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Understanding Depression. The 4Ms.

Know the signs. Ask for help.

Depression is different from just feeling sad or ‘blue’. We all have some days when we feel ‘down’ or ‘low energy’ or ‘just not ourselves’. This may be due to a big life change, illness, or problems that trouble us. After a time, we start to bounce back and find pleasure in life again despite its challenges. Depression is different. We don’t bounce back, feel mostly ‘down’ or ‘blah’, and lose interest and pleasure in living. If these feelings of low mood last more than 2 weeks, it’s time to ask for help. These may be signs of depression ─ a common medical condition.

The 4Ms - MIND. Focus on Depression.

Depression is:

  • NOT a normal part of aging

  • NOT the same thing as normal grief after loss

  • NOT a sign of weakness or being ‘crazy’ Possible signs of depression Different people have different signs of depression.

If you or a loved one have several of these signs for more than 2 weeks, ask your doctor for help:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities

  • Frequent crying

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or helpless

  • Feeling worn out most of the time

Other signs might include:

  • Sleep troubles – too much, too little, waking too early

  • Eating more or less than usual, possibly gaining or losing weight

  • Trouble thinking clearly and making decisions

  • Headaches, pains, stomach problems that do not ease with treatment

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Senior man with his cat

What causes depression?

Sometimes we can point to a cause for depression and sometimes not. Sometimes depression runs in families. Older adults who had depression when younger, are more at risk as they age. Sometimes too much stress or too much alcohol can lead to depression. And sometimes something happens in the brain.

Sometimes depression occurs with another illness.

Medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease or the medicines used to treat them may lead to depression. Watch for the signs. If some are present for more than 2 weeks, alert the doctor. Treatments for depression Adults with depression cannot just ‘snap out of it’. They cannot just will themselves to feel better. The good news is that treatment usually works, although it may take some time.

First line treatment.

The doctor might first suggest some changes in health habits. For example, daily exercise such as walking has been shown to help relieve mild depression. In addition, the doctor might suggest healthy foods, helpful sleep habits, doing things which create pleasure, and keeping in touch with with friends and family. Feeling lonely can add to feelings of depression, even though it’s hard to reach out.

Free downloads for your use:

Depression in Older Adults

Download PDF • 598KB

The 4Ms for health aging

The information on this page is provided by the AgingME GWEP and the John A. Hartford Foundation.


Senscio is a proud partner of AgingME

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $749,891.00. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit and

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