There is a known link between anxiety, depression and aging in the elderly. The elderly are at an increased risk for depression, but it is not a normal part of aging. Depression is far more severe than feeling down. Depression can last for months, and not only does it have a psychological toll, but a physical one as well.
Anxiety can also affect older adults and although it’s prevalent in the elderly, it is an area lacking information, so many seniors do not receive the proper treatment they require.
Anxiety and depression can often be overlooked in the elderly as they can be confused with many other ailments that strike seniors, such as dementia, so more information and data must come out about psychological disorders and seniors in order to make doctors and patients more aware of how to approach treatment. Furthermore, having depression or anxiety in older age can lead to additional health complications and increase a person’s risk of death.
Depression is not a normal part of aging
As mentioned, although depression rates are high among the elderly, it is not a normal part of aging. Depression may often go undiagnosed due to stigma, lack of knowledge from caregivers or doctors, or being misdiagnosed as a symptom of another condition.
In order to properly diagnose depression, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Typical signs of depression include:
- Sleep problems
- Decreased pleasure in things a person once loved
- Decreased energy or concentration
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Self-destructive and suicidal behavior
Older adults have higher suicide rates than younger adults. Of every 100,000 older adults over the age of 75, 16.3 died as a result of suicide compared to 11.3 suicides in the general population.
It’s important to properly diagnose depression in seniors to prevent suicide and worsening health.
Anxiety disorders may affect aging: Study
One study has found that anxiety disorders may affect aging by speeding it up. The researchers found that people with anxiety disorders have shorter telomeres, which are a known marker of aging. The results were compared with individuals without anxiety disorders.
First author, Josine Verhoeven, said, “In the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, we had the opportunity to look at telomere length in over 2300 persons with and without anxiety disorders. Our results show that persons with a current anxiety disorder on average had shorter telomere length, although cause and effect remain to be explored.”
The analysis looked at 1,283 adults with anxiety disorders, 459 with remitted anxiety disorders, and 582 control participants without any psychological disorders. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) was assessed to determine aging.
After adjusting for factors thst contribute to aging, those with anxiety disorders were also found to have shorter LTL, which indicated at least three to five years of advanced aging.
Tips to manage depression and anxiety symptoms in seniors
Managing depression and anxiety are important for anyone at any age, especially with seniors as it can contribute to many other complications as well. Here are some tips to better manage depression and anxiety in seniors.
- Exercise regularly.
- Stay social and reach out to others – those living in isolation or feeling lonely have higher rates of depression and anxiety.
- Reduce stress.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Participate in activities you enjoy.
- Volunteer your time.
- Own a pet.
- Learn a new skill.
- Laugh more often, and if there isn’t a reason to laugh, create one.
Treatment for depression and anxiety in the elderly
Treatment for depression and anxiety often revolves around medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. These medications are intended to manage symptoms, but they do come with cautions; seniors are often on many other types of medication, so the risk of a drug interaction increases. Always check and speak with your doctor when it comes to taking medications in order to avoid complications.
Therapy, too, can be effective in treating depression and anxiety. A professional therapist can work with you independently or in a group setting to help you overcome underlying causes for your depression or anxiety or offer coping mechanisms to help you better manage day-by-day. Therapists are trained to help you change your behavior and thinking in order to become mentally well again.
If you feel that you may be suffering from depression or anxiety, it’s important to reach out to someone – don’t suffer in silence. The earlier mental disorders are discovered, the better the odds are of a full recovery.
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