Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
and Older Adults
What is depression?
Sometimes when people feel sad,
they say they are "depressed." But depression is more than just feeling sad. It
is a medical illness. Someone with "major" depression has most or all of the
symptoms listed in the box below nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks or
longer. There is also a "minor" form of depression with less severe symptoms.
Both have the same causes and
Depression is not a
normal part of growing older, but it is common in adults age 65 and over.
Retirement, health problems and the loss of loved ones are things that happen to
older adults. Feeling sad at these times is normal. But if these feelings
persist and keep you from your usual activities, you should talk to your
Why is depression in older
adults hard to recognize?
be hard to tell the difference between depression and illnesses such as
dementia. Also, older adults may not talk to their doctor about their sad or
anxious feelings because they are embarrassed. But depression is nothing to be
embarrassed about. It is not a personal weakness. It's a medical illness that
can be treated.
How is depression
Sometimes depression is
first recognized by friends or family members. If you're having symptoms of
depression, be sure to tell your doctor. Don't assume he or she will be able to
tell that you are depressed just by looking at you. Your doctor will ask you
questions about your symptoms, your health and your family's history of health
problems. He or she may also give you an exam and do some tests. It is also
important to tell your doctor about any medicines that you are taking.
How is depression treated?
Depression can be treated with
medicine or counseling, or with both. These treatments are very effective.
Medicine may be particularly important for severe depression. Talk to your
doctor about the right treatment for you.
What if my doctor prescribes
Medicines used to treat
depression are called antidepressants. They correct the chemical imbalance in
your brain that causes depression. These medicines usually work very well, but
they may have some side effects. The side effects typically decrease with time.
Antidepressants can start to work right away, but it may take 6 to 8 weeks
before you see the full benefit. Don't stop taking the medicine without checking
with your doctor first.
Thinking about suicide
can be part of depression. Older adults with depression are at risk for suicide.
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself, tell your doctor, friends or
family right away, or call your local suicide hot line (listed in your phone
book). The thoughts of suicide will go away after the depression is treated.