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Is Depression Imagined or Real in the Elderly?

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Is Depression Imagined or Real in the Elderly? There is often a degree of apathy when it comes to depression in the elderly. To both seniors and their caregivers the question lingers as to whether depression is a normal part of getting old. Younger family members and friends may not always be understanding of the plight of seniors and even question whether the depression is real, a sympathy or attention ploy, or purely imagined.

The fact is that depression can be a real mental health disorder in any person of any age group. The elderly are more likely to suffer with depression yet remain under-diagnosed compared to younger depression patients. One of the main reasons for this misdiagnosis or under-diagnosing is that seniors themselves, their caregivers, as well as family and friends are ignorant that depression is a real mental health disorder and not a normal part of aging.

Ultimately this is to the detriment of the elderly depression patient.

Fear of aging vs depression

Many of us are afraid of getting older. It is often associated with less purpose in life once we retire and children leave the home, chronic illness which can be debilitating and even fatal, as well as the loss of our loved ones who are also getting older. This can definitely be a cause of depression and anxiety. For some this fear does not affect their mental health. However, while such fears are commonplace and only natural, it should not be seen as a separate factor from depression when and where depression is present.

Sadness vs depression

We all experience sadness for various reasons. Grief is a form of sadness associated with the loss of a loved one. Even the loss of self worth can be a part of sadness. However, there is a point where sadness is considered as depression. Should these emotions be lingering and is adversely affecting a person’s life then it is depression and needs to be viewed and treated as such. The odd bout of sadness for whatever reason that is usually short lived should not be mistaken for depression. It tends to pass on its own or with distraction on other activities and life events.

Seeking sympathy and attention

There is no doubt that many people of any age use the term depression or even portray that they are depressed in a bid to seek sympathy and attention from others. They may do this for various reasons – sometimes it is for assistance or reward, while at other times the person solely wants the attention of others as they feel ignored, lonely or neglected. Here depression may not exist but the underlying motivation for seeking sympathy and attention needs to be addressed. It can eventually lead to depression. However, assuming that depression is such a ploy without any basis is unfair to the depressed patient. Rather professional medical attention should be sort in an attempt to clear the premise that the person is not truly depressed.

Professionals diagnose depression

While at times the senior patient, their caregivers, as well as family and friends can clearly identify the signs and symptoms of depression, it is for the medical professional to diagnose the ailment. Mental health professionals are able to assess the condition correctly, confirm its diagnosis, identify other health conditions that may be appearing as depression and offer advice on the appropriate treatment. Suicide associated with depression is significantly higher among seniors than other age groups but can be avoided with early intervention. It is therefore essential that professional medical help is sought whether it is the patient themselves or the people around them that suspect depression.


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