World Mental Health Day: When mental illnesses go undiagnosed in older people


Memory problems, cognitive decline, and a growing epidemic of loneliness make older family members particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.

According to Dr.Mridula Shyam, Senior Psychiatrist, Apollo Clinic, Guwahati, in people aged 55 and over, an estimated 20% of older people experience some type of mental health problem.

The most common conditions are anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar depression.

“Common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can negatively impact the physical health and well-being of older adults. Although the rate of older people with mental health problems tends to increase with age, depression and other illnesses are not part of normal aging, ”says Dr Shyam.

The stigma of mental illness

“Unfortunately, mental illness is very poorly understood in our country. She is denied, demonized, stigmatized, mocked, stereotyped, minimized, marginalized, judged and feared, ”notes Dr. Amlanjyoti Deb, consultant psychiatrist and senior resident, Gauhati Medical College & Hospital.

He emphasizes that mental illness is not a sign of weakness, character flaw, lack of faith, curse, or moral failure. Mental disorders affect a person’s thinking, feelings or mood and can affect their ability to relate effectively with others and to function in their day-to-day lives.

According to Dr. Deb, diagnosing and treating a mental disorder is much more complicated for older people. Symptoms of mental health problems like depression or memory loss are often considered “normal” aspects of aging, but these assumptions prevent older people from getting the care they need.

Talk about the causes of mental illness; Deb says the state of mental health is not the result of any particular event.

“This is due to multiple interconnected causes, such as genetics or a family history of mental illness, environment and an individual’s lifestyle choices. Susceptibility increases for those who are exposed to things like prolonged stress from their work, family life, or caregiving role, as well as exposure to emotional, physical or sexual trauma, or being a victim of abuse. ‘a crime. Biochemical processes, basic brain structure, and nutrition also play an important role in mental health outcomes. Bipolar disorder, personality disorders (eg, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder), dissociative disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia , substance abuse disorders and eating disorders are some of the common mental health problems seen in adults. These are worrying because they can profoundly affect interpersonal relationships and the overall quality of life, ”he adds.

Tips for maintaining good mental health

Eat well

Eating well can help maintain positive mental health. Healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes are the way to go. Sweet foods give you a sugar rush and eventually you feel tired and weak when the sugar rush subsides. With healthier foods, the food is absorbed slowly and therefore there are no mood swings.

Restful sleep

Good sleep is very important, especially for older people, as their sleep needs change. As with age we become lighter sleepers, we need a longer amount of sleep to get enough rest. Sleep improves concentration, memory formation and restores any cellular damage; overall refresh the body’s immune system.

Regular exercise

Exercise is known to improve mood and emotional well-being. It thus prevents mental health problems. The double bonus is that it also improves your overall physical health.

Stay connected

Good relationships are the backbone of good mental health. It is often considered the most important contributor to happiness and well-being. Socializing and staying connected helps people of all ages fight depression. Considering the risks of isolation for older people, it’s especially important to stay engaged with the world around you. Try to set a schedule to regularly call a friend or family members, attend events at assisted living centers, get together with friends, volunteer in the community, or join a book club or other group. social.

Choose a hobby

Take time for enjoyable and relaxing activities. An overlooked part in our culture is the importance of recreation. Fun hobbies such as sports, art class, gardening, etc. can become a source of contentment and satisfaction.

Turn to technology to stay in touch: Sending emails, messages, photos to friends and family can become part of an older person’s routine. Keeping in touch on social media sites like Facebook can also avoid social isolation for older people, especially when their children live far away or in another country.

Give to others

Performing small acts of kindness can give us a sense of happiness and self-worth. It helps to cancel negative feelings about ourselves and leads to a feeling of contentment. You can get involved in the community, donate to a cause you believe in, or volunteer with an NGO. It will not only be a service to society, but also a rewarding commitment.

Seek professional help

Everyone, young and old, is sensitive to mental health issues. There is nothing to be ashamed of – take it as seriously as you would any other chronic illness that can interrupt your life. Start by talking to your doctor.

Talk to your doctor about any changes in mood, anxiety, trouble sleeping, or any other behavior you’ve noticed in yourself or a loved one. These conditions are treatable – your doctor may prescribe medication, suggest treatment, or have another option.

Often times, a combination of medication and therapy – which gives you another social experience to talk to a professional or group about life’s challenges and your experiences – can do wonders for depression and anxiety. If you’ve never had therapy before, consider this another new experience you can have that can be life-changing for the better.

These are your golden years – help make them as enjoyable as possible.

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