Resources at Hebrew SeniorLife

Depression

Depression is not a rare condition, affecting approximately 3 percent of those 65 or older living in the community and up to 14 percent of individuals living in nursing homes. Eran Metzger, M.D., a psychiatrist at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, says that once depression has been diagnosed and treatment sought, symptoms typically lessen. He adds that most depression can be treated successfully outside of the hospital. 
 
Definition

A biological illness that affects behavior, thoughts and feelings and is characterized by an intense feeling of sadness that may follow a loss or other traumatic event, but is out of proportion to that event and persists beyond an appropriate length of time.

Causes

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Changes in the brain, such as stroke or dementia
  • Hormonal changes

Symptoms

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest in ordinary activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties (insomnia, oversleeping)
  • Loss of appetite or weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Feelings of helplessness, pessimism or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide; a suicide attempt
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying

Risk Factors

  • Family history
  • Medical illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life events
  • Gender (women are twice as likely as men to be depressed)

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination to rule out conditions that cause symptoms that mimic depression
  • Psychiatric examination

Treatment

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Mood-stabilizing drugs
  • Psychotherapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy

Glossary

Dementia - the loss of intellectual and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.

Electroconvulsive therapy - a procedure in which an electric current is passed through the brain to produce controlled seizures to treat depression, particularly for those who cannot take or are not responding to antidepressants, have severe depression, or are at high risk for suicide.

Insomnia - the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, or unrefreshing sleep.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors - a class of antidepressant drugs that can relieve the symptoms of depression by preventing the breakdown of mood-related neurotransmitters in the brain.

Mood-stabilizing drugs - medications that decrease the vulnerability to episodes of mania and depression.

Psychotherapy - the treatment of a behavior disorder, mental illness or depression by psychological means so that patient may see themselves or their problems more realistically and have the desire to cope effectively with them.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - drugs that work by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

Stroke - a cerebrovascular event in which the brain is deprived of blood flow and brain tissue is damaged; common causes are stationary or traveling blood clots and hemorrhages.

Tricyclic antidepressants - drugs that work by inhibiting the reabsorption of the neuroepinephrine, dopamine or serotonin neurotransmitters by cells in the brain.

Links

National Institute of Mental Health - www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depression.cfm

Disclaimer
The information contained on this Web site is intended for general consumer understanding and education. The information is provided as a resource only and is not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Access to the information on this site is voluntary. We advise users to consult their physician or other qualified health-care professional if they have questions regarding personal health and medical conditions. Hebrew SeniorLife expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained on this site.

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