“The clinical presentation of older adults with mental disorders may be different from that of younger adults, making detection of treatable illness more difficult.”

What is Mental Health?

Mental illness is biologically based disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to think, feel, relate to others and perceive the world. It is the nation’s second leading cause of disability after heart disease.

Older adults with a mental health problem experience a wide range of symptoms. The severity of symptoms varies among individuals and with respect to health and other aging considerations.

People generally keep their same preferences, personality and behavioral traits throughout their lives. Marked changes in these areas are not a normal part of aging and may indicate a mental health problem.

Mental illness is a complex condition. Mental health professionals are trained to assess and treat mental illness though there are many categories of professionals who help with mental health problems such as trained religious leaders and social workers.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Agitation, irritability, restlessness, moodiness
  • Withdrawal from community, social situations or formerly enjoyed activities
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness or burden
  • Feelings of hopelessness and negativity
  • Physical complaints that are hard to explain and resistant to treatment such as digestive disorders, headaches, heart palpitations and chronic pain
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily challenges, activities or small problems
  • Overuse of alcohol, medications and/or drugs

There are many types of mental illnesses. A professional should assess the problem and make an appropriate diagnosis. A person trained in “geriatric” mental health knows the unique ways that older adults experience mental health problems, as well as age appropriate treatment.