Depression and the Elderly

By Jane Framingham, Ph.D.

As we age, deteriorating health and the loss of life partners and independence can significantly impact our emotional well being. It may be too embarrassing to admit feeling depressed, even when directly asked, to children, grandchildren or health care workers. But, feeling depressed is not a normal part of the aging process, it is a disease that requires treatment.

The likelihood of depression increases with advancing age, as well as presence of a medical illness (both acute and chronic). Depressive symptoms that occur in the older patient are similar to the symptoms in younger adults.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Constant “blue” or sad mood that does not improve even with happy occurrences
  • Reduced total sleep time
  • Frequent waking during the night
  • Frequent physical complaints (example: stomachaches, headaches, dizziness, and/or joint pain that does not respond or responds inconsistently to treatment, despite a thorough medical evaluation and therapy)
  • Increased fatigue or lack of energy
  • Decreased interest in usual pleasurable activities
  • Withdrawal from social interaction · Hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Decreased appetite
  • Guilt or preoccupation with past events
  • Decreased concentration and/or increased forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent tearfulness or crying without an obvious precipitating event .

Masked depression and pseudo-dmentia

“Masked depression” refers to patients who deny depressed mood but instead have multiple complaints about various “aches and pains” that never seem to improve or respond to treatment. In a manner of speaking, the psychological depression is translated into physical complaints. Another variation of masked depression is one in which the depression causes memory and concentration difficulties, sometimes to the extent that a patient may appear to have a dementia. This condition is known as “pseudo-dementia,” and readily resolves when the depression is treated.

 

APA Reference
Framingham, J. (2006). Depression and the Elderly. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/depression-and-the-elderly/00048
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.