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How Does Depression Affect the Elderly?

Depression in the elderly is very common, but it is not a normal part of aging. Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older. Unfortunately, only 10% receive treatment for depression. One likely reason is that symptoms of depression in the elderly are often confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the effects of medicines used to treat them.

Depression in later life frequently coexists with other medical illnesses and disabilities. In addition, advancing age is often accompanied by loss of key social support systems due to the death of a spouse or siblings, retirement, or moving. Because of their change in circumstances and the fact that older people are expected to slow down, doctors and family may miss the diagnosis of depression in the elderly. That, in turn, delays effective treatment. As a result, many seniors find themselves having to cope with symptoms that could be easily treated.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Depression in the Elderly.

What Is Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Treatment-resistant depression refers to depression symptoms that aren't responding to medications and/or psychotherapy. The latest findings report that 30% of depressed patients in primary care have no response at all to antidepressant medication. While 40% do respond to the first antidepressant medication they take, about 20% of these patients stop the medication because of side effects.

Men and women who have treatment-resistant depression may have tried a variety of drugs --including different types of antidepressants -- along with different types of psychotherapy and even other approaches. Yet no treatment seems to work to ease their depression.

If you have treatment-resistant depression -- also called refractory depression -- you might feel hopeless and frustrated. But don't give up. There are additional options for treatment, and the one you need is likely to be among them. If you and your doctor work together, you should be able to find it.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Treatment-Resistant Depression.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 07, 2014
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