What are the 3 most common diagnoses in geriatric psychiatry? Find a geropsychiatric / a mental health therapist for elderly in Mumbai.
We have all heard about mental health as a concept- child’s mental health, a teenager’s mental health, mental health of an adult but there is very little to no awareness about geriatric mental health.
Geriatric population consists of any individual in and above the age of 60, in the west, 65 years and above people are considered to be senior citizens. Geriatric mental health is one of the areas which lacks awareness because our knowledge towards the aged is very limited and we tend to put all the concerns experienced by them under one umbrella term called “old age” but the reality differs.
Surely, there are many changes that takes place as an individual grows old but there are some drastic changes that also takes place, maybe in their personality, behavioural changes, changes in the lifestyle, social interaction, physical activities etc. When we see such sudden changes in an elderly, we are likely to consider it as a part of aging but it may not necessarily be due to age.
There may be multiple reasons for such changes and one of the most important things to keep in mind is their physical health. A lot of individuals my have a premorbid condition like diabetes, blood pressure, cardiac related issues and many more. These are surely some precipitating factors that can lead to changes in mood, behaviour and lifestyle.
As we progress through understanding the geriatric population better, we also need to keep in mind that just like their body, their brain is also getting old and although some issues like forgetfulness, irritation and feeling tired/low comes to the fore. There are some emotional responses that also occurs which could escalate if not paid attention to. Along with the pre-existing physical illnesses, mental illnesses can also surface on some level. It is a complex combination of how physical health can affect the mental health and vice versa.
Social aspects play a very important role in their mental health, change in social strata of becoming a senior citizen, retirement, not seeing the familiar faces at work anymore, dependency on children, loneliness, losing a spouse etc. All these factors can make a person depressed and anxious.
Depression may have many shades to it occurring to the elderly but not necessarily being a common factor in every old person’s life. If they are feeling sad for a little while, it can’t be categorized as feeling depressed. Depression is a clinical disorder which requires psychiatric help along with therapy. Reasons of depression can be varied and it can happen because of the medicines they might be taking for their already existing medical condition which is also called as “Depressive Disorder Due to A Medical Condition”. They could also have “Major Depressive Disorder” for multiple reasons in their lives, as some of them mentioned above along with “grief” being one of the major factors for it when there is a death which needs to be normalized. “Dysthymia” also knows as persistent depressive disorder like the name suggests, can happen to the elderly and can persist after grieving too. There are possibilities that these mood disorders can also elevate into mania and/or bipolar.
A facet of Depression that begs to be spoken about is depression due to prolonged grief. This can also be related to what is called as Death Anxiety, i.e., being worried about death coming for them and this could happen when there may be unresolved grief making them obsessed about the idea of death if they would be seeing people die around them (that has happened specially in the pandemic) and the uncertainty of their own death can be depressing where they won’t be able to see a point in living and might just wait for death to come.
Anxiety disorders in elderly can also range from Panic disorders, OCD, to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and one of the most common one is Hypochondriasis where the person will be overly worried about their wellness and will be anxious about their health which may in return affect their functioning too. Possibility of obsessive rumination about health that could be seen in the elderly population where they would talk about their death in every small instance, even if they have a flu or even if there would be a very happy situation.
Dementia is most likely seen taking place in the elderly just as the other disorders, but it is not a common part of aging. Although one third of the population maybe diagnosed with Dementia but it is not necessary that everyone will have it. Alzheimer’s can in turn lead to Dementia as it is also a degenerative disorder where learning new information can get affected leading to memory loss, poor judgement, difficulty in speaking or expressing thoughts. It is commonly known and understood as shown in movies where people would wander aimlessly and forget their way feeling disoriented and lost. This can be concerning because as Dementia increases it can also affect the basic daily functioning of the person who might need a full-time care taker and chances of having changes in their personality.
Although, one needs to remember that aging can also be a smooth process and there are individuals who would be happy go lucky too, being very content in their lives as compared to the adults even if they are at that stage. Research shows that there is a likelihood of a person having depression or other disorders in their autumn years if they had depression at an early age in life. Hence, it’s advised to seek help at the early signs of stress instead of waiting for future or an external force to bring help.
If the millennials and the GenZers are healthy right now they will be better able to provide support for the future generations.
Seeking mental health help at any age is just as useful as eating healthy food at all ages. Both helps us grow into a fully functional human being who can use their complete potentials.
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