Depression and Anxiety in Seniors: 4 Key Points
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can cause serious problems for anyone at any age. Specifically, older Americans commonly suffer from mood disorders that make them abnormally unhappy, agitated, sad, or fearful. These disorders can ruin their ability to enjoy favorite activities and raise risks for other health problems.
Whether you worry about a senior loved one’s depression or anxiety or your own mental health has taken a hit in your old age, you’ll benefit from learning how and why these mood disorders affect older individuals, along with the available treatment options. Let the following four key points guide you toward your answers.
1. Why Seniors Suffer From Depression and Anxiety
Depression typically stems from biochemical changes or genetic predispositions. However, they also occur (or worsen) in response to life circumstances. Seniors face a variety of new and significant challenges as they enter this phase of their lives. Lack of exercise, sleep problems, disease, bereavement, and social isolation may all contribute.
Anxiety may trouble up to 20 percent of American seniors. These older individuals often develop phobias about specific age-related life challenges such as financial uncertainty or chronic illness. Seniors can also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
2. How Depression and Anxiety Affect Seniors’ Overall Health
Older people already struggle with sufficient age-related health risks without the added burdens of a mood disorder. Nursing home data indicates that depression raises seniors’ heart attack risks such as death. It may also increase the risk of death from a pre-existing illness and impair a senior’s ability to recuperate properly from that illness.
Intense anxiety tends to place the body in a fight-or-flight response that sends the cardiovascular system into overdrive. The resulting heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, and other physical reactions may mimic a heart attack. This alarming possibility only increases affected seniors’ agitation and fears about their health.
3. How Senior Depression and Anxiety Manifest Themselves
Depression in seniors doesn’t necessarily manifest itself like it would in younger people afflicted with this mood disorder. For example, it more commonly corresponds to other health issues. Senior depression symptoms include irritability, fatigue, mental confusion, reduced attention span, and general lack of interest in life.
In addition to the cardiovascular symptoms noted above, anxiety in seniors can trigger vision problems, digestive complaints, weight changes, muscle tension, headaches, and bouts of irrationality. The anxious senior may seem shaky or panicky and avoid specific people, places, or ideas that set off their phobias.
Bear in mind that some age-related situations can produce these kinds of symptoms temporarily without signaling a major mood disorder. For example, a grieving widow or widower will often naturally struggle with depression for a time. However, when depression or anxiety continue for months on end, seek professional help.
4. What Professional Treatment Can Do for Struggling Seniors
Senior depression and anxiety may respond well to a combination of medications and psychological counseling. However, since the medications in question don’t always work as well in older people and carry certain additional risks, the treatment plan for an older individual may emphasize non-pharmaceutical strategies.
If you suffer from anxiety, your therapist may work with you to uncover the specific triggers that trigger those feelings. Once you recognize the triggers, you can learn how to desensitize yourself from them or reason your way out of them. You may also benefit from breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and other relaxing activities.
If you or a senior you love need help dealing with depression or anxiety, you’ll want to act sooner rather than later. Contact Comprehensive Counseling Services, LLC, to arrange an initial consultation. Our mental health experts can evaluate the problem at hand and administer the right mix of therapeutic solutions.