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Feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, and anger are common for many aging adults. As a demographic, seniors disproportionately endure more deaths of life-long friends and loved ones, more fear of losing their independence, and more social isolation. These struggles, that regularly affect the aging community, significantly increase the likelihood of mental illness. They also lead to an ambiguity between what constitutes "circumstantial blues," and what are actual mental disorders. Luckily there is a plethora of behavioral-health resources for aging adults to help determine when a senior's thoughts and behaviors start straying into abnormal habits. Senior Directory is proud to connect seniors with healthcare professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and geropsych units. Look below to find mental health resources, near you.
It is important to keep in mind that not all mental illnesses are caused by aging. A substantial portion of adults in the United States suffers from mental illnesses. The most common forms are anxiety and depression, but people of all ages can be affected by personality disorders and thought disorders. Below are age specific illnesses that are common among seniors.
Acquired Disability - As we age, our bodies begin losing their regenerative powers. Injuries occurring later in life are more likely to linger around and continue to bother us. This creates a lot chronic pain, and pain isn't good for anybody's mental wellbeing. Furthermore, many seniors use pain killers to cope with their aches and discomfort, which can often times lead to addiction, and exacerbate mental illness.
Existential Worries & The Meaning of Life - Seniors also focus on existential concerns about LIFE: What will happen when I die? Did I lead a meaningful life?... etc. Everyone has doubts and regret, so when these questions are asked repetitively, they quickly wear us down.
Isolation - Isolation is the biggest cause of mental illness in seniors. Humans are social animals, and when those needs aren't met we tend to act in unpropitious ways. Small eccentricities have a tendency to grow over the years into downright odd behavior. People need other people for balance.
Falling Behind With the Times - There is a lot of confusion between mental illness and typical aging. None of us handle change as gracefully as we'd like, and the times definitely are a changin'. Technologies, like smart phones and Wi-Fi networks, improve upon themselves so rapidly that seniors have a hard time learning to adapt. Worse, these technologies affect almost all areas of life. So those that find themselves unable to keep up with technology begin to get disconnected if they don't have Facebook or aren't comfortable with paying bills online. These types of adapting problems are usually just related to age, and aren't signs of mental illness. They are unfortunate, but people faced with falling behind the times can usually find likeminded communities and live very happy lives, without professional intervention. It comes down to the specific individual's ability to adjust.
It won't be easy to broach the subject to a friend or loved one about your suspecting she may have a mental illness. First, we recommend corroborating your suspicions. Find a mutual friend, whom you know will be respectful of your concern and keep the conversation confidential. When talking to the person you suspect may have a mental illness, be sure not to name any specific disorders you think she may have. Instead, relate your own story to her feelings as best you can. Maybe mention how you would probably be feeling and acting as she does, under the same circumstances.
The ultimate goal is to have your friend talk to a professional. There are a plethora of great national mental health providers who you can reach out to, in order to start the conversation. Psychotherapy (talking trough issues with a professional) is not only for people with mental illnesses. Almost anybody can get a great amount of benefit from talking to a therapist.
But if she refuses, there's not a lot you can do about it. Just check in as often as you can, and make sure she knows how much you care.
Speak to one of our advisors 1-800-955-8510