Depression and anxiety aren’t normal parts of aging. In fact, they can be caused by very specific events, and it should not be taken lightly if you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health decline. It’s a medical condition that needs to be treated and often can be treated if it’s recognized and diagnosed. Additionally, it helps to be aware of the different things that can cause issues.
These five things can lead to depression or anxiety in the elderly:
Physical Illness Can Lead to Depression or Anxiety
As people age, they may experience a multitude of health conditions. Degeneration of joints can make mobility difficult causing them to need to stay at home. Heart conditions can cause shortness of breath and make it hard to go places. Diabetes can leave some older folks feeling scared to eat the wrong thing because they don’t want to spike their blood sugars. Additionally, diseases like cancer can leave people in fear of dying. All of these can easily lead to chronic depression or anxiety. Getting the right help can make all the difference in the world. Finding a good counselor and sometimes getting on medication will help older folks overcome their mental health crises.
Financial Stress Can Cause Anxiety or Depression
Let’s face it, stress over money is hard. When you’re left trying to decide between paying the rent or buying food, it can be a scary place. This fear can lead many elderly people into a depressed or anxious state. Additionally, some people who are under 65 don’t realize that they might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits if they have a qualifying disability. Applying for it is worth the hassle, and it’s important not to give up if the first answer is no. These benefits can help alleviate some of that financial stress and reduce anxiety or depression. It’s also important to leverage other charities and help in the area you live in. It’s okay to need help and no one will judge you for getting it when you need it the most.
Loneliness Can Lead to Depression
The feeling of loneliness can lead many elderly people to depression. A common misconception is that loneliness is merely the state of being alone, but it’s much more than that. In fact, loneliness is more defined by the quality of relationships. People with good relationships are less likely to experience loneliness than those who have poor relationships.
Loneliness can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health. The negative effects of loneliness include an increased risk for anxiety disorders, an increased risk for substance abuse problems, and even poor immune function. Getting regular visitors, enjoying hobbies with friends, and even going to events can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and subsequently, depression, in the elderly.
Medications Can Cause Depression or Anxiety
Unfortunately, as people age, they are more likely to need medications regularly. Depression is a common side effect of some medications. Medications for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions can cause depression in the elderly. It’s important to let your doctor know if you are suddenly experiencing depression or anxiety when you’re on medication. They may be able to adjust your dosing, get you on a different medication for your health issues, or prescribe an anti-anxiety or antidepressant. It’s important to continue taking your medication until you get the green light from your doctor to back off of them or stop them altogether.
Retirement Can Cause Anxiety
Retirement can cause anxiety, even if you’re looking forward to it. You might be worried about how you’ll spend your time and whether or not you’ll be able to maintain the same level of activity that kept your mind sharp. You may also be concerned about losing social connections from work and other daily interactions. As more people retire, they lose the support system that includes their colleagues and supervisors—and this can lead to feelings of isolation during this time in life.
Depression can happen at any age, but there are resources available for elderly people with these conditions. It’s important that you find help if you are experiencing emotional distress. Start by talking to your primary care physician, a therapist or mental health professional, someone who has had experience with these issues in the past, or a community center near you that specializes in helping people with depression and anxiety disorders.