The symptoms of depression in later life are often difficult to recognise at first. They are also often attributed to another mental illness. However, the right diagnosis is extremely important for providing adequate and timely treatment – whether this is therapeutic or medicinal.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the elderly. In patients over 65 years old, this is often referred to as late-life depression. They may have never experienced it before, or it could be triggered again by an illness.
In addition to a genetic predisposition, other factors can cause depression in the elderly:
In contrast to younger people, depression in old age often manifests itself in the form of physical complaints. Some of these may be psychosomatic. This means that there are interactions between mental and physical health. The main symptoms include headaches, back pain, dizziness and gastrointestinal problems. The typical change in mood usually takes place gradually in the background.
Other symptoms of late-life depression are similar to those of normal depression. These include, for example, restlessness, listlessness, trouble sleeping or loss of appetite.
Late-life depression is often not easy to recognise. One of the reasons for this is that older patients tend to focus more on physical illnesses and conceal mental health problems. In addition, cognitive disorders often cannot be easily distinguished from the onset of dementia. Plus, symptoms like social withdrawal or loss of interest are seen as a natural part of ageing.
Depending on the severity of the depression, therapeutic treatment may not be enough. It is then combined with medicinal treatments – just like typical depression. It is also important that the physical illnesses associated with late-life depression are also treated.
The following factors are considered protective factors and reduce the risk of developing depression:
Do you require any further information or have any questions about depression in the elderly? Our health consultation advisors are happy to help you.
Are you affected by late-life depression? Or is one of your relatives suffering from it? The following tips may help:
Good to know: the tips listed above do not only apply to depression in the elderly. They are applicable for all forms of depression.
Jessica Palladino (MSc Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, and Industrial and Organisational Psychology) works as a health consultation advisor at Helsana. She is involved in the areas of mental health, psychological counselling and health promotion for our customers. Ms Palladino provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.
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