Problems Associated with Aging: Depression, Stress, Anxiety and Other Later-in-Life Disorders

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  • 0:05 Geriatric Psychology
  • 1:26 Age & Depression
  • 2:50 Age & Anxiety
  • 4:03 Age & Substance Abuse
  • 5:25 Age & Psychosis
  • 7:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

With age comes wisdom, but it also comes with a bunch of problems. In this lesson, we'll look at some psychological problems that can plague older adults, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and psychosis.

Geriatric Psychology

Edna just celebrated her 90th birthday. Instead of being happy, though, she's feeling very blue. In the past 10 years, her husband has passed away, she's started to lose her hearing and her son moved her into a nursing home. Since moving into the nursing home, Edna has been feeling stressed out and anxious. All the nurses and people buzzing around her make her feel very scared. Sometimes, the only thing that gets Edna through the day is a couple of glasses of wine that her granddaughter sneaks into the nursing home for her.

Aging comes with a new set of issues. Many people are aware of the physical challenges that can come with aging: less flexibility, loss of fitness and an increase in disease. But there are also some psychological issues that come as people age. Geriatric psychology looks at the mental health issues of people over the age of 65.

Like Edna, many older patients find themselves feeling depressed and anxious. In addition, problems like substance abuse and late-onset psychosis can occur in senior citizens. Let's look closer at four mental health issues that geriatric psychologists deal with: depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and psychotic disorders.

Age and Depression

Edna's feeling really down in the dumps. It's not just a passing sadness; it's been this way for a while now. Not only that, but she feels so blue that she has disengaged from her normally busy social life. Edna is experiencing depression, a mood disorder that involves excessive feelings of sadness. There are many warning signs of depression, including feeling sad, losing interest in the things that the person used to enjoy doing and feeling tired or out of sorts. Unlike normal grieving or just feeling a little down, depression doesn't go away. Instead, people with depression find that it's chronic; that is, it lasts a long time.

People over age 65 can experience depression that is triggered by life changes. The loss of a loved one, like when Edna's husband passed away, is an example of a life change that can trigger depression. In addition, older adults often face health changes and challenges that can cause depression, such as the fact that Edna is losing her hearing. Finally, a loss of independence can make people feel frustrated and depressed, such as the fact that Edna has been moved into a nursing home.

Depression can be treated with drugs and therapy. Unfortunately, some older adults do not reach out for help because they are too proud, or because they were raised at a time when depression was seen as a sign of weakness.

Age and Anxiety

Depression isn't the only mental health problem that is common with the elderly. Remember Edna? Since her son moved her into a nursing home, she's been feeling very stressed out and anxious. Anxiety disorders are psychological issues that center on feelings of fear and sometimes include panic attacks. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including phobias, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

As with depression, anxiety is often triggered in older adults because of life changes. If Edna has spent the majority of her adult life in her own home - raising her kids there, eating breakfast and dinner with her husband there and having parties there - moving somewhere else can be a stressful life change that can cause anxiety. In addition, stresses of aging, like memory loss and poor health, can cause or exacerbate anxiety disorders.

Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Older adults with anxiety might become less social, fixate on a routine and become overly focused on safety. They might even avoid social situations. As with depression, anxiety disorders can be treated with drugs and therapy.

Age and Substance Abuse

Aging comes with many physical changes. People find that they have issues with spicy food, for example, and that their metabolisms aren't what they used to be. Likewise, the way that the body handles drugs and alcohol might be very different from the way it used to. Older adults who never had any problems with a drink or two might suddenly find that they become tipsy after their usual amount.

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