There is no one cause of depression. For some people, a single event can bring on the illness, while others become depressed for no clear reason. Genetics can play a role and studies have shown that depression may run in families.
Close up of African American man looking depressed

Depression is a common illness for older adults, but depression isn’t a normal part of aging.

Is it grief or depression?

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish grief from depression. Grief after a loss of a loved one is a normal reaction. However, grief that lasts a long time following a loss may be a sign of depression. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure if you or someone you know is showing signs of depression.

Getting help

If you are concerned about depression, talk to your doctor. Depression is a medical problem, not a character flaw or weakness. Your doctor can help determine if your symptoms are signs of depression.

What are the signs?

At one time or another you may have experienced all of the signs listed below, but if these signs last for an extended period of time, it may be a sign of depression:

  • An “empty” feeling
  • Ongoing sadness and anxiety
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Sleep problems, including trouble getting to sleep, very early morning waking, and sleeping too much
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Crying too often or too much
  • Aches and pains that don’t go away when treated
  • Hard time focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Treating depression

Even the most severe cases of depression can be highly treatable. As with many illnesses, getting treatment early is more effective. Different therapies work for different people. For instance, support groups can help if you are dealing with a major life change. Talk therapies and medication may be useful as well.

Tips for preventing depression

  • Stay connected
  • Prepare for major changes in life
  • Develop a hobby
  • Break up large tasks into smaller jobs
  • Learn something new

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