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We all feel a little sad or down from time to time but feeling down is not the same as being depressed.
Here we look particularly at how depression can affect older people and draw attention to the events and situations that can make it more likely. Recognising symptoms and seeking help early on and then being offered appropriate treatment and support can increase your chances of improving how you feel and promote a lasting recovery.
If you are depressed, the feelings of sadness and general lack of motivation that we can all experience from time to time are more intense and can persist for weeks or months. The feelings become so bad that they interfere with the way you think and behave and affect your daily life.
Depression can just happen. But in many cases it can be ‘triggered’ by significant life events, especially events connected with loss. We tend to think of loss in terms of the distress we feel on losing a partner or close friend. But other types of loss are more common as we grow older too and can affect our self-esteem or how we see our place in the world. They include:
If you are going through difficult times, you should seek support and help early on. This can prevent the normal reaction to sadness or a change circumstances turning into depression. Do not to brush how you feel under the carpet and hope it will sort itself out. Symptoms are likely to get worse if you do.
If you suspect a relative is in danger of, or could be, suffering from depression, then try and talk to them about it. The risk of developing depression increases when people feel alone and unsupported. Consider the following:
Men can find it particularly difficult to talk about or admit to how they feel and so are much less likely to seek help from family, friends or their GP
Depression is a normal part of ageing – this is a widespread belief among some professionals and young and old people alike. But depression is not a normal part of ageing. There is a range of effective treatments that can be tried and are effective, regardless of your age. Do not let yourself or your relative accept depression as an inevitable part of life.
I should be able to snap out of it myself or feeling like you this is a sign of weakness – commonly held beliefs that prevent many people seeking the much needed support and help they deserve.
I should only bother my family and friends or the doctor with a physical illness – when physical symptoms dominate, a diagnosis of depression is more likely to be overlooked. So it is important to talk about what is happening in your life and how you feel in yourself as well as any physical aches and pains.
A mental health problem is not as deserving of help as a physical health problem – a common thought but remember doctors are trained to diagnose and treat both mental and physical illness.
Depression and mental illness can have stigma attached to it and so you are reluctant to admit to a problem that you feel could reflect badly on you or your family – this is a common reason for not seeking help. Depression is a real illness that deserves treatment and can be successfully treated.
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