As people grow older, they age physically as well as mentally. Just as they become more susceptible to conditions such as arthritis, their risk of mental illnesses also increases. It is also important to note that physical ailments influence mental ailments. Thus, arthritis may not only be a problem in itself but may cause mental disorders as well.
Some of the most common psychological problems that affect the elderly are:
- Depression: Depression can affect people of all ages but the elderly have a higher risk of suffering from it. The symptoms and effects of this condition vary from person to person. These include feeling sad constantly, tiredness and lack of energy, lack of self-worth, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, insomnia and reduced appetite. This may be caused as a side effect of certain medications or treatment, as a result of frustrations caused by other physical ailments or just an effect of age.
- Memory Problems: As people get older, their memory weakens. Many lose their long-term memory skills. They may also lose their short-term memory. This is not the same as being forgetful. Characteristic symptoms of amnesia include confusion, memory loss, inability to recognize people, etc. Amnesia may be caused by a number of factors including trauma to the head, brain damage or psychological factors such as PTSD.
- Dementia: Dementia is characterized by the person’s mental inability to function normally. This could be in the form of random mood swings, apathy, confusion, changes in short-term memory or failed sense of direction. Dementia is typically caused by the death of brain cells due to tumors, infections, lack of oxygen, lack of nutrition etc. Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia are all forms of dementia.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: This is a kind of dementia as well. In such cases, the patient loses memory of where they are and believe themselves to be in another place and time zone. The patient may not be able to rationalize things happening around him and may be unable to recognize their own family members. This is a neurodegenerative disease that involves shrinkage of the brain cells. It may be genetic. Alzheimer’s can be treated and managed but it cannot be cured.
- Insomnia: Insomnia can be classified as a physical and mental ailment. It is characterized by the inability to sleep well at night. Some of the noticeable symptoms include tossing and turning for hours in bed before going to sleep, waking up frequently at night, waking up earlier than planned and falling asleep during the day. Insomnia in the elderly is typically caused by stress and anxiety. It may also be the result of certain types of medication.