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Caring for Your Mental Health as You Age

Caring for Your Mental Health as You Age

It’s estimated that 20% of people over the age of 55 experience some sort of mental health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For people of all ages, mental health is equally as important as physical health, but issues can sometimes be ignored in older people because of the stigma surrounding them.

Older men have the highest suicide rate of any age group—with the suicide rate of men aged 85 or older being more than four times the suicide rate for all ages. Learning how to care for your mental health as you age can help you stay mentally and physically healthy.

What’s Common?

As you age, your physical health often declines. This means you may have to adjust to new health problems, less independence, or come to terms with the fact that you may not be able to participate in activities you once enjoyed. You may experience symptoms of depression and think they’re just a normal part of aging. This, however, isn’t true.

One in four older adults will experience mental health issues, the most common being depression and anxiety. Depression is the most common, affecting 5-7% of the population over 60, whereas anxiety affects 3.8% of aging adults, according to the World Health Organization.

Know the Signs and Symptoms

If you’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety or depression before, you may attribute these signs to your normal, everyday feelings. However, anxiety and depression are not a normal part of aging and should not be taken lightly. There are specific symptoms you should be aware of and seek help for:


  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Sweating
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Difficulty controlling worry


  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Sleep disturbances, including sleeping too much or not enough (insomnia)
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Tips for Staying Mentally Healthy

Stay social. As you age, many people naturally tend to isolate themselves, especially at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social interaction is vital to your mental well-being. In fact, people who lack social contact are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation, which can affect how your brain functions. Even if you feel uncomfortable being in person, staying in contact by video chatting or talking on the phone can go a long way for your mental health.

Get enough sleep. Physical changes happen as you age, which may make it difficult to fall and stay asleep at night. More than half of men and women over the age of 65 experience at least one sleep problem each night. Sleep helps your body repair itself and your brain process memories and new information. You should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Eat healthily. There’s a large connection between the foods you eat and your mental health. Diets high in processed foods and sugar have been linked to anxiety and depression. Stick to a diet of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which has been reported to lessen feelings of depression.

Stay active. Exercise can boost your mood, concentration, and alertness. Being physically active boosts the levels of serotonin in your brain, which makes you feel happier. It also reduces stress hormones in your brain. In fact, research shows that exercise helps treat and lower the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

When to Get Help

If you experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Frederick Health Behavioral Health offers three levels of psychiatric care, as well as counseling, medication management, and more. Visit our website or call 240-566-3900 to learn more.

Seek emergency help and call 911 immediately if you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide.