Does Depression Worsen With Age?

Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects over 7% of the US population

While depression doesn’t discriminate against whom it impacts, approximately 40%-70% of adult caregivers report experiencing depressive symptoms. Moreover, in general, older adults appear to be at an increased risk for misdiagnosed or undertreated mental health problems. 

But does depression worsen with age? Is declining mental health an inevitable part of growing older and coping with new transitions? And if so, what are the best ways to take care of yourself? 

What Is Clinical Depression?

Everyone feels sad sometimes, but depression extends beyond challenging feelings. Clinical depression is more than just intense feelings- it’s a chronic state that can impact both your physical and mental health. 

Depression symptoms vary in frequency and intensity, but the common ones include:

  • Persistent feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Apathy/disinterest in usual hobbies or relationships.
  • Appetite changes without intentionally changing eating habits.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration.
  • Suicidal thoughts or self-injurious behavior.
  • Diminished energy and feeling tired throughout the day.

Clinical depression often causes significant impairment in someone’s life. For example, your mental state may result in problems in your relationships or work. 

What Makes Depression Worse?

Age alone probably isn’t responsible for worsening mental health symptoms. Instead, many risk factors can perpetuate depression. Moreover, you may be susceptible to certain triggers that affect your overall mental health.

Increased Stress 

Stress can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being. Age can undoubtedly correlate with more stress- at any given time, you might be juggling new transitions, medical diagnoses, financial changes, and grief or loss.

Lack of Social Support

We are biologically wired to crave human connection. Yet, more than one-third of adults over age 45 report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Moreover, a lack of friendship doesn’t just correlate with depression- emerging research suggests that loneliness can be just as dangerous as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. 

Hormonal Changes 

Women tend to have higher rates of depression than men, and hormones may play a significant role in this phenomenon. Women experience more depression during ovulation, and they also may notice more symptoms as they transition into menopause.

Poor Physical Health

Your sleep habits, nutrition, and physical activity all connect with your emotional well-being. If you aren’t taking proper care of yourself, you might feel fatigued or unmotivated throughout the day. To cope with this additional stress, you might feel tempted to engage in more problematic behaviors, like overeating or drinking too much. 

Does Depression Ever Go Away?

Mental health issues are chronic. While a combination of lifestyle changes, proactive coping skills, and professional treatment can dramatically improve the quality of your life, it’s unrealistic to expect a complete cure. 

Instead, it’s usually more important to identify specific triggers and develop effective strategies to manage them. For instance, if you recognize that a particular family member often makes you feel sad or angry, you might consider decreasing the time you spend together. Or, you may want to develop a self-care ritual you can implement before and after meeting them. 

Tips for Coping with Depression 

Even small tasks can feel insurmountable when you have depression. Getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, or taking a shower may seem impossible. Even if you feel like you’re functioning relatively well, it’s still important to focus on building a healthy self-care plan.

Challenge Negative Thoughts 

Consider the function of negative thoughts and how they can distort your reality. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, nobody likes me, consider how you can shift this thought into a more realistic one like, I have friends who care about me, and I need to reach out to them.

Focus On Small Tasks

Depression and procrastination can go hand-in-hand. Devote five minutes to doing a specific chore. Set a timer and focus on completing a work-related task. Try to avoid excess distractions throughout your day- you will feel more productive, which may result in a brighter mood.

Reflect On Gratitude 

Consider adding a routine gratitude practice to your routine. Each night, write down three things that went well during the day. It doesn’t matter if they “feel” insignificant- taking the time to recognize small moments of joy can make a tremendous impact on how you appreciate your overall life.

How To Prevent Depression From Getting Worse

If left untreated, depression can have serious consequences on the quality of your life. Reaching out for professional support can be an essential step towards achieving a meaningful recovery. 

While you can’t eliminate all challenging feelings, you can learn how to improve how you react and cope with difficult situations. We will work together to explore the roots of your depression and review action-based solutions you can use to feel better. 

Depression can be difficult, but it is manageable and treatable! Contact me today to set up your initial consultation. 

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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