Depression in Older Adults is Tough – Here’s How to Fight Back! (Video)
Dealing with depression is complicated at any age. For starters, depression is not something that you can easily “will yourself out of.” It is caused by a complex combination of biological, social, financial and psychological factors.
If you think about it, it’s no surprise that people our age are particularly susceptible to depression. All of the factors mentions above come into sharp relief in our 60s.
Our bodies are changing. Many of us find ourselves redefining our social relationships. Other are worried about how they will live on a pension for the next 20-30 years. All of us are looking for meaning in our lives after 60. It’s enough to make your head spin!
Dealing with Depression is Possible – If You Get the Right Help
Fortunately, depression is not an insurmountable challenge. There are things that we can do to fight back against depression and loneliness so that we can live the lives that we deserve. We just need the right help.
To help us look into this important issue, I recently interviewed Dr. Margaret Rutherford. She is a clinical psychologist, specialising in depression and anxiety. I can’t think of a better person to help us understand the best ways to deal with depression after 60. Enjoy the show!
What is the Difference between Depression and Anxiety?
One of the first steps to dealing with depression is to understand the problem. For example, Dr. Rutherford explains that there is a lot of confusion out there regarding the difference between depression and anxiety.
In general, anxiety focuses on feelings of fear or apprehension, even if we don’t know exactly what we are afraid of. In addition, people who are anxious may experience nervous energy. Depression, on the other hand, is more a feeling of emptiness and sadness. You can read more about the difference in this article.
Is Depression Always the Same? Not Even Close!
Dr. Margaret explains that depression comes in different shapes and sizes. For example, the symptoms of moderate depression (dysthymia) are persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, low energy, difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness and decreased productivity.
Some people experience severe depression and may have symptoms including fatigue, lack of interest in daily activities and difficulty with decision making. In extreme cases, they may even contemplate suicide.
Seeking professional help is important if you are suffering from depression. If you think that you are feeling depressed, I hope that the one thing that you take from this article is that it’s ok to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It shows that you are willing to take control of your life.
Why is Depression Especially Difficult for Older Adults?
Older adults seem to be impacted especially hard by depression for a few reasons. First, as I mentioned previously, we face a combination of difficult biological, financial, social and psychological challenges.
In addition, older adults tend to be more socially isolated than their younger counterparts. As a result, they may be less likely to reach out for help.
It’s important to remember that grief is a normal emotion. As older women, we are going to face many challenges in the coming decades. We will lose people who are close to us. We may experience illnesses. Many of us will struggle financially. Grief will come, whether we like it or not.
That said, while grief is, to a certain extent, an expected part of life, depression is not. Don’t allow yourself to believe that depression is a normal part of aging. You know yourself better than anyone. If you feel like you aren’t quite able to handle your situation by yourself, get help.
While getting professional help is important, I also encourage you to rely on the Sixty and Me community for support. We are all here for each other. So, engage in conversations and get to know the women in our group. You are not alone!
Dr. Margaret’s Advice for Dealing with Depression
In addition to seeking professional help, there are several things that Dr. Margaret says we can do to fight back against depression.
For starters, she says that it is important for people suffering from anxiety or depression to let go of any feelings of guilt or shame that they may have. These conditions are not personal failings. They are related to what is going on in your brain and in your life. So, give yourself permission to get the help that you need.
It’s also important to focus on what you can control. When you are suffering from anxiety or depression, it’s easy to get stuck in your own head. Ironically, it may be best to take your mind off of your feelings. Start by exploring your passions. If you don’t feel like being social, start with things that you can do at home. Then, when you feel comfortable, get out into the world, one small step at a time.
I would add that there is quite a bit of evidence that physical exercise is one of the best ways to get your brain back in balance. You will be amazed how much better you will feel just by taking a long walk every day. Whenever I feel out of balance, I go for a walk down by the lake and I always feel better.
I hope that you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Margaret. If you have any questions that you would like me to ask her in a future interview, please add them in the comments.
Has anyone that you know recovered from anxiety or depression? What advice would you give to the other women in our community who may not be feeling very happy right now? Do you have any questions for Dr. Margaret? Please join the conversation.