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Is It Depression or Normal Aging?
Topic Started: Jul 30 2010, 06:04 AM (412 Views)
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Ask Dr. Michael Thase
Is It Depression or Normal Aging?
Q: My mother is getting older (early seventies), and she is spending more time sharing wistful memories of the past and expressing regret for things she did or didn't do. She used to be upbeat almost all the time (or seemed to be to me). Is this a kind of depression or is it normal for someone her age?
A:
It is normal in later life to be more reflective about the past, to take stock of what one has accomplished, and to express regret over lost opportunities. People with a more philosophical bent have referred to this as coming to terms with one's own mortality.

The best indicators of clinical depression in later life are similar to those in younger people persistent changes in mood (that is, sad, low, or blue) and a decrease in level of interest or reduced ability to experience pleasure.

The other physical and psychological symptoms of depression are also similar, though older people may be somewhat more likely than younger people with depression to lose weight, experience severe insomnia, and have marked concentration problems.

For more on depression in older people, you might want to read Treating Depression in the Elderly and listen to the webcast Depression in the Elderly: Coping in Today's World.

Last Updated: 08/03/2009
Dr. Michael Thase is director of the Depression Treatment and Research Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh.
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