Depression and Anxiety in Later Life: Symptoms, Treatments

Depression is a treatable medical condition; such as hypertension or diabetes, and is not considered a regular part of aging, although older adults and the elderlies both have a high risk of going through depression.

Depressive symptoms in older people often emerge from grief, loss of social interactions, and health complications. Based on recent research, doctors are convinced that anxiety disorders diminished as we grow older. 

Professionals now acknowledge that anxiety and aging cannot happen simultaneously as they are incomparable. Anxiety is common among both youngsters and the old. 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the mass among older adults, although for this population, anxiety disorders are usually related to traumatic events.

What You Need To Know About Depression?

Major depressive disorder, is a common type of depressive disorder that is serious and can put effects on your feelings, your way of thinking, and your actions. As luck would have it, depression is remediable.

Symptoms of depression can differ from lenient to severe which consist of:

  • Experiencing depressive mood or feeling sad
  • Interest or pleasure deprivation in enjoyed activities
  • Appetite changes – losing or gaining weight without correlating with diet
  • Sleeping difficulties or excessive amount of sleep
  • Fatigue or loss of vitality
  • Difficulties in performing purposeless physical activities such as sitting still, pacing or hand-wringing – slowed movements or speech (for severe conditions)
  • Experience guilt or feeling unworthy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
 

Symptoms must show changes in your previous level of functioning and last for at least two weeks to run a diagnosis of depression.

To be added, medical conditions such as thyroid complications, brain tumors, or vitamin deficiency can imitate signs of depression so it is vital to prevent the general medical causes. 

Major depressive disorder is estimated to affect one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year and one in six people (16.6%) will go through depression at some point in their life. 

Depression can take effect at any time, but on average, depression appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women Research shows that one-third of women will experience the utmost depressive episode in their lives. 

There’s a high probability of heritability (estimated 40%) when first-degree relatives such as parents, children, or siblings have depression.

 

Torres, F. (2020, October). What Is Depression? – Psychiatry.org. Retrieved June 19, 2022, from https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

What You Need To Know About Anxiety?

Anxiousness is considered to be a normal emotion. It is a reaction of the brain that stress and warns you of possible endangerment.

Anxious feeling occurs to everyone periodically. As an example, you may experience the feeling when you had a difficult situation at work, before sitting for an exam, or before making a major, important decision.

 

Anxiety occurring irregularly is all right but it is different when it comes to anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that can cause frequent and immense anxiety and terror. 

A high level of anxiety or major anxiety can make you stay away from work, school, family gatherings, and other social activities that could set off or intensify your symptoms.

 

Regardless of the overwhelming effects, a lot of people with anxiety disorders are able to have control over their feelings with the right treatments. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be classified as follows:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – You experience uncontrolled, illogical worries and stress with little or no reason at all.
 
  • Panic disorder – You unexpectedly feel intense fear that triggers panic attack.You will physically sweat, experience chest pain, and your heart pounding hard (palpitations). There is a posibility that you feel like you’re choking or experience a heart attack.
 
  • Social anxiety disorder – Also known as social phobia, this is when you are self-concious and intensively bothered by everyday social scenes.
    Specific phobias – You are terrified by a particular subject of environment, such as heights or flying.The fear goes far further what’s appropriate and maybe it is causing you to avoid normal circumstances.
 
  • Agoraphobia – you experience uneasy being in a place where you believed it is difficult to escape from or call for help when urgent situation occurs. For example, you may feel terrified getting on an airplane, public transportation or lining up with a crowd.
 
  • Separation anxiety – Children are not the only ones who feels scared when a loved one checks out. Anyone can get separation anxiety by feeling anxious and scard when your dearest ones leaves you. You will tend to feel constant worry that bad things may happen to your beloved.
 
  • Selective mutism – Selective mutism is the kind of social anxiety in which children who talks normally with their family don’t speak publicly like at school.
 
  • Medication-induced anxiety disorder – An anxiety disorder where it caused by the use of certain medications or illegal drug use, or drugs withdrawal.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

The major symptom of anxiety disorders is overwheming fear or distress. You may have difficulties to breathe, stay put, sleep or rest, and give one’s attention. The symptoms occurs all depending on the type of anxiety you’re experience.

Usual symptoms are:

  • Fear, agitation, and constant worry
  • Be forced to contend with the feeling of danger and uneasiness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficult to stay calm
  • Sweating, feeling chilly and tingling sensation on hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart pounding
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscles become tense
  • Dizziness or light-headed
  • Nausea
  • Constantly worry about certain things over and over again (rumination)
  • Unable to concentrate 
  • Constantly avoid feared objects and settings

What is Late-Life Depression?

An elderly might have a chance of experiencing depression. If it is occurring for more than two weeks, and the person is having experienced of feeling unhappy, sorrowful or despair most of the time and had lost interest or satisfaction in most of his or her regular routine. 

It is much alike to anxiety, the person had gone through several of the symptoms covering at least three of the categories below.

Behaviors

  • Slow behavior or agitation
  • Abandon responsibilities and mindfulness
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Ability to run routine daily decreased, agitated, demented, and always anxious
  •  Unable to satisfy oneself in any activities
  • Having a hard time being motivated
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Being in denial of depressive feelings as a defense mechanism

Thoughts

  • Not being able to make decisions quickly and effectively
  • Losing sense of self-regard
  • Resolute to suicidal thoughts
  • Commenting negative remarks too oneself
  • Uncontrollable worries about financial conditions
  • Becomes cognizant of status within the family

Feelings

  • Easily irritated or having no mood
  • Feeling down, empty, or sorrowful
  • Overwhelmed
  • Guilty and not worthy

Physical symptoms

  • Sleeps more or less than usual
  • Fatigued
  • Slow motions
  • Unusual forgetfulness
  • Unexplained physical pain such as headaches, backache, or related complaints
  • Feeling nauseous, upsetting digestive system, changes in bowel habits
  • Scrunchy hands and agitation
  • Decrease or change of appetite
  • Losing or gaining weight significantly

Did you know..

People who are going through a number of these symptoms occasionally may not certainly mean that the person is depressed. Equivalently, not everyone experiencing depression will have all these symptoms. 

Elderlies with depression are prone to show more symptoms from the physical category rather than other categories.

What is Late-Life Anxiety?

Anxiety in elderlies is at times not so obvious as they tend to develop gradually and considering everyone may experience some anxiety at some point in life, it is difficult to acknowledge how much is too much. 

Elderlies with anxiety often go through a number of symptoms from the categories mentioned below:

Behaviors

  • Keeping away from things or environments that may be anxious for oneself
  • Have the desire to perform some practices to calm oneself’s anxiety
  • Decreased in self-confidence
  • Indecisive 
  • Easily startled by something or someone

Emotions

  • Overwhelmed
  • Afraid of certain things, environments, or events
  • Be concerned about physical signs
  • Worrying about something bad that’s going to happen 
  • Continous nervousness
  • Irresistible or uncontainable consternation

Thoughts

  • Thinks oneself is going insane
  • Unable to control oneself
  • Thinks that oneself is going to die or death is coming
  • Thinks that people are judging oneself
  • Dreamt of awful dreams or having PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Unable to stop worrying, unpleasant, or intruding thoughts

Symptoms

  • Heart rate increasing or pounding heart
  • Stomach ache or nausea
  • Disconnected from oneself or surroundings
  • Insomnia
  • Physical pain and tensions
  • Physically shaking or sweating
  • Headaches
  • Hot or cold flushes
  • Deprived or creeping sensation to oneself

What Can We Do?

Depression and anxiety can be treated. It is important for you to seek treatment once you noticed the symptoms. If you think you may have either one or both, you can always go for a check-up from a doctor or health professional.

A doctor or health professional can preclude the probabilities through a physical exam, learn about your medical history, and run lab tests. 

If there is no medical condition found from the tests, they may suggest you psychological evaluation and refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychologist to diagnose your condition.

How can depression be treated?

  • Psychotherapy – Counseling, also known as talking therapy can help oneself to point out and change bothering emotions, thoughts, and behavior. This treatment will be run by a licensed clinical social worker such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health-related professional.
 
  • Medications – Medications for depression will be prescripted to patients that would help balance their hormones that effects mood, such as serotonin. There are several types of typically used antidepressant medications, prescribed based on patients’ age and severity.
 
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – A treatment method where electrodes are placed on one’s head to allow a harmless, mild electric current to go through the brain. This treatment will only be suggested if there is no improvement with the patient’s condition.
 
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) – A method where magnets are used to activate the brain. This method of treatment does not require anesthesia and only target certain parts of the brain to reduce the side effects like memory loss, fatigue, or nausea from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

How can anxiety be treated?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This method of treatment is typically used by psychotherapy for patients who are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. This method teaches you to acknowledge patterns and ways of behaving that lead to unwanted feelings. 
 
  • Exposure therapy – This treatment method concentrates on the patients overcoming their fears that lead to anxiousness. 
 
  • Anti-anxiety medications – Medications such as benzodiazepines can help reduce anxiety. This medication works quickly but tolerance can increase as you take them regularly. You may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication for a short period, then subside your intake or mix it with an antidepressant.
 
  • Antidepressants – Antidepressants can also aid you with anxiety disorders. This medication alters your brain usage of certain chemicals to enhance your mood and reduce stress. This medication may take a certain period to have an effect.
 
  • Beta-blockers – This medication is often used for patients who have high blood pressure. With beta-blockers, they can help you ease a few physical signs of anxiety disorders like fast heartbeat, and shivering.

Summary

In a nutshell, quality of life diminishes as we age, regardless of sex, education, and emotional or mental health conditions. On top of that, depression and anxiety definitively shape one’s directions of the quality of life over time. 

Based on previous studies, optimizing the quality of the seniors’ mental health must be put as a vital concern. 

Taking this later-life mental health dimension into utmost consideration is important in order to lessen the commonness of psychological distress, emotional illnesses, and their corresponding consequences. 

Distinctively, running a diagnosis and treating for depression and anxiety signs among elderlies might lead to a better quality of life, both in the short and long runs.

Author : 

Alief Zolkopli

Alief Zolkopli

Technical Manager. Teman My Ventures PLT

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