Depression is a mental health disorder that will always stay with you no matter how old you get. You may notice certain changes in your depression the older you get as life tends to hit you such as dealing with grief, break ups, job loss, etc. By knowing about how depression symptoms can change the older you get, the better you will be able to prepare for them.
Depression Changes Your Body Age
A study from the Amsterdam University Medical Center showed that the DNA of people with major depression is older by eight months compared to those who do not have depression. They examined the DNA of 811 with depression and 319 without. The changes in genes that did not affect the DNA sequence (epigenetics) took place more quickly for those with depression. The scientists saw that people with major depressive disorder had a great deal of epigenetics and methylation which changes the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequences. It showed people with depression were biologically older by eight months compared to people without. Severe cases showed the biological age was 10-15 years older than the chronological age.
The study also showed that those with childhood trauma were biologically 1.06 years older than those who did not experience trauma. Methylation levels increased and decreased with age. The difference becomes more apparent when someone enters their 50s and 60s. This research shows how early-life trauma can have an effect on us and how important it is to engage in early preventative treatment for depression and tough childhood experiences.
Depression Can Change Your Brain
The British Medical Bulletin showed that certain regions of the brain can be affected by depression such as the hippocampus, thalamus, amygdala, frontal and prefrontal cortices. The severity and the length that the episode lasts affects how much the brain will shrink. For example, noticable changes happen in the hippocampus during a single episode of depression or multiple, shorter episodes. When a section of the brain shrinks, the functions of that section shrink as well. For example, if the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are responsible for emotional responses and they shrink, this can lead to a reduction in empathy.
A study by the Cambridge University Press did a study that showed 71,000 people with depression had a rapid brain age. They experienced cognitive decline, memory loss, and a decline in processing information. This shows that cognition function needs to be looked at when people have depression since they may be risked for an increase in cognitive decline. The more cognitive decline there is, the worse your depressive symptoms can be.
Depressive Symptoms Appear for the First Time When Aging
Even though we can get depression when we are young, it can also occur as late as age 50 for the first time. According to a 2015 study in Psychology and Aging, depression diagnoses can increase from ages 65-85. This could just happen as a result of the challenges that come with aging. Cleveland Clinic says that when we have an increase in health issues, grief, and loneliness, it can be a trigger to depressive symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 said that middle-aged women between the ages of 40-59 had the highest rate of depression in the United States.
Antidepressant Responses Change Over Time
People with depression take antidepressants for a long time, but our reactions to the medications change when we get older. Either certain medications lose their effectiveness or biochemical changes are just not agreeing with your antidepressants. You should speak to your doctor about the depressive symptoms you are experiencing that are conflicting with your antidepressants to make any kind of changes in your prescription. The Mayo Clinic believes that as you get older, your brain and thinking changes which affects your mood. The changes in the way your body processes substances may mean that you need to take more medication and change your dosage.
Lack of Folate Vitamin Leading to Depression
Folate is a B vitamin and pregnant women are told to take more folic acid to reduce the risk of a miscarriage. For women, lower concentrations of folate in the blood and the nervous system can lead to depression, mental impairment, and dementia. Those with naturally lower folate levels can lead to problems with antidepressants. Folate deficiency also increases with age where the older you are, the more likely you have low folate levels which contribute to more depressive symptoms over time.
How to Treat Your Depression As You Age
As we age and change, our depression does the same thing. One thing that stays the same is that there will always be treatment available. One way is by connecting with others and limiting the times that you are alone. Being alone will only making your depressive symptoms worse as you are focusing too much on it. Socialize with your loved ones over the phone, email, or in person. You can also get out into the world by going to a park, having lunch with a friend, going to a show, etc. You can also volunteer your time so that you feel a good sense of accomplishment. You should also make sure to sleep for seven to eight hours, eat balanced meals, and exercise. Do not let your depressive symptoms worsen as treatment options will always be available no matter how old you get.
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