Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Than "The Blues"

Depression is a common illness, yet few sufferers are properly diagnosed. This is especially true for the depressed elderly. Many people from the generation of the Great Depression and prior were indoctrinated with the philosophy that you just have "to pull up your boot straps and move on".

Everyone experiences changes in mood, ranging from minor frustrations to the grief that accompanies a major loss. Someone who is clinically diagnosed with depression experiences changes in behavior that interferes with the ability to manage every day activity, feel pleasure, or maintain interest and ability to concentrate is not a simple case of the “blues.” It is an illness that doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have made great progress in understanding and treating.

Aging itself does not cause depression, but many conditions that occur among the elderly can contribute to its cause. Some of these are:

• Diseases that produce chronic pain, disability, dependence on others to perform routine tasks due to the disabling illness, little social contact with others, and fear

• Some medications, such as steroids and those for the treatment of hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes may have the side effect of depression, although this does not occur for most people

• The loss of friends and family may create a continual mourning process contributing to feelings of loneliness and isolation

• Keeping fears and negative feelings “bottled up,” due to the fact that many parents grew up in an era when expressing these feelings was not acceptable

Depression is usually a treatable illness. Talk with your parent’s or your own physician about your concerns. They can suggest an appropriate professional for diagnosis. Treatment may include counseling sessions, medication, and a supportive family.