As much as mental illness and mental health care is already a problem for the general population, it’s especially a concerning issue for the elderly population. Approximately 15% of all adults over age 60 suffer from some sort of mental health disorder. The elderly population is especially susceptible to certain types of mental illness, due to typical living conditions and aging. Here are the most common mental health problems faced by aging adults; recognizing them can be the first step to accessing proper care.
- Depression: When many seniors live alone with little outside interaction, depression can be incredibly common. Depression occurs in roughly 7.7% of the general older population and often coincides with other diagnoses. While depression itself has few physical symptoms, it can make taking care of yourself incredibly difficult due to lack of energy; this will likely worsen any other physical or mental illnesses that occur in conjunction with this mental illness.
- Anxiety disorders: Anxiety often occurs in conjunction with depression, with over half of older patients who have been diagnosed with depression also meeting diagnostic criteria for anxiety. Anxiety can come in a wide variety of forms, ranging from generalized anxiety disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder to social anxiety and phobias. Anxiety can also cause physical stress on the body, worsening muscle pain or tension that may already exist due to aging or other stressors.
- Dementia: Dementia is a mental illness that affects a large percentage of the elderly population. While it does develop almost exclusively in aging populations, it is not a normal part of aging and can cause many issues, including memory problems, behavioral problems, and a deteriorating ability to care for yourself. An estimated 50 million people live with this condition worldwide, and that number is expected to continue to climb.
If you’re worried that you or a loved one are expressing symptoms of any of these mental health conditions, talk to your doctor to see if any of these conditions may be the cause. There are a wide variety of treatment options available, from talk therapy, to medication, to living assistance, and more. The first step in receiving appropriate treatment and seeing improvement is recognizing these mental health problems and asking for help.