In old age, people lose the ability to adapt to new situations, the ability to view the world and people positively, and the sense of humor. They become surprised by many things. They are increasingly disinterested in general matters and even those that concern friends and relatives. They withdraw and become isolated, making it difficult for others to connect with them, leaving them feeling very lonely. From this state of mind, it is only a short step to depression, delusions, or other disorders, or even mental illness. How does psychology change in old age, and what should we be particularly careful of?
Depression is often found in old age
Depression is a scourge of older people, which is often not diagnosed by doctors. It is estimated that 50% of older people suffer from depression. The symptoms of depression can be successfully treated, although it is not easy.
Doctors often don’t know how to prescribe medication for older patients. They typically prescribe doses for people in middle age, without considering the fact that older bodies have more difficulty digesting them. As a result, after a few days, patients may experience side effects, stop taking the medication, and the disease may continue to develop.
Therefore, if you notice a deterioration in the mood, increased self-criticism, sleep and appetite disturbances, or anxiety in an older loved one, it’s important to consult a professional, such as a psychiatrist. They can determine if it’s a short-term disorder or the beginning of a serious illness (depression in many older people can lead to suicide).
How does psychology change in old age, and how quickly does it depend on brain reserve?
The brain ages like the rest of the body, and the rate of this process depends on many factors. Psychologists argue that from birth, we accumulate a reserve of brain redundancy, which is the reserve capacity to create new connections between neurons that determine effective thinking.
The more we expand this reserve during development, the larger it is in old age. When the process of renewing connections between neurons slows down and declines more quickly, the brain begins to use up this reserve. When it’s depleted, a person’s psychology can change.
Dangerous Delusions (Mental Disorders, Impaired Reasoning and Beliefs) in Old Age
In old age, problems with rational thinking and reasoning begin to arise. People who suffer from these disorders are very unhappy and can be a burden on those around them. They are filled with anxiety and fear, which often leads to aggressiveness towards everyone – both family members and strangers. Everyone is constantly doing something wrong. Blaming or isolating oneself from others can also be a result of a weakened mental state in old age.
A sick person feels threatened, afraid to get close to someone or make friends because it could turn them into enemies. In extreme cases, an elderly person barricades themselves in their apartment, cuts off the gas supply, unplugs electrical cables from the walls, or collects and stores things found in trash cans in their home.
Delusions must be treated, even in the initial stages. Psychotherapy can be helpful in this regard as it helps to eliminate the belief that the surrounding world is a raging battlefield and instead recognize that there is also human kindness and willingness to help each other.