A common case of the blues is normal, but how do we know when our sadness level has elevated to something more serious? Depression is a disease that affects people of all ages for a variety of reasons. Getting older comes with an abundance of changes, some of which may result in unhappiness. So, how can you tell the difference between unhappiness and depression? Educate yourself on the proper warning signs so that you can better understand the effects of depression.

What causes depression?

Depression occurs for a number of reasons and sometimes appears for no reason at all. Here is a list of causes that may have triggered your recent despair:

  • A single event, such as a loss of a loved one or a traumatic experience
  • Prescription drugs that list depression as a side effect
  • Genetics
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling purposeless
  • Loss of identity due to retirement

What are the warning signs?

There are countless symptoms that indicate depression. If these warning signs last more than two weeks, you should see a doctor:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of energy
  • Sadness
  • Exhaustion
  • Problems sleeping
  • Lost interest in hobbies
  • Weight loss
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts

How can you detect depression if you don’t feel down in the dumps? Though they seem like the same thing, you can be depressed without feeling unhappy at all. Fortunately, there are physical symptoms:

  • Unexplained aches or pains
  • Problems with memory
  • Slowed movement
  • Trouble speaking

How can you tell the difference?

The difference between being depressed and feeling sad is a fine line, but even when you’re sad, you can still have moments of happiness. With depression, the feeling is constant. Depression may be mistaken for Alzheimer’s, brain disorders, or even crankiness, but once it is diagnosed, it is treatable.

What can you do to help?

Treatment for depression varies with circumstance. For example, if you are depressed because of the loss of a loved one, the ramifications of that situation should be addressed as you are receiving medical treatment. There are many drugs and antidepressants available that should be discussed with your doctor, but there is also a number of natural ways to treat your depression. Counseling, therapy, and support groups help you understand why you’re feeling the way you do and may make you feel less alone. Even the little things help, such as getting out of the house, exercising, and surrounding yourself with family or friends. Remember that depression is not a sign of weakness, but a disorder that affects an assortment of people.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/

http://seniorliving.about.com/od/seniordepression/a/senior_depress.htm

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living