept of Health and Human Services) “…35 million Americans (more than 16% of the population) suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives.” (Anxiety and Depression Statistics) I know from personal experience battling the weight war that depression sets in very easily when a person’s self image is poor. It is easy to allow that sadness and loss of self worth to take place when you are struggling with your outward appearance. Some may overeat and cause themselves to develop medical conditions they may be able to have avoided with a proper diet; this is referred to as atypical depression or manic depression; with severe highs and lows. As I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph its not always overweight people suffering from depression, it could be the extreme opposite, victims of anorexia. Anorexia is not only a young aspiring model’s disease as portrayed in the media, but it has the ability affect anyone at any age. “Depression…..can cause a significant loss of appetite and diminished energy levels, sometimes resulting in a condition known as geriatric anorexia.” (APA Help Center)
Because suicide is an issue with depression, some aging adults will stop eating after becoming depressed in order to ‘put themselves out of their misery’. “Older adults with depression are more likely to successfully carry out suicide; estimates that 1 in 6 of those with severe depression will actually bring on their own death.” (Dilip) “A review of 10,655,721 death records registered with the National Center for Health Statistics conducted between 1986 and 1990 found that the median age of death for women with anorexia was 69 and for men was 80. The researchers suggest that anorexia contributes to death across the age span and may in fact be more closely related to death in older adults rather than adolescents and young adults. “The pattern of the data suggests that there may be 2 fatal forms of the disorder: one that impacts mainly younger women and a second form that appears considerably later in life and affects women and men in a 3-to-1 ratio.” (Hewitt).
The diagnosis is much more complicated compared to the treatment of depression. There are numerous drugs and natural treatments available to treat the different types of depression. Education is very important in treating depression. Medication and psychotherapy or ‘talk therapy sessions’ are the two most common forms of treatment. The drugs used to treat depression are called ‘antidepressants’. Often people must try more than one medication to find the one that works best for them. Antidepressants often have noticeable side effects, but not taking them is usually worse than the side effects. Often times the victim suffering from depression doesn’t recognize this is happening to them, so they may need a kind word to confront the issue. Here are some issues to consider in addressing depression in an older adult:
*Be aware of physical limitations. Encourage an older adult to consult with a physician before making dietary changes or undertaking any new activity that may stress his or her stamina.
*Respect individual preferences. Because elderly people tend to be less amenable to lifestyle changes, they may be reluctant to adopt new habits or do things that their peers find highly enjoyable. A psychologist who specializes in aging issues can help tailor an individualized strategy to combat depression.
*Be tactful. An older person with fragile self-esteem may interpret well-intentioned encouragement as further proof of his or her declining condition. Others may resent any attempts at intervention. A psychologist can help friends and family members craft positive approaches for dealing with these and other sensitive issues. (APA Help Center)
Depression doesn’t have to be a part of this wonderful inevitable process we refer to as ‘Aging’.