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It is often not cured: How to recognize depression in old age

Leipzig / Berlin –

Sadness that does not stop. A mood that does not improve. Motivation that does not return. Depression in old age has many faces – and is often misjudged or diminished.

Those who are about 60, 70 or 80 years old have already experienced a lot. This also has a good side: mental resistance is often higher than the younger. But at the same time, the crisis, the death of one's partner, friends or serious illness accumulate in old age. The result may be depression.

The environment is constantly perceiving the depressed mood of older people as natural

It is a disease that is often underestimated – especially in old age. Doctors and family members often have a long-term depressive mood in older people as a natural reaction. "In addition, those who have been hit by themselves blame, are exhausted and hopeless and therefore often do not go to a doctor," says prof. Ulrich Hegerl. The specialist for psychiatry, neurology and psychotherapy is the president of the German Foundation for Depression.

  Ulrich Hegerl


Stefan Straube / UKL / dpa-tmn

Depression can actually be treated in old age, says Iris Hauth, chief physician at Alexianer Berlin-Weissensee. "Then we are discussing depression when symptoms such as urge, satisfaction, and indifference last for at least two weeks," explains psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

The suffering can be enormous

"The prerequisite is a suitable predisposition, and sometimes it is added negatively as a trigger," says Hegerl. Illness affects the mind, feelings, and behaviors of those affected and can cause tremendous suffering.

Iris Hauth


Claudia Burger / Alexian Hospital St. Joseph / dpa-tmn

"A sick person's family also plays an important role," said psychologist Christine Sowinski of Kuratorium Deutscher Altershilfe. They should not undermine depressive moods at all. Hauth advises relatives to inquire carefully and definitely about their condition. However, this also applies to: "There are situations where members meet with their constraints," warns Sowinski. If, for example, a sick person says that he or she wants to commit suicide, relatives should call for urgent help.

Christine Sowinsky

With suspicion of depression to a family physician

The first point of contact for suspicion of depressive disorder is usually a family doctor. In order to find the cause of the symptoms, the first blood tests occur. Depression can sometimes manifest itself in speech disorders and memory in old age, like dementia. To avoid confusion, ask your doctor. "Depressive patients, for example, can indicate when a patient asks, which date and where they are," says Hegerl.

If evidence of depression is collected, a family physician usually refers you to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. He can then treat the disease with psychotherapy or medication. "Depending on the severity, both can be combined," says Hauth. Light therapy can also help. And treatment includes physical exercises and regular exercise. (Dpa / tmn)