Depression in Older Adults


Yesterday I attended the fourth in a series of six Illinois Psychological Association workshops about counseling older adults.  As usual, I will share a few highlights from the extensive materials that were discussed at the workshop.  In this post, I will focus on depression in older adults.

The workshop presenters included Timothy McManus PsyD, who presented on dementia; Joseph Troiani PhD, who presented on prescription drug abuse, misuse and addictions; and Sally Ryan PsyD, who presented on mental disorders in later life, focusing primarily on depression and anxiety.

Sally Ryan PsyD, Joe Troiani Phd, and Anda Jines MS LCPC at Geropsychology Workshop on 4/10/09

(from left) Sally Ryan PsyD, Joe Troiani PhD, and Anda Jines MS LCPC at Geropsychology Workshop on 4/10/09

The Good News

The good news is that older adults (as a group) have fewer problems with depression and anxiety, compared with the general population.  They are relatively happy and well adjusted. This runs contrary to the image many people have of old age.

Indeed, these research findings support the notion that there are advantages to age.  According to my previous reading, seniors have had a chance to learn from life experiences, have had time to reflect on what they believe, want and value, and tend to be more direct in pursuing what is important to them.  It is no wonder that elders are respected for their wisdom in many cultures.

How To Recognize Late Life Depression

But what if you’re worried about a senior you know?  How can you tell if they’re depressed?  It can be hard to tell because depression symptoms can overlap with medical symptoms or normal reactions to life changes.  Dr. Ryan suggests the following:

Which symptoms best distinguish depressed from non-depressed older people?

  • loss of interest
  • lack of energy
  • disturbed sleep
  • suicidal thoughts
  • feeling blue

However, fatigue and changes in appetite and sexual activity may be due to physical problems or normal aging.  As always, it is important to first rule out physical causes of depression symptoms.

Treatment Is Available

If you, or someone you know, have the above symptoms, then you may want to set up an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist who can make a correct diagnosis and provide treatment if necessary.

This is especially important with seniors, because although they are less frequently suicidal than the general population, they are much more likely to succeed at suicide if they attempt it.  But even if the situation is not quite so dire, therapy can do a lot to help improve an individual’s quality of life.

If you have questions about depression or treatment, feel free to call me at 708-429-6999.  I will be happy to answer your questions, whether or not you decide to make an appointment with me.

Helpful Links

Here are few helpful links to more online information about depression and older adults.

Depression and Older Adults: What It Is and How to Get Help (FamilyDoctor.org)

Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly: Recognizing the Signs and Getting Help (Helpguide.org)

Facts about Depression in Older Adults (American Psychological Association)

If you’re looking for counseling and mental health services in Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, and the surrounding area, please call 708-429-6999 to set up an appointment or to ask questions. Tinley Park counseling service, Oak Forest counseling service, Orland Park counseling service. Call today.

Anda Jines MS, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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