Depression and the Elderly

depression (in psychiatry)

depression, in psychiatry, a symptom of mood disorder characterized by intense feelings of loss, sadness, hopelessness, failure, and rejection. The two major types of mood disorder are unipolar disorder, also called major depression, and bipolar disorder, whose sufferers are termed manic-depressive (see bipolar disorder). Other types of depression are recognized, with characteristics similar to the major mood disorders, but not as severe: they are adjustment disorder with depression, dysthymic disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

Close to 20% of Americans are likely to suffer major depression at some time, and women tend to be more susceptible to the disorder than men. Major depression is likely to interfere significantly with everyday activity, with symptoms including insomnia, irritability, weight loss, and a lack of interest in outside events. The disorder may last several months or longer—and may recur—but it is generally reversible in the short run.

Bipolar disorder is much rarer, affecting only about 1% of the U.S. population; women and men tend to be equally susceptible. Its sufferers alternate between states of depression—similar to that which is experienced in unipolar disorder—and mania, which is characterized by intense euphoria and frenetic activity. Bipolar disorders are often interspersed with periods of relatively normal behavior, which may last for long periods of time between episodes of depression or mania. Manic-depressives have an extremely high rate of suicide, and episodes of the disorder tend to recur.

Medical evidence suggests that depressive states may be connected to deficiencies in the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. Drug therapy includes various antidepressants that act on the flow of neurotransmitters and lithium for bipolar disorder (antidepressants can cause mania when used to treat depression in bipolar patients). There also has been success with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for major depression.

In recent years, theorists have argued that many depressed individuals depend upon others for their self-esteem, and that the loss of one of these emotional supports often precipitates a depressive reaction. A number of psychologists contend instead that depression is a result of learned helplessness, which occurs when a person determines through experience that his actions are useless in making positive changes. Other theorists have shown that genetic factors play a role in depression.

See L. Wolpert, Malignant Madness (2000).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Depression in Older Adults
Stickle, Fred; Onedera, Jill D.
Adultspan Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Depression in Later Life: A Multidisciplinary Psychiatric Approach
James M. Ellison; Sumer Verma.
Marcel Dekker, 2003
Geriatric Depression: Diagnosis and Treatment
Reynolds, Charles F., III; Alexopoulos, George S.; Katz, Ira R.
Generations, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 2002
Depression and the Elder Person: The Enigma of Misconceptions, Stigma, and Treatment
Benek-Higgins, Mary; McReynolds, Connie J.; Hogan, Ebony; Savickas, Suzanne.
Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Vol. 30, No. 4, October 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Are They Depressed or Just Old? A Study of Perceptions about the Elderly Suffering from Depression
Ruppel, Susan E.; Jenkins, William J.; Griffin, Jan L.; Kizer, Judy B.
North American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Even Mild Depression Reduces Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) among Healthy Elderly
Kirchengast, Sylvia; Haslinger, Beatrix.
Journal of Medical Psychology, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2009
Mattering in the Later Years: Older Adults' Experiences of Mattering to Others, Purpose in Life, Depression, and Wellness
Dixon, Andrea L.
Adultspan Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2, Fall 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Older Women Face Higher Depression Burden
Moon, Mary Ann.
Clinical Psychiatry News, Vol. 36, No. 4, April 2008
Hearing and Visual Impairments as Risk Factors for Late-Life Depression
Krsteska, Roza Naste.
The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Vol. 13, No. 1/2, January 1, 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Polypharmacy May Be Linked to Depression in the Elderly
MacReady, Norra.
Clinical Psychiatry News, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2005
Functional Impairment as a Predictor of Depressive Symptomatology: The Role of Race, Religiosity, and Social Support
Cummings, Sherry M.; Neff, James Alan; Husaini, Baqar A.
Health and Social Work, Vol. 28, No. 1, February 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Financial Strains and Depression among Elderly Women
Brown, Susan; Lee, Yoon G.
Consumer Interests Annual, Vol. 53, Annual 2007
Depression Hits Many Elderly with Hip Fractures: Rehab Becomes Less Likely
Sullivan, Michele G.
Clinical Psychiatry News, Vol. 31, No. 11, November 2003
Handbook of Chronic Depression: Diagnosis and Therapeutic Management
Jonathan E. Alpert; Maurizio Fava.
Marcel Dekker, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Approaches to the Treatment of Chronic Late-Life Depression"
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