Ageing and depression

Depression affects people of all ages. It is not an inevitable or normal aspect of ageing, although changes that accompany ageing, like poor health or the loss of peers and loved ones, may contribute to it.

Most of us will feel sadness or grief during our lives about something. That feeling is normal and will usually not last very long. Depression, on the other hand, is an intense feeling of sadness that lasts for an extended time. It can go for weeks, months or even years and it can reach the point where it interferes with day-to-day life.

Depression can be caused by biological, social and psychological factors. Later in life, causes of depression may include difficulty in adjusting to retirement, loss of friends or loved ones, chronic illness, and financial pressure.

 

What are the signs of depression?

Symptoms of depression include:

  • A persistently low or sad mood that lasts longer than two weeks
  • Anxiousness
  • Tiredness and a loss of energy
  • Significant change in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Negative thoughts, such as feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Being self-critical
  • Physical symptoms, including weakness, headaches and sleeping problems
  • Avoiding social activities and interests that you previously enjoyed.

Depression is often not recognised by relatives and friends of older people because the symptoms may be interpreted as normal aspects of the ageing process.

 

Why do some people hide their depression?

Some people may hide or deny the signs of depression. This can be particularly common with older men. These feelings can stem from a number of reasons and often come from a belief that mental health problems are a sign of personal weakness.

People in this situation (and men in particular) may be reluctant to seek help or even admit to feeling sad. They may focus on physical symptoms rather than their emotions. They may also not recognise the signs of depression.

 

Treating depression

Depression is treatable. There are psychological treatments that can help to reduce negative thinking, create strategies to tackle problems and improve relationships. For some, a combination of medication and psychological treatments may work best. It is important to find an approach that works for your situation.

 

What you can do

If you are on treatment and start to feel better, try doing things that you used to enjoy before you had depression. Here are some other ideas that may help:

  • Take it one day at a time and don’t worry too much about the future
  • Break large tasks into small ones, just do what you can, and don’t be hard on yourself
  • Spend time with family and friends and talk to them about how you are feeling
  • Join a social or community group, revisit and old hobby, or take up a new one
  • Get some regular exercise and eat healthily
  • Stick to your treatment plan
  • Don’t suffer in silence. If you need help, talk to someone.

 

Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online social and mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.