What to do if You’re Depressed
Would you have a problem admitting it if you were feeling depressed? Would you see it as a sign of weakness? Would you feel ashamed? Is it possible that you could be depressed but you’re not really sure whether it’s just part of being old?
If you don’t want to tell anyone you’re having a problem with depression, you’re pretty normal. A lot of people, especially older people, feel like they should be able to handle depression on their own. It doesn’t always feel natural to them to talk with a doctor or other healthcare provider about this kind of thing.
On the other hand, you may not even realize you’re actually depressed. You may think the way you’re feeling is a normal sign of aging, when actually it’s not.
Signs you might be depressed
Here are some signs that could mean you’re suffering from a depression. If you notice these symptoms lasting for more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor:
- An empty feeling
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
- Sleep problems
- Eating more or less than usual
- Crying frequently
- Aches and pains that last even after a doctor has treated them
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Feeling hopeless, worthless
- Being irritable
- Think of or trying suicide
It can be a little bit tricky to diagnose depression in an older person. Sometimes the symptoms of depression can seem like symptoms of other illnesses. If you’re having trouble remembering or concentrating, it might seem like you have Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. If you’re irritable, you may think grumpiness is s normal part of getting old.
Additionally, being an older person increases the likelihood that you’ll experience events that can cause symptoms of depression. Friends or spouses may die, you may develop a chronic illness, grown children may move far away. It’s normal to be sad about these kinds of things for a while, to grieve or even to be irritable.
But people who are not in a clinical depression are able to move on, to “get over it.” Those who are depressed remain stuck in their feelings of sadness, emptiness, etc.
How treatment can help you
Why should you bother taking your depression problems to a doctor? There are actually a lot of reasons.
First of all, if you don’t treat depression, it can last for months or years. There’s no reason why anyone should feel like that if treatment can help.
Second of all, simply talking about your problem with a trained professional is usually a big relief. It can give you a new perspective too, helping you realize that even though you have a problem, there are people who have seen this kind of thing many times before and know what to do to help you feel better.
Third, there’s evidence that being depressed affects your health in other ways. For example, people who have diabetes and who are depressed often have more trouble controlling their blood sugar. People who have heart procedures recover less quickly if they suffer from depression during their recovery.
When you’re depressed, you’re less likely to get out and meet with friends, exercise regularly, eat well, etc. Depression has a kind of snowball effect, having an impact on lots of different areas of your life.
What doctor should you see first?
Once you’ve decided to talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms of depression, your family doctor is a good person to start with. Family doctors can rule out any other health problems that could be causing your symptoms. If they think you could benefit from treatment for depression, they’ll probably recommend either a social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
What’s treatment for depression like?
Your treatment may consist of talk therapy, medication or a combination of both. If you take medication, your doctor will tell you what side effects to be aware of and what to do if you experience them. It’s also helpful to know that medication usually takes at least two weeks, and maybe as much as four to six weeks, before you begin to notice much difference.
Talk therapy is usually a very sensible way of helping you look at your situation in life, at the decisions you make and at the way you view yourself and the world. Some people have the impression that talk therapy is “touchy-feely,” but most of the time it can help you change your negative feelings into positive ones by focusing on practical solutions.