Among seniors, depression is the most common mood disorder. It often goes undiagnosed and untreated due to the stigma that it is not a real disorder. Depression is very real, and should never be ignored. Here, we go over the types, symptoms, causes, and effects of depression.

Depression is the feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and apatheticness. The difference between feeling sad and feeling depressed, is that depression lasts for long periods of time, from anywhere between a few weeks to several years. It inevitably will affect a person’s life, including their personal relationships and job performance. The main types of depression are:

Major Depression, which is the most common depressive disorder. It lasts for two weeks or longer, and can cause a person to experiences four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Ongoing feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
  • Insomnia / difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of fatigue or tiredness
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide
  • Suicide attempts
  • Physical symptoms that do not respond to normal treatments, such as headaches, digestive issues, aches, cramps, or pain.

Persistent Depressive Disorder or PDD, is a form of depression that lasts for over two years. PDD shares the same symptoms as major depression, and can include episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder (formerly manic depression) is not as common as major depression or PDD, and is the experience of extreme mood cycles that go from intense highs (manic) to severe lows (depression).

Depression has several underlying causes, including genetic, environmental, and physiological factors. Depression can be genetic, with people with a history of depression in their family having higher risks of suffering from depression. But, this is not always the case. Depression can also be caused by trauma or stress (e.g. the recent death of a loved one, financial issues, etc.), or depression can occur with no obvious causes or triggers.

In the same way one would go to the doctor when sick, people with depression should seek help from a professional. If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. They can help you find a certified psychiatrist. Many clinics and senior centers also have attending psychiatrists and therapists on site who are willing to help those in need. If you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal behavior (talking about death, planning their own death, etc.) contact the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.