We now live in an age of global sadness.

Today Depression is ravaging humanity. It is virtually an epidemic with 15% of the American population or 18.0 million Americans being afflicted. Depression is the worst common psychological distress of late life. We will begin a series on this condition to consider: who is at risk, it’s causes and treatment, theories of depression, symptoms, why is it dysfunctional (bad)? Then we will look at techniques to alleviate and reverse this condition. You will also have access to psychological tests to rate your own self on this condition and do continual evaluation until you rate “well”.

The good news is that 80% of people do improve and get out of this dismal mental situation. You will see that the coping skills are different between men and women.

Depression is an illness, where there is an emotional disconnect, and one no longer feels useful to society. This can occur due to several reasons: one experiences continual boredom, loss of close ones, failure to self-actualize, complex, complicated and failed relationships, Divorce, life did not work out as planned, death and dying, fear, loneliness, low energy.

There is lack of psychosocial, family and religious support. Social disintegration, loss of friends and familiar places e.g. our home gets sold, or broken down.

Caregivers experience major burnout. Also, menopause changes estrogen, and neurotransmitter levels change. This causes depression and serotonin disruptions in your brain biochemistry. Some depressed persons also experience victimization, mental and physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse which can eventually lead to suicide. Mathiason cites several risk factors for depression in late life.

  • Having a personal or family history of depression.
  • Being female.
  • Having a chronic illness or caring for someone who does.
  • Suffering the loss of a spouse.
  • Lacking a social support system.
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs.

Also, adding to depression are: managing multiple roles, handling broken relationships, and neglecting one’s self. There’s no time or opportunity for solitude and self-development. Moreover, mid-life crises, issues between self and spouses all add to increase the risk of depression.

There are several dangerous side effects of depression because it saps the persons ‘will to live.’
Depression can lead to:

  • Increased disability.
  • Intensified pain and other medical symptoms.
  • Heightened sensitivity to the side effects of many medications.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Anorexia (dramatic loss of appetite).
  • Neglect of necessary medical care and self-care.
  • Increased hospitalization and prolonged rehabilitation.
  • Suicide.

Also, there is a loss of libido (sex drive), a feeling of helplessness, loss of memory, hopelessness, remorse, guilt, shame, can’t turn the clock back, fear of rejection, sadness, poor sleep (insomnia), poor quality of food, drink, and exercise. We also feel we have lost control over our lives, and the lives of  those close and important to us.

As we age, most also experience the ‘struggle for survival and self-preservation’, financial uncertainty, as our “nest egg investments” go sour. We are forced to focus on food, shelter, survival and thus cannot self-actualize and focus on the necessary inner evolution and spiritual dimensions, and our higher advanced stages of human development as we age gracefully. There is for most, less purpose and meaning in life (past, present, and future). We feel that we have failed and wasted our years.

Many immigrants leave their country and experience social, psychological, cultural, religious dislocations and poor mental health care. Citizens leave one state or province for another, thereby creating incessant disconnectedness readjustments, and stressors. The elderly live in home care or shelters all alone, with little money, and some are even homeless.

Generally one feels overwhelmed, and tired with the battles and tribulations of life. There is the ongoing struggle for survival happening, just when we badly need to rest and ‘enjoy life,’ and spend more time investing in one’s “self,” in quite solitude and inner evolution. Instead, we find ourselves having to deal with difficult issues such as Euthanasia, children and their spouses, dysfunctional family life and relationships, grand children, and shattered or broken dreams. Using all our psychic energy to mend broken relationships and to preserve and keep intact our own life.

In future publications, various therapeutic approaches will be explored, these include:

  • Pharmacology (the use of medications).
  • Biobehavioral – cognitive (psychological intervention). How to self actualize and attain peace and happiness. How to make those golden years “glitter”.
  • Psychoanalysis and group therapy
  • Solitudinal psychotherapy and the practice of “non-attachment” to things of the world.

We will also consider your test scores on stress and depression and use various techniques to bring them back to “normal, acceptable scores”.

By- Dr. Ranjie Singh