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4 min read

Elderly Mental Health: Three Common Conditions and Their Treatments

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Key Takeaways:

  • Advanced aging and retirement can contribute to mental health conditions
  • The most common mental health conditions in elderly patients, with the exception of dementia, are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders
  • Talk therapy can be a very effective treatment for many elderly patients struggling from these conditions.

As the population of seniors grows worldwide, it is becoming more and more important to address the mental well-being of the elderly.

Research from the Pan-American Health Organization shows that at least 15% of elderly persons have mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

Elderly people have several risk factors that may make mental health conditions more likely.

Advanced aging can heighten the risk of having comorbid physical and mental health problems, and the World Health Organization has determined that elderly individuals with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression than those without it.

Medical providers often fail to identify mental health issues in the elderly, and the stigma attached to mental health conditions can prevent them from seeking help. Elderly patients are significantly less likely than other age groups to seek treatment for mental health.

As such, it can be very important for the children and caretakers of elderly people to learn about mental health for the elderly and take action when necessary.

Here are three common mental health conditions many seniors experience and their treatments:

Depression In Senior Citizens

Anxiety in Senior Citizens

Substance Use and Abuse

Mental Health Treatment Options for Elderly Patients

Find Talk Therapy For The Elderly in Austin, TX

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

Depression In Senior Citizens

Around two million Americans, out of the estimated 34 million who classify as senior citizens, suffer from depression. This is a major factor in the disproportionately high suicide rate among the elderly.

Depression in older adults can cause persistent sadness, a lack of joy in activities they once enjoyed, and pessimistic thoughts that last for several weeks or longer. They may also experience symptoms, including:

  • Guilt
  • Worthlessness
  • Helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Changes in sleep patterns

Elderly people with depression may also have changes in appetite and suicidal ideation. Physical symptoms such as headaches, cramps, or digestive issues may also occur and not improve over time.

As people age, they may face a variety of stressors that other age groups don't. Mobility issues, chronic pain, loneliness, and the financial worries that come with retirement can all add to the stress of everyday life.

Additionally, older adults experience the loss of acquaintances, close friends, and loved ones more frequently.  This reality lends itself to an increased feeling of loneliness and isolation.

Anxiety in Senior Citizens

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health issue among older adults, affecting nearly 14 percent of the senior population. Signs of anxiety can include excessive fear, worry, and nervousness, which can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, chest pains, sweating, and nausea.

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most prevalent type among older adults. Other forms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder, are also present but less common.

Substance Use and Abuse

Substance abuse among people aged 65 and over is a major issue. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly one million elderly people have a substance use disorder, and about 65 percent report drinking at a high-risk level.

Older adults generally process drugs and alcohol slower than younger adults, making them more vulnerable to their effects.

Mental Health Treatment Options for Elderly Patients

Mental health conditions are increasingly common among seniors and can be debilitating if left untreated.

Each condition has various treatments available depending on its severity, including therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and support groups. 

Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health, and in fact, your mental health greatly impacts your physical. Therefore, it is important to seek help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. You can lead a more fulfilling life and manage your mental health conditions with the right support and treatment.

Therapy for Elderly Mental Health Conditions

Evidence-based psychotherapies can help elderly people with mental health issues improve their quality of life and reduce symptoms.

For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy allows a therapist to analyze thought patterns and how they impact behaviors and then try to restructure them to be healthier. As one of the most common and well-researched forms of therapy, CBT is a great place to start for elderly patients who want to make changes.

Support Groups and Group Therapy for The Elderly

Sometimes, defining and addressing a mental health issue is easier when done within a group of others who are experiencing the same thing.

The idea behind group therapy and support groups for the elderly is that discussing problems with people who are of the same age and who are experiencing the same problem can allow for more productive feedback and a sense of social support.

There are many informal support groups for the elderly available, but you can also get in touch with a therapist's office to inquire about ongoing group therapy sessions.

Medication Management For Elderly Mental Health

In some cases, therapy and support groups are not enough to reduce an elderly person's mental health symptoms. In these situations, a therapist or psychologist will likely refer the patient to a psychiatrist, who can begin building a medication treatment plan.

This is particularly the case for severe emotional conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but it also applies to elderly-specific problems like dementia and Alzheimer's.

Lifestyle Changes

Elderly patients can often greatly benefit from lifestyle changes. It's no secret that retirement and aging in general can affect a person's mental health. This is why it's important for the elderly to focus on living a healthy and fulfilling life.

Find Talk Therapy For The Elderly in Austin, TX

Williamsburg Therapy Group is looking out for elderly mental health in Austin by providing therapy for individuals, couples, families, and children. If someone you love is struggling with mental health in their old age, you should consider offering them professional help.

Our team of psychologists offers specialized psychotherapies to help with things like anxiety, depression, addiction, and more.

If you or a loved one needs anxiety and depression counseling, we can help. Get in touch with us to book a session. 

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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