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How to Spot the Warning Signs of Depression

Everyone feels blue now and then. It's part of life. But if you no longer enjoy activities that you usually like, you may have a more serious problem. Being depressed without letup can change the way you think and feel. This is called "clinical depression."

Being "down in the dumps" over a period of time is not a normal part of getting older. But it is a common problem, and medical help may be needed. For most people, depression will get better with treatment. "Talk" therapy, medicine, or other treatment methods can ease the pain of depression. You do not need to suffer.

Warning Signs of Depression

How do you know when you need help? After all, as you age, you may have to face problems that could cause anyone to feel "depressed." Perhaps you are dealing with the death of a loved one or friend. Maybe you are having a tough time getting used to retirement and you feel lonely. Possibly you have a chronic illness. Or, you might feel like you have lost control over your life.

After a period of feeling sad, older people usually adjust and regain their emotional balance. But, if you are suffering from clinical depression and don't get help, your depression might last for weeks, months, or even years. Here is a list of the most common signs of depression. If you have several of these, and they last for more than 2 weeks, see a doctor.

  • An "empty" feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety
  • Tiredness, lack of energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, including sex
  • Sleep problems, including trouble getting to sleep, very early morning waking, and sleeping too much
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Crying too often or too much
  • Aches and pains that don't go away when treated
  • A hard time focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Being irritable
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; a suicide attempt

If you are a family member, friend, or health care provider of an older person, watch for clues. Sometimes depression can hide behind a smiling face. A depressed person who lives alone may appear to feel better when someone stops by to say hello. The symptoms may seem to go away. But, when someone is very depressed, the symptoms usually come back.

Don't ignore the warning signs. If left untreated, serious depression can lead to suicide. Listen carefully if someone of any age complains about being depressed or says people don't care. That person may really be asking for help.

When Is Depression "Normal?"

As we age, we all face problems that could cause anyone to feel depressed. Perhaps your parent is dealing with the death of a spouse or a friend. Maybe you are having a tough time getting used to retirement and you feel lonely. Possibly you have a chronic illness. Or, you might feel like you have lost control over your life. It's normal to feel sad when these things happen.

After a period of feeling sad, you should adjust and regain some emotional balance. But people with clinical depression don't get over those feelings. If you are suffering from clinical depression and don't get help, the depression could last for weeks, months or even years.

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