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Can Depression Develop Later in Life?

Mental Health

aging man with depression

Millions of Americans struggle with the challenges presented to them by depression. In fact, more people than ever before are experiencing this type of mental health condition, as there were stark increases in people reporting depressive symptoms between August 2020 through December 2020 alone. A startling 30.2% of people reported experiencing symptoms of depression during this time period vs. an expected 24.5%.

But not all of those individuals who expressed their concern over their mental health in relation to depression fall into a certain category. Yes, it is extremely common for people with mental health conditions to receive a diagnosis early on in young adulthood, if not sooner. But, many people may not develop symptoms or reach out for help until later on in life. Something to consider is “how can depression develop later in life”?

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Symptoms of Depression 

There are a few different types of depression. The most widely understood by the general public is major depressive disorder, while other types include (but are not limited to) persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression. But across the board, any of the symptoms people experience are similar. Even when it comes to depression in different age groups, many of these symptoms are shared. 

Some of the most common signs of depressive disorders in people of all ages include the following:

  • Pervasive sadness or despair
  • Sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Changes in eating patterns (eating too much or not enough)
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Increased substance abuse 
  • Suicidal thoughts, behaviors, or attempts
  • Lack of motivation
  • Disinterest in engaging in previously enjoyed activities

Depending on the severity of the depression, these symptoms can range from being mild to severe. Factors such as age can contribute to the intensity of symptoms, too. 

Can Depression Develop Later in Life?

To better understand the answer to the question, “can depression develop later in life?”, it is important to consider the risk factors for depression. There are several reasons why people end up developing depression, however it all usually boils down to a genetic component, environmental component, or a combination of the two. 

Individuals who have a genetic link to depression have one or more close blood-relatives who have depression or other mood disorders. However, just because someone has a family history of depression does not automatically mean that they will develop depression, too, rather it simply increases their risk factor for having it at some point in their lives. For some individuals with a family history of depression, they often notice their own symptoms of depression earlier on in life if they are also experiencing the same mental health condition. 

If a family history of depression does not produce depression in a person early on in life, it does not mean that it cannot develop. Sometimes, environmental causes like abuse, natural disasters, or a death in the family can trigger the brain in ways that open people up to becoming depressed at a later point in life. The risk of this occurring is much higher if there is a family history of depression, but it is not required. 

What are Some Specific Risk Factors for Depression in Older Individuals?

Even though many of the symptoms of depression are shared between people of all ages, there are a number of risk factors that impact older individuals more than young adults. Knowing what to look for can be key in being able to help a loved one or yourself to prevent depression from developing further.

Structural Changes in the Brain

There is no doubt that as people age, areas of their brains change structurally. Some structural changes can be natural, while others may be induced by head trauma, substance abuse, or some other external factor. Regardless of how it occurs, when the structure of the brain starts changing, it can impact areas that are responsible for mood and other functions. If those parts of the brain become affected, it can trigger the onset of depression or other mental illnesses. 

Presence of Physical Ailments 

As people age, the chances of experiencing one or more physical ailments increase significantly. When one or more physical health complications develop, it can dramatically affect one’s mental state. For example, someone who is diagnosed with cancer may start showing symptoms of depression as a result of their condition. Or, someone who suffers an injury that causes them to no longer be able to engage in an activity they love can quickly begin experiencing symptoms of depression that grow worse over time. Being challenged physically can trigger depression and its symptoms.

Thoughts of Death

This particular factor usually applies to elderly individuals, as the topic of death is not all that uncommon. Whether they are thinking about the last stage of their lives and what will happen next or if they are regularly losing loved ones, thoughts of death can creep in. These thoughts can become morbid and emotionally heavy. When an individual cannot get past their thoughts of death, it can become all-consuming and lead to the onset of depression. Plus, the loss of people they love can contribute to their depression development, as the sadness of those experiences alone can be enough to trigger this mental health condition.

Depression can, unfortunately, occur at any time, including later in life. The best and most effective way to prevent depression from overtaking your life is to reach out for professional help. It is never too late to do that. 

Depression Treatment in Florida

If you think that your symptoms are related to the onset of depression, reach out to My Psychiatrist right now. We can help you identify the issues, address them appropriately, and provide you with the skills to like a happy, healthy life. 

Do not wait. Get in touch with us right now to learn more about how we can help you.