There are a lot of reasons for residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere to sometimes feel depressed this year, from business closures across the country to public health fears about a contagion that could make us seriously ill or require us to switch to end of life care.
Some might even think that depression is just one of those things that everyone eventually gets as they get older, which mental health experts say is not true at all.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice also try to promote better knowledge about depression, especially the fact that the mental health condition isn’t part of the aging process.
Certainly, there are factors that can increase the risk of depression as someone gets older: your mind and body are no longer working as well as they used to, you may have suffered a recent loss and significant changes, you may have more free time if you’re retired and don’t know what to do about it. You and have more days behind you than in front of you. Throw in all the unpleasant and sometimes scary things taking place in the world, and you’ve checked all sorts of ‘risk factor’ boxes.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
There’s much more awareness of depression in the world. Maybe health care providers are taking it more seriously and diagnosing more cases than in the past when many in the medical field chalked the physical and mental sensations to “having a bad day” to “it’s all in your head” to “just try to feel better and more positive.”
Maybe there are more reasons that people are feeling depressed. Or, as some research has been exploring, there could be environmental factors that are affecting the delicate chemistry of our brain, including the hormones that regulate our levels of happiness and mental stability.
There are still some mysteries about how and why depression occurs in some people more than others, but what’s generally become accepted is that there are a variety of ways to help it. These can include:
- Therapy, which involves talking about your life and thoughts to trained mental health professionals. Recent or older trauma from the past may show up in different ways and cause different feelings.
- In-patient or out-patient care. Some people may need more tools than they can get at home to battle depression, so they may need a longer stay at a residential treatment program.
- Medication, such as various prescriptions that can improve your outlook, boost certain chemicals, or slow down mental highs and lows.
- Even low-impact physical activity can boost endorphins and clear your head. Making exercise a habit can also get you off the couch or bed.
- Mental/physical activities. Learning skills like yoga, tai chi, or medication can bridge your mental and physical and benefit both.
- Lifestyle changes. Looking for ways to eat better, quitting smoking, or reduce drinking can all help.
- New hobbies. Stimulating your brain mentally can give you things to get excited about.
This is an excellent month to learn more about depression.
October is National Depression and Awareness Month, an opportunity for people to find out more about depression including local mental health resources. It’s a chance to find out more about the different mental and physical symptoms of depression and how to get help.
More info needed
The general consensus today is that depression is more likely to get worse untreated instead of getting better on its own, which is why seeking help sooner rather than later is so important.
Part of combatting it is knowledge. Those who aren’t as familiar with depression may think about it as being a little sad or having the blues sometimes, which is the message that popular culture has portrayed.
By definition, depression means having these thoughts for a prolonged time, and in some cases, the feelings get stronger.
Depression also takes many forms, not just sadness. It can fuel fear and anger. It can lead to fatigue and a lack of interest in activities or a general lack of motivation. It can lead to not wanting to leave the home or even the bedroom. It can reduce interest in food or drink. In severe cases, it can cause self-harm, even suicide.
Depression can also have a role in other parts of one’s life. Prolonged feelings of depression can depress the immune system making someone more susceptible to disease or take a slower time to recover. Some of the symptoms can cause harm to the body, such as stopping eating or drinking.
If you or a loved one is experiencing what could be depression, it’s important to seek help. Seniors especially may not recognize what’s happening, assuming that what’s happening is part of aging, a sign of dementia or a result of medication or other health changes.