For as many as one in five Americans over 65, clinical depression is a daily struggle. Some people mistakenly believe that being depressed, lonely or sad are "normal" parts of getting older. And while it IS true that the loss of a loved one, health problems, and life changes often DO lead to feelings of sadness, recurrent, debilitating blue moods are NOT normal or healthy in the elderly. In seeking to understand the high rates of depression among older adults doctors find that imbalances in neurotransmitters, our cells' communication system, may be to blame. The elderly are ALSO more likely to experience the loss of a spouse, close friends, and other members of their support system. And they may deal with retirement and other stressful life changes as well as chronic health issues, like arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Whatever the reason for the condition, older people tend to display symptoms of depression differently. Often, they complain more about the PHYSICAL effects of the condition, like aches and pains, rather than the emotional ones or they may complain of problems with memory or concentration. And depression tends to last longer in older adults than in young people. Because it can be so hard to separate depression from other conditions in older individuals and because of the stigma attached to mental illness among this demographic only 10 percent of older people with depression receive treatment. This is disheartening because the elderly, particularly men, are MUCH more likely to commit suicide. In fact, people 65 and older account for fully 16 percent of suicide deaths, despite the fact that they make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population. On a positive note, treatment for elderly people with clinical depression is VERY effective. In fact, with combined treatment of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication the National Institute of Mental Health attests that 80 percent of elderly people with depression recover! Knowing this, it's VITAL to seek help if you or an elderly loved one is experiencing symptoms of clinical depression!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012