Boomers' Life Changes Can Start Depression

Posted on Jul 4, 2009 in Health & Wellness

Talk, Medicine, Activities Help Keep Spirits Up
Darlene Dunn, Staff writerUPDATED: 12:34 pm EDT October 1, 2008
Sometimes Susan King has a difficult time getting her day started.

“I’ll just want to stay home and be a slob — not talk to people and not leave the house,” said King, 62.

King suffers from depression. She is part of a growing population that uses measures other than medication to combat the disease.

King, of Willard, Mo., said that her job as an Avon representative has been wonderful in helping her better manage her depression.

“It may take until noon to shower, dress and do my hair so that I can look like an Avon lady,” King said, adding that she gets to talk and meet people in that role.

King, who admits to having a lot of anger and just generally being unhappy, said she was diagnosed with depression when she was in her 30s. She said she had a mental breakdown.

Relationships Trigger Depression

King, who has been married for 42 years, said problems in her marriage and the pressures of being a stay-at-home mother were really difficult for her to manage.

“I don’t know how women do it with a full-time job,” she said. “That was my full-time job, and it was difficult for me to take care of my family.”

After being diagnosed, she tried medication that she says did not agree with her. She says she found the most help from her psychologist with talk therapy.

When her husband, Gary, retired, financial constraints caused her to stop her visits to psychologists, so she took up blogging, which she says is “very helpful.”

Because of those outlets, she says, she is better aware of what triggers her depression. Some of the triggers include not seeing her eldest son, who works in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death of her parents and when each of her four children left home.

Boomer Depression

Dr. Dorree Lynn, a psychologist and life coach, said other common triggers include illnesses, hormonal changes, diminished energy level and financial difficulties.

Lynn is also the founder of FiftyAndFurthermore.com, which deals with a variety of topics for people embarking on the second half of their lives.

Some of the signs for depression in older people include losing interest in activity, staying in bed and becoming isolated.

“It is more easily obvious in older people because they don’t tend to be binge drinkers or have the tools and energy to mask the depression,” she said.

To deal with depression in boomers and senior citizens, she says, communication and physical touch are crucial.

“If you see someone you love and you think they are depressed, become a part of their life,” she said. “If they are not mobile, teach them how to use a computer. They need to know that they are wanted, needed and useful.”

Loved ones can also encourage volunteering or becoming a mentor.

“The single worst thing to do is to be left alone and isolated,” Lynn said.

Lynn also points out that as people age they often deal with things differently “because they have been there and done that” or may be quieter than they used to be. This often appears to younger people as being withdrawn and in turn often leads to a misdiagnosis of depression.

Moodiness And Depression

Douglas Cootey, 41, of Midvale, Utah, suffers from depression and attention deficit disorder. He says he was diagnosed with depression after seeking help for ADD. A magnetic resonance image was taken of his brain, and the doctor said, “Hey, did you know you were depressed?”

“I was miserable, angry and hating life,” he says, adding that he had suicidal thoughts.

Cootey, like King, tried antidepressants. He says the drugs ruined his life because now he has chronic motor tic disorder that causes quick uncontrollable movements or vocal outbursts.

He says that while on the medication, he was still miserable and emotionless. In fact, he says that he was curled under a desk in the dark while on the medication.

In 1995, he went off the medication. He also started to approach his depression differently. The stay-at-home father of four says he uses “forced optimism.”

“Changing the way you think will change the way you live,” he said.

With self-analysis, he says he recognizes when he is depressed and works to combat it. He does this by indulging in fun activities, praying, walking, going for a ride, exercising and blogging.

Additionally, he says his wife, Robyn, has played a tremendous role in helping him cope with his condition.

“My wife gives me wonderful back rubs,” he said. “She lets me talk … she’ll listen to me.”
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