Brighter Days For You
How to beat the blues
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Is depression a normal part of aging?
Hicks: No, but it is common among older adults. It can be overlooked because it usually occurs along with lots of other problems. The burden of chronic medical conditions—pain, limits in activity, feeling confined and isolated—can often trigger depression at this age.
What are some of the common signs of clinical depression?
Hicks: People express depression in different ways. One of the most common signs is not enjoying the things you used to. Fatigue, anger, anxiety or obsessiveness can also be signs. Other depression symptoms include feelings of excessive guilt; sleep or eating problems; pain that doesn’t go away when treated; frequent crying; difficulty remembering or making decisions; feeling like life isn’t worth living; thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt.
When should someone consult a doctor?
Hicks: If you’re not functioning well or bothered at all by your symptoms, see your primary care physician. Your doctor will take a detailed history, do a physical exam to rule out any obvious signs of disease and review the medications you’re already on. Sedatives and pain medication, even certain anxiety meds, can contribute to depression or create symptoms that mimic depression. Your doctor will ask about alcohol use as well—drinking alcohol regularly can actually make your depression worse and harder to treat. Lab tests might also be taken.
How is mild to moderate depression treated at John Muir Health?
Hicks: Treatment usually starts with one-to-one counseling, which often uses techniques that help you recognize negative thinking and respond to your challenges more effectively. When properly monitored, today’s medications are also effective and very safe. Changes in your day-to-day routine can help too, including getting more sunlight and exercise, which can affect mood.
On referral, John Muir Health care coordinators, who specialize in caring for older adults, are available to help you get more connected to the community, including improving your transportation and social support system. Bottom line: No one has to suffer with depression. There’s no sense spending your remaining years feeling like this and you really don’t have to.
To sign up for our Banishing the Blues class (December 17, 6:30–8 p.m., Women’s Health Center), visit johnmuirhealth.com/classes or call (925) 941-7900. For details about our Senior Services, visit johnmuirhealth.com/seniors or call(925) 947-3300 . For more info about our Behavioral Health Services, visit johnmuirhealth.com/behavioralhealth or call (925) 674-4100 or (800) 680-6555.