Surprising Depression Triggers As You Age
As if the menopause wasn’t enough to deal with, as we get older there can also be a rise in depression.
If you find yourself feeling ‘blue’ or out of sorts as you head through middle age and beyond, you are not alone.
Nearly 20% of women in the UK has depression, and women ages 40 to 59 have the highest rate of depression of any group based on age and gender and in all other age groups as well women have higher rates of depression than men.
Depression is a serious medical condition that can affect not only mood, but also cognitive functions, such as concentration and decision-making abilities, and even physical well-being.
The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and there can be a number of reasons for it, so could any of these be affecting your mood?
Feel like middle age is closing in on you? You’re not alone. A 2008 study of data from 2 million people found that midlife depression spans the globe.
In the U.S, it peaks at around age 40 for women and 50 for men, and usually starts to lift in the 50s. Why?
People may learn to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses and value life more, the researchers say.
1 Overload Squeezed between the demands of children, ageing parents, marriage, and your job? Feeling sad, worthless, and guilty?
Women tend to shoulder more of the “sandwich generation” burdens — and up to half become depressed as a result.
Solution: Make sure you’re caring for yourself, too. Exercise, get enough rest, eat healthy, see friends, and get help if you need it.
2 Low Vitamin B12 If you’re feeling lethargic or depressed, too little vitamin B12 may be to blame.
If you’re older, you’re more at risk for the B12 blues because you may not have enough stomach acid to release B12 from food.
Solution: Ask your doctor to measure levels of B12 in your blood. If it’s low, talk to your doctor about diet, oral supplements, or an injection to see what might be right for you.
3 Changes in sex drive This is very noticeable for many women at menopause and there can be a number of causes from stress to fatigue and emotional issues.
Solutions: Progesterone is responsible for sex drive in women so check your levels and if you are also suffering vaginal dryness then a combination bioidentical cream with both oestrogen and progesterone can be helpful.
If stress and emotional problems are behind the lack of sex drive for seek help through counselling.
4 Thyroid disorders Depression can be one symptom of an underactive or occasionally overactive thyroid. And if you are older, it may be the only symptom and is certainly common at peri/menopause..
In the case of overactive thyroid, it could be accompanied by heart flutters, tremors, or fatigue. An underactive thyroid can cause constipation or fatigue. That’s why this very treatable problem is often mistaken for bowel or nervous system disorders in older people.
Solution: Check with your doctor as a simple blood test can establish if you have a thyroid disorder and as progesterone supports healthy thyroid function check your levels of that too.
5 Achy joints Living with a condition that causes chronic pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, increases the chance of having depression.
In fact, people with chronic pain are three times as likely to have depression or an anxiety disorder. And depression can make pain worse.
Solution: Exercise, meditate, or listen to music. An hour of classical music a day has been shown to ease arthritis pain and depression. If the depression or pain doesn’t lift, talk to your doctor about symptom relief.
6 Peri/menopause Hormone fluctuations, hot flushes, and life changes related to perimenopause and menopause can make your mood plummet.
f you have trouble sleeping, a history of depression, or PMS, mood swings or depression may worsen during this transitional period.
Solutions: For mild depression, try self-calming skills such as yoga or deep breathing. Do things that make you feel better, such as exercise or going out with friends, or find a creative outlet.
For more serious, long-lasting symptoms of depression speak to your doctor about what help may be available through therapy, counselling or medication.
7 Empty nest. If your child has left home, an “empty nest” can make you feel empty. Going through menopause or retirement at the same time may make it harder.
Solutions: Try to see it as an opportunity. Reconnect with your spouse, other family members, and friends. Pursue hobbies and interests you didn’t have time for before.
Give yourself time to adjust. If your mood doesn’t lift in a few months, try counselling or talk to your doctor.
8 Diabetes If you are on diabetes medication do you feel too listless to check your blood sugar regularly? Are unpredictable blood sugar levels making you feel out of control?
Depression is a common and dangerous complication of many chronic conditions, including diabetes. Depression also may keep you from taking good care of your diabetes.
Solution: Talk to your doctor if you’ve been depressed for more than two weeks. Talk therapy, medication, and better diabetes control can help you manage both conditions.
Depression is serious and if left untreated can be life threatening.
9 Drinking About 1 in 4 older people who drink heavily have major depression. Some older people start drinking more because of stressful events, such as retirement or a spouse’s death.
Yet alcohol problems are often mistaken for other age-related issues.
Solutions: A combination of medications can treat both alcohol dependence and depression. Individual or group therapy can also help deal with issues that may trigger drinking.
10 Poor sleep Insomnia and other sleep disruptions, which are common as we age, are closely related to depression.
Insomnia can be a sign that you are depressed, and if you have insomnia but aren’t depressed, you’re at higher risk of developing mood changes. Obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome also have been linked to depression.
Solutions: Talk to your doctor about possible reasons for your sleep problems and get treatment for them. Learn good sleep hygiene habits, such as regular bedtime hours.
Exercise early regularly and avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine, which interfere with sleep. There are well established herbal remedies that may also help.
11 Retirement If you were forced into retirement — because of poor health or other reasons — you might very well be depressed. Factors such as financial insecurity or lack of social support can also make retirement more stressful.
Solutions: The more occupied you are, the happier you are likely to be. Learn new skills, take classes, get exercise. Find something new to interest you
12 Heart problems It’s common to feel depressed after a diagnosis of heart disease or having a heart attack or cardiac surgery.
But many people with heart disease go on to experience severe, long-term depression and that can worsen heart health.
Solutions: A healthy diet and sleep, mild exercise, relaxation techniques, and joining a support group can help you get through the blues.
If depression lasts seek help and low mood can be helped by progesterone as it also supports heart health.
13 Blood pressure medication Could the drugs you take for high blood pressure or other health problems also be bringing you down?
Some blood pressure medicines — as well as certain antibiotics, antiarrhythmics, acne products, and steroids, among other drugs — may be associated with depression or other mood changes.
Solutions: Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if any new medications you may be taking could be linked with changes in mood. If it is, you may be able to switch to another drug.
14 Loneliness There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK and half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
Social support can help prevent or ease depression and a study of people in a retirement community found that those who stayed connected with friends living elsewhere had less depression.
Solution: Maintain ties with close friends and family members. Explore Internet technology that can give you virtual face-time with distant friends, it’s easier than you think, and many libraries run free internet classes.
15 Health problems Any chronic or serious condition — such as Parkinson’s disease or a stroke — can lead to depression.
A stroke can also affect the areas of the brain that control mood.
Solution: Be realistic but positive. Learn how to cope with physical effects of your illness. Don’t let them get in the way of taking care of yourself and having fun.
If you have symptoms of depression, don’t wait but get help right away.
16 Senior moments. Feeling foggy and forgetful? Aa common symptom at menopause due to changes in hormone levels, but it could be depression or dementia, a condition marked by memory loss.
Solutions: If you don’t know what’s causing your symptoms, see your doctor so you can get the right treatment, if necessary.
17 Grief It’s normal to grieve after losing a loved one, but grief can grow into depression. Memory problems, confusion, and social withdrawal can be symptoms of depression in older people.
Both grief and depression raise the risk for heart-related deaths.
Solutions: Let yourself grieve and express your feelings to friends, in a support group, or to a grief counsellor.
You certainly can always seek help, but first why not look at how you can best help yourself. Here are three simple ways to do that.
1 Pets To keep your mood up, it helps to have good emotional and social support. But who says social support needs to be human?
Studies show that pets can help people have less depression and loneliness and more self-esteem and happiness.
Pets are friends with other benefits, too. Walking a dog, for example, is good exercise and a great way to meet people.
2 Laughter A good laugh can relax muscles, reduce stress, and relieve pain. And research suggests that a good sense of humour can take the bite out of depression.
For humour on demand, create a laugh library of funny books, cartoons, and DVDs. Or try laughter yoga, which uses playful activities and breathing exercises to provoke giggles.
3 Volunteer Helping others can help you forget your own problems. It feels good at any age, but it may hold special benefits for older people.
It can give your life a new sense of purpose and satisfaction. Find a cause that has special importance to you and get involved from helping a charity to joining a litter cleaning group or environmental task group in your area.
There are many reasons for low mood and depression from physical causes such as pain, thyroid, sleep issues and poor health due to lack of sleep and stress.
One factor for many women is certainly poor hormone balance so make sure you have the right amounts you need.