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If you are suicidal, or afraid you may become suicidal, seek help immediately.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
It's toll-free and available 24 hours a day, every day. Or call 911 or go to the emergency room — suicidal thoughts are an emergency.
Depression and anxiety
Money worries, health problems, and the loss of loved ones become more common as we age. So it might seem "normal" for an older adult to feel depressed or anxious a lot of the time. It's not. Just like at any other age, constant worrying could be due to an anxiety disorder. And, ongoing feelings of sadness or numbness could be signs of depression.
In recent years, you have probably heard more and more about depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. You may know how common they are and that they are real illnesses and not signs of personal weakness. Yet, many women still don't seek treatment for mental health problems because they play down or dismiss their symptoms or are embarrassed or unwilling to talk about them.
It may be hard to accept that you need help. But it's important to get it. Untreated mental health problems can reduce your quality of life. The damage can be both emotional and physical. In fact, depression may be a symptom of a physical problem. People with diabetes, heart disease, and some other health problems have a higher risk of depression. Depression and other mental health problems can make it more difficult, and more costly, to treat these and other conditions. That makes it even more important to see your doctor.
Also, untreated depression is a primary risk factor for suicide. In fact, older adults commit suicide at a higher rate than any other age group. That's why you need to get help right away if you or a loved one is having mental health problems.
Before you say, "I'm fine"...
Ask yourself if you feel:
- Nervous or "empty"
- Guilty or worthless
- Very tired and slowed down
- You don't enjoy things the way you used to
- Restless and irritable
- Like no one loves you
- Like life is not worth living
Or if you are:
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Eating more or less than usual
- Having persistent headaches, stomach aches, or chronic pain
If these symptoms keep occurring and are interfering with your daily life, see your doctor. They may be signs of depression or an anxiety disorder, treatable medical illnesses. But your doctor can only treat you if you say how you are really feeling. Depression is not a normal part of aging. Talk to your doctor.
Reach out. It's important that you talk to someone — anyone. It could be a friend, family member, a religious leader, or your doctor. Talking to them may help you feel better, and they can help make sure you get treatment.
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Mental Health — This section of womenshealth.gov provides information on taking care of your mental health throughout the different stages of your life.
Explore other publications and websites
Age Page: Depression — This fact sheet explains the signs and symptoms of clinical depression and provides information on prevention and getting help.
Age Page: Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask for Help — This fact sheet explains the differences between dementia and normal age-related changes in memory. The diagnosis, treatment options, and research issues are considered.
Aging in the Know: Psychological and Social Issues (Copyright © The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging) — This publication explains how the mind ages as we age. It deals with learning, memory, reaction time, intelligence, and life skills. In addition, it provides information on some common stressors of aging, such as caregiving, loss and grief, changing roles, and social status. It gives tips for how to deal with these life changes and the types of healthy behaviors that are important.
Depression and Older Adults (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — Sometimes when people feel sad, they say they are "depressed." But depression is more than just feeling sad. This fact sheet discusses depression in older adults and how older adults can seek help.
Girlfriends' Health and Safety Tips — You and your girlfriends can help each other keep both mentally and physically fit. This fact sheet has information about how you can support and inform the women that are close to you.
Health and Aging Organizations — This comprehensive online directory provides contact information for organizations that provide support and services to older adults.
Living With Anxiety: Older Adults (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) — Anxiety disorders are common in older adults. This publication discusses how to recognize and seek treatment for anxiety in older adults.
Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts — This website discusses depression and suicide facts among older adults and ways in which depression can be treated.
The Role of the Geriatric Psychiatrist (Copyright © Geriatric Mental Health Foundation) — This publication explains what a geriatric psychiatrist is, who would visit one, and how they can help you or a loved one cope with aging and mental health concerns.
Connect with other organizations
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
National Institute on Aging, NIH, HHS
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging
Content last updated August 12, 2010.
Resources last updated August 12, 2010.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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