Your risk of developing depression increases with your age. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept depression as a natural part of aging. In fact, depression isn’t a normal experience.
There are biological, psychological and social factors at play in the development of depression as you age. By addressing these areas, you can reverse any depression that you’re experiencing.
And if you’re not feeling depressed, intervening in these areas can keep you from heading down a dark road of poor mental health. Let’s start by taking a look at how depression develops.
What’s Behind Aging and Depression
As you get older, you may become deficient in the nutrient folate. If your levels of folate are too low, you can actually experience depression for no other reason. This is a good reason to get your folate level screened.
Chronic illness is also common in people who are aging. One of the major effects of chronic illness and poor health is depression. You could be grieving the loss of your health and independence.
But feeling depressed also causes it to be more difficult to recover from chronic illness. In this way, chronic illness and depression create a viscous cycle of poor health and faster aging.
As you age, it’s inevitable that you will lose friends and family members. As this happens, you can begin to feel socially isolated and truly miss those special people who are no longer a part of your daily life.
Grief over the loss of loved ones combined with a feeling of isolation set the stage for problems with depression. This is a very serious health problem that shouldn’t go unnoticed or untreated.
Signs of Depression
As you age and are dealing with a plethora of different health problems, depression may go unnoticed or undiagnosed. But by not identifying the depression, it’s impossible to reverse it and other health problems you have will become worse.
Here are a few signs to look for that indicate you might be experiencing depression:
- A change in your sleep patterns
- Difficulty focusing and making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Feeling sad for a long period of time
- Feeling anxious for a long period of time
- Change in appetite
- Frequently crying
- Thoughts of suicide
These are signs that you may be feeling depressed. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek some professional help. Particularly if you feel suicidal, it’s important to get help quickly.
If you’re feeling suicidal, make sure that you don’t stay alone. It’s also important to call 911 immediately for emergency services that can get you into treatment quickly.
If you’re feeling depressed, but you’re not suicidal, you can make an appointment with your doctor to discuss options. The rate of suicides has been growing for the elderly population, so don’t ignore the warning signs.
What to Do About Depression
Usually when you see your doctor about depression, your physician will want to prescribe an anti-depressant. This could be something you need long term or something that you need to get you through while you make lifestyle changes that support better mental health.
There are many ways you can fight depression and reverse it without medication. But you should make sure you discuss all of your options with your healthcare provider and choose what’s best for you.
There are several herbal supplements known for helping to improve mood and fight depression. If you don’t want to take a pharmaceutical and have mild to moderate depression, these could be a good choice.
St. John’s Wort is one common choice. Another example is SAM-e. These are both available in many natural food stores and drugstores without a prescription. You should make sure that you follow the directions from the manufacturer.
If you’re already taking an anti-depressant, you shouldn’t take these supplements in addition to the medication. It’s also important to choose one or the other, but not to take both at the same time.
You also have to be careful with herbal supplements and drug interactions. Always talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist about possible drug and supplement interactions.
Getting three or four 30-minute walks in each week can be as effective as taking an anti-depressant for depression. Often with aging, people tend to become more sedentary and stay indoors.
You need to make sure you’re getting fresh air and sunshine and moving to the best of your ability. If you’re not able to walk for a half hour, try walking for shorter increments and building up to more.
Exercise is good for just about every problem related to aging. But it’s particularly helpful in battling and reversing depression.
Being malnourished can also lead to depression. It’s important to evaluate your diet and make sure that you’re eating enough food. In particular, you want to be eating enough of the foods that provide your body with nutrients.
This means a diet high in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean sources of protein. When your body isn’t getting enough calories, your mood can be affected greatly.
Fish oil supplements are also known for working as anti-depressants. Taking fish oil daily can help you feel better as its nutrients are used by your nervous system.
You’ll want to get a high quality fish oil supplement. You may also want to choose a formula that’s developed to prevent burping. Some people complain about burping a fishy taste when on these supplements.
It’s a good idea to request that your doctor perform some basic blood work to find out if you’re deficient in any particular nutrient. You may need supplements of folate or vitamin D.
Just as it’s important for mental clarity to have social connection, it’s also important for depression. Stay as active as you can with your social group. You may want to consider joining a club or senior center where you can participate in social activities.
Schedule time to do things you enjoy on a regular basis to help your mood stay positive. Take up a new hobby or even volunteer doing something that makes you feel fulfilled.
You may be experiencing depression related to a trauma or a situation in your life that needs to be resolved. Working with a professional can help you get the peace that you crave and help lift you from depression.
You might also want to seek support through a local 12-step program or support group for any specific areas of your life that could be aided by social support. For example, if you’ve lost your spouse, they have a widows or widower group.
The good news is that for most people, depression can be reversed through natural methods. And if natural methods aren’t enough, there are medical treatments that can help.