Depression is a mood disorder in which the sufferer may appear chronically sad or to have lost the ability to take pleasure in enjoyable activities.
Other symptoms of depression are:
- a reduced capacity or willingness to perform everyday tasks
- difficulty concentrating
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- thinking or talking about committing suicide
- physical symptoms, such as chronic pain, a lack of energy, insomnia, and poor appetite
Depression appears most frequently in people aged 20 to 40, but it is believed that up to one in five Americans aged 65 or older also suffer from this disorder.
People in nursing homes and other institutions appear at greater risk. Depression that is associated with another medical condition (especially devastating illnesses such as cancer or Parkinsonís disease, or those that reduce a personís mobility, such as arthritis) probably occurs more frequently in the elderly than in younger adults.
Some people are ashamed to admit they have depression because it has long been thought of as a psychological problem. But in recent years it has been determined that depression is associated with changes in brain chemistry, and that a physical predisposition may exist. This expanded understanding of the physical factors involved have helped promote the attitude that depression is an illness and not a sign of a weak personality.
There are numerous ways to treat depression, and the best treatment program will vary from person to person and with the severity of the condition. Some people will need private visits with a psychiatrist, while others will benefit from group therapy that teaches strategies for coping with stress or other behavior modification techniques. Many individuals with depression require prescription medications.
Some of the drugs used for treatment of depression are:
- tricyclic antidepressants
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- ďatypicalĒ or newer antidepressants and stimulants
A physician will take particular care in choosing drug therapy for elderly people with depression, because they may already be taking medications for other conditions, and because their bodies do not always metabolize antidepressant agents as rapidly as those of younger adults.
Depression can be devastating and disabling, but modern treatments are usually very effective. If you or someone you know is showing signs of this disorder, seek the assistance of a physician or other health care professional.