Depression in Older Adults - Topic Overview
How is depression diagnosed?
Depression often is
missed in older adults.
- People may think that sadness or depression is
part of aging, so they don't take it seriously.
- The symptoms of
depression in older adults are sometimes like symptoms of other diseases, so
depression may not be recognized. For example, a family member or doctor could
mistake forgetting things as a symptom of
dementia rather than depression. But people can have
- Many older adults take many medicines, and certain medicines
may cause depression.
- Older adults may not seek help for depression,
because they sometimes consider it a character flaw or weakness. They may blame
themselves for the problem or be too embarrassed to seek help. They may not
admit to feeling sad.
- The cost of doctor visits and treatment can
prevent older adults from seeking help for depression.
If your doctor thinks you are depressed, he or she will ask
you questions about your health and feelings. This is called a
mental health assessment. Your doctor also may:
If you think you have depression,
read this information or
take this short quiz to check your symptoms.
How is depression treated in older adults?
younger adults, depression in older adults is treated with medicine,
counseling, therapy, or a combination. Treatment usually works, and treatment
for depression also may help other medical problems that older adults have.
Older adults may benefit from early, continuing, and long-term treatment.
Older adults may have special concerns when using medicine.
- Some of the medicines used for depression may
not be good choices because they may interact with medicine being taken for
other health problems.
- The side effects of medicines may be more
- Some antidepressants may take longer to start working in
older adults than they do in younger adults.
- Older adults may need
medicine for a longer amount of time than younger adults.
Many older adults don't take all the medicines they need for
depression. A caregiver or family member may need to help the person remember
to take the medicines.
Depression often occurs with
dementia, which is a loss of mental skills that
affects daily life. Medicines for depression may help older adults with
What can an older adult do about depression?
adults can be aware of how they are changing as they age and keep a healthy
attitude. Remember that getting older is a natural part of life. If you take
good care of your body and learn positive ways to deal with stress, you can
slow down or even prevent problems that often come with getting older.