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Depression in Later Life

Are you in your mid-50’s or 60’s? Are there areas of your life where you don’t feel entirely satisfied? Perhaps you’ve had dreams or hopes that have been pushed aside because of raising children, trying to keep a marriage together, or working hard to build your retirement. Life forces us to make choices, and sometimes hard ones. For those in later adulthood, depression can sink in when children have left the nest, a marriage falls apart, an illness gets worse, or a career didn’t go the way we planned.

In fact, depression is one of the most common disabilities in the United States. Depression affects approximately 15 million American adults, which is equivalent to about 6.7% of the US population age 18 and older.

If you are suffering from depression in later adulthood, there is treatment that can help. In fact, for most people, treatment has been proven to be effective. Generally speaking, treatment can include therapy, and in some cases, may also include the use of antidepressants. It’s important that a person try to avoid using only medication. While antidepressants are useful, they don’t address the full scope of the illness. Antidepressants can help with minimizing symptoms so that a person can go on with their lives. However, only therapy can help a person address the issues that may have contributed to the depression in the first place. Together, medication and therapy are an effective way of overcoming depression. In many cases, therapy alone can address the symptoms as well as the underlying causes of depression.

According to the New York Times, the use of antidepressants has increased significantly among Americans. “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.” It is unclear whether this increase is due to more legitimate diagnoses of depression or a pattern of over-diagnosis.

In addition to therapy and medication, a person might also include holistic modalities in their efforts to overcome depression. These might include:

  • use herbs and supplements (such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP)
  • increase exposure to sunlight which increases Vitamin D and one’s mood
  • avoid caffeine which reduces serotonin levels
  • eat foods that enhance serotonin (such as coconut oil, avocados, and fish)
  • meditate or practice yoga
  • stay active with a regular exercise program
  • explore whether there is a hormonal imbalance causing the depression
  • eat regularly (this balances blood sugar and prevents mood swings)
  • explore whether there is a circumstantial contributor to the depression, such as the death of a loved one

Although depression is common among Americans, there are many ways to overcome depression. If you’re experiencing depression, Ventura Community Counseling can help.