8 Symptoms of Mental Illness

Normal signs of aging can mask symptoms of mental illness in the elderly. Learn about these 8 symptoms to spot mental illness among seniors.

Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.32.10 PMAbout 58% of people over age 65 think that depression is a normal part of aging. Myths like this often prevent seniors from having mental illnesses identified and treated. (Mental Health America Survey)

According to the CDC (cdc.gov)an estimated 20% of people over the age of 55 have a mental health issue. Many mental illnesses can significantly affect physical and social well-being. Mental illnesses can, however, be hard to distinguish from regular signs of aging.

8 Common Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Aging

Signs of mental illness in the aging may be expressed verbally in discussion. Often, though, the elderly exhibit their symptoms behaviorally or physically instead. Look for these 8 symptoms in the elderly to spot mental illness during the aging process.



For seniors, avoiding extreme heat or exhausting activities makes sense. However, avoiding eye contact, using the bathroom, touching certain objects, or participating in events is atypical. Watch for extreme or unusual avoidances.



Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.33.41 PM 100x100 12. DIFFICULTY MAKING BASIC DECISIONS

Decision-making is affected by memory, emotions, and judgement processes. When seniors struggle to make basic decisions or change their minds frequently the issue may be caused by mental illness.



Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.34.45 PM 100x100 1 13. UNEXPLAINED STOMACH DISTRESS

A person’s gut reveal much about their physiological state. If a senior has unexplained digestive problems, they may be experiencing feelings or thoughts due to mental illness that are causing distress.



Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.35.17 PM 100x100 1 14. AGITATION OR MOODINESS

Irritability among seniors may occur as a result of physical conditions like chronic pain. However, agitation and moodiness that is disassociated from a reasonable cause can indicate a mental health problem.



Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.35.41 PM 100x100 1 15. CHANGE IN APPETITE OR SLEEPING PATTERNS

Often a change in eating or sleeping habits is the first sign people notice of depression. Pay attention to a senior’s routine and ask questions to understand why their habits may otherwise be changing.



Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.37.40 PM 100x100 1 16. DISINTEREST WITH FATIGUE

Feeling tired can occur as a result of aging. When tiredness becomes constant or chronic fatigue, it may be a sign of something more. Be on alert for a disinterest in hobbies or decrease in socialization due to fatigue


Screenshot 2019 11 05 at 3.38.29 PM 100x100 1 17. HALLUCINATIONS OR DELUSIONS

If a senior recalls information that doesn’t make sense or that never occurred, they may be experiencing hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms may present as paranoia or as simple confusion.



It is unusual for optimistic seniors to suddenly feel sad all of the time with no cause. Likewise, a senior who participates in a hobby regularly and without explanation stops may be struggling with a mental illness.

(Today’s Geriatric Medicine)

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