Everyone feels sad at times. Numerous things in life can leave us feeling blue. For most of us, this is usually a passing emotion that diminishes with time but for some people this sadness can be severe, long-lasting and life-affecting. That's when feeling blue can cross the line into depression, a mental health issue affecting a large number of our older population.
It's not difficult to understand why feelings of sadness can be more common or frequent for seniors. As we age our lives change in a variety of ways, often not for the better. There may be more health problems, often more severe. An older person's physical abilities have also begun to diminish and many find their memory isn't quite as sharp as it once was.
A common cause for sadness among the elderly is the loss of someone close. Feelings of grief over the loss of a spouse, relative or a close friend are often very strong and most likely more frequent with the passing of time.
While everyday feelings of sadness are not depression, there are some signs that can indicate when common sadness is turning into a more serious mental health issue. The most noticeable is when the sadness and grief someone is experiencing doesn't diminish with the passage of time.
Other signs of the onset of depression are when the joy in a person's life seem to be gone. Laughter is rare, favorite activities are no longer enjoyed, and things that used to bring pleasure, like a pretty sunset or a young grandchild, no longer provide happiness for the person.
Someone suffering from depression may also be tired all the time, loses interest in friends and withdraws socially. Eating and sleeping problems are common, and in some cases increased use of alcohol or drugs.
When someone close to you, or even you yourself, has experienced a painful loss and is beginning to exhibit signs of hopelessness, it's vital to get help quickly. Depression not only has a negative affect on health, but is a common cause of suicide.
A family physician or professional counselor has access to a number of tests that can help pinpoint depression, along with a variety of methods for treating it. Depression is a mental health issue that does not cure itself but it's a very treatable problem. Seek help quickly.