Depression and anxiety can affect anyone, and the elderly are no exception. In fact, due to illness, being more dependent on others and seeing spouses, friends and siblings die around them, old age can bring on negative emotions and anxiety for many. Knowing one's own mortality all too well by old age can also cause depression that may need therapy and/or medications.
So how common is depression among those over 65? According to an EmpowHER article on mental health by MC Kelby, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that more that 6.5 million American seniors are affected. There are about 35 million people in the United States over the age of 65 so this is a considerable percentage.
They are not all diagnosed or treated though, according to NAMI. One of the reasons for this is that symptoms are often misdiagnosed as something else like dementia, thyroid problems or even Parkinson's disease.
Another reason that the elderly are sometimes hesitant to talk to others about possible depression is because older generations often thought of this as a personal weakness -- a character flaw. Others were afraid they'd be institutionalized.
But that's not the case anymore, at least for many seniors who are living with troubled mental health. And it's good news to know that more elderly than ever are seeking counseling and therapy for depression and anxiety, according to a recent New York Times article.
The NY Times interviewed Delores Gallagher-Thompson of the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford, who said that her department has been "... seeing more people in their 80s and older over the past five years, many who have never done therapy before. Usually, they’ve tried other resources like their church, or talked to family. They’re realizing that they’re living longer, and if you’ve got another 10 or 15 years, why be miserable if there’s something that can help you?”
Of any kind of therapy, talk therapy seems to be a favorite of the elderly, who are finally more apt to viewing therapy as a positive thing rather than something with negative connotations.