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June 26, 2014

How to Recognize Depression in Your Friends or Yourself

It’s summertime—the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and flowers are growing. Yet, despite the happy times often associated with the summer months, for many, depression can act as a dark cloud.

Depression in older adults is surprisingly common and often goes untreated. However, this does not have to be the case. If you or a friend is exhibiting signs of depression, you deserve to feel the best you can mentally, no matter your age.

The problem is that many older adults don’t know how to recognize depression in themselves or others. While the term itself is synonymous with sadness, there are many other ways depression can manifest in older adults. Knowing the signs can help you stay proactive about your mental health or possibly come to the aid of a friend in need. 

10 Signs of Depression to Watch for in Older Adults 

  • A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. While changing your interests is certainly normal, losing interest in activities that once brought you joy could signal a more serious problem.
  • Excessive fatigue or lack of energy. If you can’t connect your excessive fatigue with a corresponding increase in activity, your lack of energy might be related to depression.
  • Loss of motivation. This could manifest in several different areas of your life, but finding yourself unable to summon the motivation for basic, everyday tasks can be a sign of depression.
  • Memory problems. One of the main reasons depression goes undiagnosed in older adults is that it’s often confused with dementia since many of the symptoms are similar. Regardless of what might be causing your memory trouble, it’s always best to bring it to your doctor’s attention and discuss treatment options.
  • Increase in anxiety. Distinguishing between normal, everyday concerns and a level of anxiety that affects your daily lifestyle is important for defining anxiety and understanding how it may be symptomatic of depression.
  • Irritability. Unexplained irritability you feel you can’t control can be frustrating. It can also be a sign of depression.
  • A decline in personal care. This might come in the form of a decreased interest in hygiene or characterized by weight gain or weight loss.
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless. We mentioned that depression isn’t necessarily linked to sadness, but hopelessness or helplessness are two other common emotions to look out for if you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering from depression.
  • Aches and pains. It might seem counterintuitive that physical complaints could actually be signs of depression, but aggravated arthritis or headaches are commonly associated with depression in older adults.
  • Slowed language or motor skills. Different from other conditions that could lead to impaired motor skills, depression can sometimes be signaled by motor skills that are normal but slower than usual. 

Older adults suffering from depression struggle to tell the difference between grief—whether due to the loss of a loved one or a change in lifestyle—and clinical depression. Just remember that grief tends to come in waves and will be marked by times of relief and happiness. Depression is more likely to be constant with next to no feelings of relief.

If you think your or someone you know is depressed, don’t hesitate to seek help. Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll discuss ways to combat depression.

Understand Mental Health


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