As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom. But for some that may not be the only thing that’s added. For some, the older we get, the more big challenges we face and sometimes that challenge is depression.
In addition to dealing with the onset of disease and physical disabilities, older people will face loss on many levels: the loss of a spouse, loss of friends, loss of siblings, loss of job and career, and sometimes even the loss of memories.
When you stop and consider all of this loss, it’s not surprising that aging and depression often go hand-in-hand. Feeling sadness over these losses is a normal part of life. However, some of us can experience profound symptoms of depression, which if left untreated, can last for years.
But if you’ve never experienced depression at any point prior in life, how can you tell the difference between depression and sadness?
Here are some signs of depression:
- Trouble sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, or both)
- A change in appetite (either decrease or increase)
- Sudden mood swings (such as irritability and anger)
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Social isolation
- Suicidal thoughts (these can be passive like, “Maybe I’d be better off dead)
At some point in our lives, most of us experience some of these symptoms. But when you experience more than one or two at a time, and they persist (or worsen) for days and weeks on end, this is a clear indicator of depression. And also that it’s time to reach out for help.
Beating Depression Will Require Trust
When someone who has faced so much becomes depressed, what can they do to feel better? The answer may be to seek the help of a therapist who can help you navigate and unpack your emotions as well as teach you skills to better manage the challenges of loss, depression, and aging.
But therein lies the conundrum.
When people are suffering from depression, they often feel helpless. That is to say, they typically feel they’re beyond being helped. When a person feels that no one and nothing can help them, they will not seek help, and even refuse it when it is offered – especially men. Especially older men.
In fact, when some men are depressed, they can even become angered when a loved one tries to help.
This is when trust becomes a vital component to getting well. Older people have spent a lifetime forming relationships with family and friends. They know that connection and love is genuine. Therefore, they must trust that when a loved one comes to them and says, “I love you and I’m concerned. I see you struggling and I’m concerned you’re and you need some help…” they recognize they are coming from a loving place and trust they want what’s best for them.
If you’ve tried to help an older loved one but they refuse to listen, consider having someone else they might trust even more speak with them. This could be an old colleague, other doctor, or a local pastor. And sometimes you may just have to get a group together and have an intervention.
Life is short. Don’t spend it suffering from depression. Find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you navigate the challenges of depression so you can get back to living life on your terms.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.