When people think of retirement, they most often think of days full of relaxing and having fun with your family and friends after having worked for the majority of their lives. The last thing that comes to mind is depression, right?
Depression in seniors and retirees is not a subject that is often spoken of; most of the time when depression is the subject of a conversation, it is in reference to working-age adults and young people. The fact is that depression after retirement is common among seniors, and there are several factors that contribute to the development of depression.
This article aims to inform you about this mental health disorder that affects millions, and how those who suffer can be dealing with depression after retirement. Depression can manifest itself in many different ways, so let’s start by taking a look at what depression can look like for some.
There are many different types of depressive disorders with their own specific symptoms, but according to Mayo Clinic some of the more general symptoms of depression are:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Depression can also manifest itself in drug and alcohol abuse and is sometimes referred to as self-medicating. This is not a healthy method of treating depression.
These symptoms do not always occur at the same time, nor do they only appear one at a time. Often when depression occurs it can lead to many of these symptoms being present at different times, sometimes only one may be present, and at other times two or more symptoms may present themselves.
If you believe that you are experiencing these symptoms and feel that you are suffering from depression, please seek the assistance of a mental health professional. There is nothing wrong with seeking treatment for your mental health, as it is just as important as your physical health and should be taken seriously.
Reasons for Depression After Retirement
Depression after retirement can be caused by any number of things, and it’s incredibly important to understand some of these causes in order to understand how one should deal with this illness.
For some people, depression may develop due to a perceived lack of purpose or meaning now that they no longer have regular work to do. For others, it could be due to changes in social life or due to personal loss such as the death of a loved one.
Because retirement is such a large change in one’s life, it is entirely possible that the change itself is what brings about depression. Changes at home can lend itself to depression when one spouse no longer works and spends more time at home; changing roles and a lack of comfort in this change are all possible reasons for depression after retirement.
Retirement is also commonly regarded as the last leg of the journey of life and may force many retirees to confront the facts and reality of aging, illness, a potential loss of independence, and the inevitability of death. Such subjects can be very distressing for people, leading to the development of depression.
Ways to Cope with Depression
There are several commonly suggested tips for fighting back against depression that are found to be very effective.
Let’s take a look at some of these strategies:
If you believe that you are suffering from persistent symptoms of depression, the first thing that you should do is seek out a mental health professional for a psychological evaluation. During this search make it a point to find a therapist whom you feel you can trust, and then begin the process of therapy.
Therapy is the bedrock for these strategies, as everything else suggested should be done to supplement the progress of your therapy. Remember that not all therapists are the same, and you may have to do some looking around before you are able to find a therapist that really clicks with you.
Seek a therapist whom you feel you comfortable with speaking to, and who you feel is actively listening to you. If you find that the therapist isn’t addressing your needs, it’s time to find someone else. For some, you may find a great therapist on the first try, and for other times it may take a try or two.
Keep in mind that there are many different types of therapies as well, and some people may find a particular type of therapy to be more effective than others at treating their depression. Here are some commonly-used therapies in the treatment of depression:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – This is a well-known and highly effective form of therapy in which the patient is actively involved in the process of recovery through consistent practice of treatment procedures outside of therapy time. The underlying idea of CBT is that thoughts and feelings affect behavior, and the goal of this therapy is to identify those thoughts and feelings, understand them, and then change thinking and behavior patterns in order to bring about a change in the way you feel. This therapy is relatively short-term, with benefits typically appearing within 12 to 16 weeks.
- Psychodynamic Therapy – Developed from the school of thought which was founded by Sigmund Fred, psychodynamic therapy is based on the idea that depression can occur due to unresolved unconscious conflicts—often from the patient’s childhood—and seeks to explore these conflicts through conversation. This form of therapy is often very time-consuming, with patients sometimes remaining in therapy for a number of years.
- Cognitive Therapy – The idea that thoughts can affect our emotions is the bedrock of this therapy. Cognitive therapy seeks to help patients discover negative thought patterns which cause or contribute to depression and replace them with more positive thought patterns. Another short-term therapy, CT typically only last for a few months.
There are many other therapies available to treat depression and its symptoms, so during your search be sure to inquire which therapy strategies your therapist is familiar with so that you know what to expect when you begin your sessions.
It’s well-known that a healthy and active lifestyle improves overall mood and satisfaction with life. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, after all!
Living a healthy lifestyle that focuses on regular exercise and good nutrition can add to the benefits of the therapy that you are undergoing. The lifestyle of many seniors often becomes even more sedentary upon retiring, and this sedentary lifestyle does no favors for one’s mental health.
Becoming active in retirement is not difficult to achieve either, and 30 minutes of brisk walking every day is all it takes to be able to reap the benefits of improved health. In addition to getting regular exercise, good nutrition plays its own part in improving mental health.
The changes that come with retirement and aging can make it difficult to be able to eat healthily, but it is still possible to eat healthy if you just know how. If you’re finding it difficult to eat healthy due to a lack of motivation or support, then here are some strategies you can implement that may help:
- Eat with friends who are also striving to live healthier lifestyles, or organize get-togethers with cooking challenges in order to make eating healthy foods more fun.
- Add color and textures to your meals to make them more interesting and palatable.
- Remove junk food from your home and replace with healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Drink a little water every time you pass by a sink, water fountain, etc.
Having Community and Hobbies
Loneliness and boredom are two things which can contribute to the development of depression; doubly so when experienced together. Exploring interests—especially with others—is proven to get rid of both loneliness and boredom.
Retirement doesn’t have to be a lonely or boring affair. Being a part of a social group which can support you and be with you during the highs and lows of retirement is extremely beneficial, and finding common ground among others with a shared interest is the best way to join or grow that community.
Using inspiration from the previous strategies mentioned you could join a walking group, a cooking group, or both, and become part of social groups that can help support you in your journey to a healthier lifestyle. There are also mental health support groups which can be there to aid you in your journey towards overcoming depression in retirement.
There are many ways you can become part of a community, but the important thing is that you find community among people who truly care for you. Additionally, pick up some fun hobbies!
Retirement definitely doesn’t have to be boring, so find some fun things to do regularly that bring you joy. Get out and play a sport, learn how to play an instrument, foster interests that you already have, or find some new ones. Just get out there and have fun with people who spark joy in you, and you’ll notice that your depression will lessen.
Depression after retirement is not uncommon, but it can be dealt with and in some cases overcome. There are many strategies to deal with depression, but first and foremost you should seek the help of a mental health professional if you are feeling depressed. All strategies after therapy are supplemental and can help boost the positive effects that you experience from therapy.
Seek out a therapist, live a healthy lifestyle, spend time with friends regularly, and pursue your interests and passions to help improve your mental health and develop a greater overall satisfaction with life.