Depression Among the Elderly
Though depression and anxiety are common throughout the life cycle; depression and older age have commonly been associated with one another (Mulsant, 1998). Unfortunately, many elderly people are not satisfied and look at this stage as depressing. After years of planning, dreaming, and expecting the golden years to be the highlight of one's life, the increased number of stressors related to aging causes feelings of depression. Depression can happen at any age from birth to death. Depression is a "heterogeneous disorder" that can begin early in life and have recurrent episodes later in life, or the first onset may occur late in life (Doris, 1999, p.1369). "It is already said that depression affects about one sixth of the population or more" (Doris, 1999, p.1370). Depression is a very personal illness. The mental anguish of depression can be quite unimaginable to someone who has not experienced it. Depression is not a number, but is the brain's response to either some powerful event in life or even a physiological response to changes that may be taking place. Depression can also be the result of a medical condition or even medication. "Depression is the most prevalent functional psychiatric disorder in late life" (Mulsant, 1998, p.186). "Depression is defined as a state of despondency marked by feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness" (Coon, 2001, p.89). Some people can mix up depression with just having the blues because of a couple of bad days or even weeks. The cause of depression is still obscure and becoming clear that a number of diverse factors are likely to be implicated, both genetic and environmental. "Some causes are leading stressful lives, genetic factors, a previous depressive episode, and the personality trait neuroticism" (Doris, 1999, p.1369). The National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control (1995) reports depression can appear after a triggering event or for no apparent reason. "Depressed elderly persons frequently have concurrent symptoms of anxiety or comorbid anxiety disorders. Such comorbidity is associated with a more severe presentation of depressive illness, including greater suicidality" (Lenze, 2002, p.753). "Aging is no accident, longevity far from being the artificial result of science and civilization, is necessary to the human condition, intended by the soul" (Matousek, 1999, p.56). In the elderly, often there is an accentuation of basic personality traits. The intensification of anger and frustration in old age may be related to character, and tied to a sense of injustice. It's almost as if oldness doesn't want to be humiliated (Matousek, 1999). There are many different changes a single person can go through; consequently, it would be impossible to be prepared for any of the number of changes. "Many changes come with this new time in a person's life and researchers have found that an accumulation of 200 or more life change units in a single year can cause a significant increase in psychiatric disorders" (Minirth, 1985, p.118). One significant change is the loss of self-worth after retirement. Work has always been a central concern in their lives, symbolizing their identities and providing them with self-esteem. For some people life after retirement can be great; the glorified day when one no longer has to get up before the roosters, and tramp out in the cold weather to work (Minirth, 1985). Yet for some, it can be the worse time of their lives in finding the age of retirement to be depressing, because the lack of substantial activities, like work, to the possibility of the lack of funds to live out the retirement that one had previously dreamed of. The loss of co-workers, and friends that were around on a daily basis, no longer are they there in the same capacity (Minirth, 1985). Retirement should be the ultimate reward for all that a person has conquered in life. The images or daydreams of retirement all show happiness, traveling,...
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