Mental illness in adults is an issue that affects about 20 percent of individuals age 55 or older. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only two in three of those adults will receive treatment for their condition. Many older adults go untreated because they do not recognize the signs associated with mental illness, or they feel embarrassed about seeking help. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
It is important to know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a condition that can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter your background or life experience. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of mental illness, it is important to seek professional medical help.
What are the causes and risk factors for senior mental illness?
There are many factors that can contribute to mental illness in adults. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation lists the following triggers that may be a cause for mental illness in adults:
- Physical disability
- Long-term illness (e.g., heart disease or cancer)
- Dementia-causing illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
- Physical illnesses that can affect thought, memory, and emotion (e.g. thyroid or adrenal disease)
- Change of environment, like moving into assisted living
- Illness or loss of a loved one
- Medication interactions
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Poor diet or malnutrition
What are the symptoms of mental illness for seniors?
Mental illness is a term that covers a multitude of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, dementia, and many others. Common symptoms of mental illness in adults include:
- A sad or depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks
- Social withdrawal; loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- Unexplained fatigue, energy loss, or sleep changes
- Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making
- Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in weight
- Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems
- Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide
- Physical problems that can’t otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
- Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard
- Trouble handling finances or working with numbers
When in doubt, talk to your doctor
If you’ve been suffering from any of the above symptoms for an extended period of time, or if you are unsure about your own mental wellbeing, it is important to consult a medical professional. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask whether a mental health assessment is appropriate.
Here at MetroHealth, we work exclusively with senior patients. We are well versed in the conditions that can affect mental illness in adults, and we can coordinate your care with a specialist when necessary.pharmacy