Depression in Old Age

Depression is not a normal part of aging. The signs of depression in older people are often the same as for people in other age groups, there are a number of issues that can make it more difficult to detect. Common symptoms include dizziness, chronic aches and pains, constipation, weight loss and insomnia.

The exact cause of depression is unknown. However, it is thought that certain stressful life events such as illness, death and life transitions (like retirement) may trigger a change in brain chemistry.

The many possible causes for depression in the elderly come from many different sources. Usually symptoms of depression become apparent on close questioning though the older person may not see it that way and deny that it could be the problem.

Seniors with untreated depression are more likely to die, either from suicide or the worsening of other medical conditions. They also are less likely to recover when injured and are more likely to be disabled.

Signs of depression in older people

  • A feeling of sadness.
  • An inner feeling of restlessness, making it hard to rest or relax properly.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Loss of sexual feelings.
  • Losing your appetite and often losing weight too.
  • Feelings of being bad or guilty.

How is depression treated in old age?

  • For more severe depression, antidepressant medication is usually required. Antidepressant medication may take longer to work in older people, so trials of at least 6-8 weeks may be required.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy is a useful treatment in melancholic and psychotic depression that has failed to respond to medication, or when the depression is very severe.
  • Somatic or Trauma Psychotherapy with a professional who is an expert in early life trauma can help bring about the resolution of traumatic experiences.