How To Help Avoid Depression When Getting Older

senior woman frowning and looking at the groundDepression is a perfectly normal emotion, especially when you consider that there are many instances in life that can make you feel powerless, helpless, and overwhelmed. These feelings can sometimes make you sad for a brief period of time, which can be manageable most of the time. However, when these feelings stay for a while and affect you and the way you live your life in very detrimental ways, you may be experiencing a kind of depression that may need to be managed with professional help. What’s unfortunate is that depression may haunt people as they grow older, which means there are chances you’re likely to face a situation that can introduce depression at some point in your life. In this article, you’ll get to explore ways on how to help avoid depression when getting older.

Depression: Just What Is It?

senior man with depression looking sad at the cameraBefore one can find ways of avoiding depression, however, perhaps it might be helpful to first understand what depression is in general. It’s important to remember that while grief and sadness are human emotions, they can be very different from depression. Sadness is a feeling of being down and blue that lasts for a few days. Grief, on the other hand, is a psychological response to a form of loss and is experienced by everyone differently. Depression, on the other hand, is a period of overwhelming sadness that can last for at least a few weeks, and can actually affect your life in drastic ways. It’s the latter that one should be particularly wary of, as it can affect the way someone lives their lives in ways they can’t always comprehend immediately:

  • Depression normally involves losing interest in things and activities that would otherwise be pleasurable and “fun” for the one affected.
  • These feelings are usually accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms that relate to health issues (e.g., losing or gaining weight, losing or gaining appetite, irritability, etc.) that may affect the way they live their everyday lives.
  • People may have major depression, which is a single huge instance of depression that may happen depending on certain circumstances.
  • Some may have a persistent depressive disorder, which is depression that lasts for more than two (2) years.
  • Bipolar disorder is another form of mental condition where the afflicted can experience cycles of extreme “highs” or manias that are accompanied by depressive episodes.

If you feel as though depression is becoming too overwhelming for you to bear, it’s ok to seek help from professional psychologists like Endeavor Wellness to help you out with your particular problem.

Depression: How To Avoid It While Getting Older

close up two happy senior women looking at the camera while having coffee time at the garden table.However, just because depression is a normal occurrence doesn’t mean it has to affect your life in drastic and negative ways. In fact, there are still ways for you to be able to manage your depression and avoid having it affect you and the way you live your life as you grow older. Here are some of them:

  • Separate depression from the illness: Unlike depression in younger individuals, depression in seniors can be more challenging to treat and identify because it’s likely that there are other illnesses involve as well. For instance, diseases such as Parkinson’s can affect a patient’s brain chemistry, and as such can seem as though they’re exhibiting depressive symptoms. Sometimes, patients with chronic illnesses and depression tend to be treated on the physical aspect, therefore impeding or delaying treatment on the mood disorder. As such, if there’s an opportunity to check if there are ways to treat both a physical condition you’re experiencing alongside receiving therapy, then this might be of great assistance to your recovery.
  • Be more aware of your drinking habits: While drinking as a social activity is definitely fun, it’s definitely something that can be abused especially when consumed irresponsibly. This is why substance abuse is a common risk factor for teenagers. However, did you know that 17-percent of older adults are also at risk of substance abuse? It’s not uncommon for older people to do self-care with drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with chronic pain and loneliness – but this can do more harm than good. In the case of alcohol, being a depressant, it can actually depress people even more especially after experiencing its “buzz.”
  • Consider being more athletic: Just because you’re growing older doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing intensive physical exercises anymore. As you grow older, try to make it a habit to always try to do at least a physical exercise in order to constantly engage your mind and body. Slips and falls are legitimate threats that can send seniors to hospitals. However, aside from the physical risk, diminished quality of life and disability are actually two of many things associated with senior depression. Try to take up an exercise regimen like Tai Chi, which is a martial art that slowly trains the body to be more agile through slow movement that encourages mind-body coordination. This is a good way to develop confidence, core strength, and balance.
  • Try to treat any bad sleeping habits: While adults do have a tendency to need less sleep every day, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maximize opportunities to rest. Older people tend to suffer from what’s called fragmented sleep, which means they wake up more often while sleeping at night, and eventually wake up early in the morning. Unfortunately, individuals who are depressed also tend to have more trouble sleeping. This means as you grow older, try to fix sleep problems you have and practice good sleeping habits. Cut on the caffeine if possible, try to wake up during the same time every morning, and go to bed at the same time.
  • Grief and depression are two different things: It’s common for people to say grief is a form of depression, given the similarities of experiences associated with the two. Older people can’t be blamed, however, as by the age of 65, chances are loss of loved ones will really lead to chronic depression. It’s important however to distinguish what’s grief and what’s depression, in order to properly understand the measures one should take in order to fully understand them. For instance, grief usually is associated with sadness that comes in waves – these feelings of loneliness, irritability, anger, guilt, and sadness often have different levels of intensity. Grieving people can still enjoy some life activities, and it normally lasts for a certain time. Depression, unfortunately, is something more unremitting and persistent. A depressed person feels as though they’re just “slogging” through, and can’t enjoy life activities as much.
  • Carry some photographs with you: Sometimes, you just need a way to look back at memories and remember just how good times were. Carry photos of friends and loved ones with you all the time, sometimes it can help when they see pictures of their loved ones.
  • Get out and meet new friends: Some say “the real treasure is the friends we made along the way,” and this is partly true. Studies have demonstrated that people with stronger social networks tend to be much more resilient against anxiety and depression, especially those in their senior years. As such, it’s especially important for you to start building a network of close friends as you grow older. You can try taking night classes, volunteering, or even joining a book club to make new friends you can connect with.
  • Get a purpose and be in control: One of the most frustrating things one could experience as you grow up is the loss of control over your life, which can happen as you grow older. Slowly losing your mobility and independence can make you feel frustrated with your life overall – but it’s not too late. Try to always review the options you have and show you’re still having some degree of control over your life. What brands do you like? What activities do you love? What shows do you prefer? Try to get a new purpose and try more activities you haven’t done before in order to see that life still has its own surprises.

Conclusion: Depression Is Serious For Every Age

Despite it being common to a lot of people around the world, depression shouldn’t be something to take lightly – regardless of gender, social background, race, or in this case, age. Depression can affect anyone in any part of their lives, given that it’s a normal emotion. However, as the above may have explained, when depression hits on a level that it’s starting to affect the lives of the one depressed and the people they care for, it’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The same principle goes for people who are also getting older, as more experiences in life also mean more opportunities to get depressed. If there’s anything the above have shared, it’s that keeping an eye out for depression shouldn’t stop as one gets older. If you feel as though your feelings of depression, or someone else’s depression, is starting to affect lives in a very drastic way perhaps professional help is needed.

Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Joel Curtis. Joel is a registered Psychologists with Endeavour Wellness and has over 17 years of experience. Joel holds a Masters’ Degree in Psychology from Western Sydney University. Joel owns a number of private practices in Sydney and provides expert content for several national TV and Radio programmes.

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