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Mental health is an extremely important aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, trends in the US have shown that psychological wellness is often overlooked. A study performed by the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly 50% of individuals with severe psychiatric disorders are left untreated. This is especially true for seniors, as caring for physical ailments can sometimes trump treatment for conditions like depression or anxiety. If you’re concerned about your mental health or simply want to keep your wellness at the top of mind, read on to learn about how emotional stability can affect you as an older American.
The State of Mental Health in Seniors
Mental health is “strongly related to overall health and well-being,” according to the World Health Organization. The WHO also found 20% of individuals over the age of 55 suffer from some form of psychological affliction. Even more concerning, men aged 85 or older have a much higher suicide rate, about 45 per 100,000, compared to 11 per 100,000 for all ages. So why is no one talking about it? Some experts believe that it’s due to a misconception that feelings such as depression are simply a natural part of aging. However, these are real conditions that need real treatment. Here are some of the most common mental illnesses to afflict the elderly.
Alzheimer’s is one of the most serious and heartbreaking diseases in the world. The neurodegenerative disease is part of the larger category of “dementia.” Currently, 1 in 3 seniors die with some form of dementia, topping both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Though it may begin as basic forgetfulness or other vague symptoms, the disease can occur quickly and dramatically. Download our guide to early dementia signs now if you’re at all concerned about yourself or a loved one.
Studies have shown that more than two million Americans over the age of 65 are suffering from depression. The symptoms of depression are often overlooked or written off as simply a reaction to getting older. For example, the recent loss of a spouse or reaction to physical ailments may be assumed to be the cause of sadness, when in reality the patient is suffering from clinical depression. The condition is more than just “feeling blue” or unhappy; though symptoms vary, it may manifest as:
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Changes in appetite- either eating less or more than usual
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts or talk of suicide
Contact a doctor or mental health professional immediately, as treatment is available for anyone suffering from depression.
We’ve all felt nervous or stressed from time to time, but anxiety disorders can cause severe disruption to everyday life. Not only can anxiety lead to excessive worrying or panic, but it can also trigger physical discomfort such as chest pain, sweating, shaking, blurred vision, or nausea. It’s doubly important for seniors to know these symptoms, as a panic attack can easily mimic the sensations of a heart attack. Luckily, anxiety disorders are highly treatable through medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Your golden years are supposed to be a happy, relaxing, and fulfilling time in your life. But if you’re feeling plagued by poor mental health, it can be overwhelming. Just like your physical wellbeing, taking care of your psychological state is imperative for good health. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you or medical professionals to start feeling better now.
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