Being depressed is not a natural part of the aging process, yet many older adults suffer from a variety of these types of disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is the most prevalent mental health condition among older adults. The following information discusses different types of depressed states in geriatric patients and the treatment options available.
1. Different Types of Depression
A depressed state in the elderly can be categorized as major, minor, or in conjunction with other conditions such as medical, psychiatric, or substance abuse. Major is when five or more symptoms are present for an extended period of time. Minor generally includes suffering from fewer than five symptoms.
If in conjunction with other medical conditions, it can often make the medical condition worse. Depressive conditions could even increase mortality from some disorders such as stroke. For a patient suffering from anxiety, treating the depressed state first may relieve the anxiety. The elderly can also be depressed while suffering from drug or alcohol dependency. Sometimes treating the depression first may alleviate the substance abuse.
Symptoms of a depressed state in the elderly are similar to those of any other age group. The difference, however, is that it often occurs along with medical conditions and it may last longer. The nine general symptoms include sadness, sleep problems, changes in appetite, fatigue, agitation, poor concentration, low self-esteem or guilt, thoughts of death, and withdraw from regular activities.
Treatment generally includes a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Medications that are sometimes used include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, bupropion, and mirtazapine. Lifestyle changes that can be used include increasing physical activity, encouraging the patient to find a new interest or hobby, and keeping a regular visitation schedule with friends and family. The physician should also make sure the patient is eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.