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Healthy Aging

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Depression and anxiety

close-up, side-lit, full-face portrait of a senior woman looking directly in the camera with a pained expression, she holds her hands against her cheeks

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.

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.

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More information on Depression and anxiety

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.

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Content last updated: September 20, 2013.

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