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Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults

Dr. Sarah Thompson 

By: Dr. Sarah Thompson, MD, FRCPC
Saint John Community Mental Health Services, Horizon Health Network

Feelings of sadness, nervousness or worry can be normal reactions to a loss or stressful and strange situations. However, when these feelings become overwhelming or excessive and start affecting one's daily routine, social life or relationships, they may be indicative of an illness such as depression and/or anxiety.

Seniors 2015 05 08bDepression and anxiety are the most common mental health issues for older adults and often occur together. They should not be regarded as expected consequences of the aging process. It is important to know that depression and anxiety are treatable and that treatments for seniors are just as effective as those for younger adults.

Red flags for depression and/or anxiety in seniors that warrant attention and evaluation include:

  • Sadness (although not all depressed seniors identify feeling 'sad')
  • Irritability
  • Reduced interest and enjoyment of activities/hobbies
  • Neglect of personal care, forgetting medications
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue/reduced energy
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Changed sex drive
  • Weight loss/reduced appetite
  • Excessive restlessness or slowed movement
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, being a burden
  • Preoccupation with death, suicidal thinking or attempts
  • Preoccupation with health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs (including prescribed and over the counter medications)
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Muscle tension, feeling weak and shaky

The Health & Aging Network is a diverse program that meets many of the major health needs of the older adult in an inpatient and outpatient environment. For other helpful tips, visit Health & Aging Network's website.

Helpful Resources

The Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health:

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation:

Canadian Caregiver Coalition:

Canadian Mental Health Association:

Mood Disorders Society of Canada:

Mental Health Commission of Canada:

Centre for Suicide Prevention (Resource Toolkit for Seniors):

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