World Mental Health Day 2022: Early Warning Signs Of Mental Illness In Older Adults

Elderly people are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues. Watch out for these warning signs to keep them safe.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Oct 10, 2022 13:38 IST
World Mental Health Day 2022: Early Warning Signs Of Mental Illness In Older Adults

As per the World Health Organisation Survey globally 15% of adults suffer from mental illness. The early warning sign of mental illness can vary depending on the individual and the specific mental illness in question. However, some common early warning signs that an older adult may be developing a mental illness include changes in mood or energy levels, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, withdrawing from social activities or hobbies and increasing reliance on alcohol or drugs. In this article, Dr. Aman Khera, Co-founder & Surgeon- Geriatric Care at, shares initial signs of mental illness in elders.

If you are concerned that an older adult in your life may be developing a mental illness, it is important to talk to them about your concerns and encourage them to seek clinical help, which is considered taboo in India. Geriatric psychiatrists & psychotherapy is in very nascent stages in India as the number of professionals practising is minuscule compared to the standard established by WHO for some common mental health issues in senior citizens.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s

If you have senior citizens at home how to identify if they are suffering from depression. The symptoms of depression vary depending on the severity of the depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. The most common symptom of all types of depression is a feeling of sadness or emptiness. Other symptoms may include:

  • Losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed doing
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Concentration problems
  • Indecisiveness
  • Physical complaints that do not respond to treatment
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Warning Signs Of Mental Illness In Older Adults

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects a person’s memory, thinking, and behaviour. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may include confusion, difficulty remembering simple things, and poor judgement. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, and paralysis.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be divided into two main categories: motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.

Motor symptoms are the most obvious symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and refer to the problems with movement that are characteristic of the disease. The most common motor symptoms are tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability (impaired balance and coordination).

Non-motor symptoms are less obvious but can be just as debilitating as motor symptoms. They include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and attention), sleep, mood, and behaviour. Urinary and gastrointestinal problems are also common in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Also Read: Overthinking Is Bad For Mental Health, Here Is How To Stop Doing That

Huntington’s disease is characterised by three main symptoms:

1. Motor problems

As the disease progresses, people with Huntington’s disease experience uncontrolled movements. These movements become more and more noticeable as the disease progresses. The uncontrolled movements are known as chorea. The involuntary movements are often characterised by:

  • Twitching
  • Twisting
  • Writhing
  • Uncontrollable jerking

People with Huntington’s disease often find that they cannot control the movements of their hands and arms. The involuntary movements may be gradual at first, but get worse over time.

2. Cognitive problems

Cognitive problems are common in people with Huntington’s disease. These problems become more noticeable as the disease progresses. Cognitive problems can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgement
  • Brain fog
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems with comprehension
  • Slow thinking

3. Psychiatric problems

Psychiatric problems are common in people with Huntington’s disease. These problems become more noticeable as the disease progresses. Psychiatric problems can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Personality changes
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Aggression

Huntington’s disease is a progressive disease, which means that the symptoms get worse over time. The rate at which the symptoms progress varies from person to person.

Warning Signs Of Mental Illness In Olders

Huntington’s disease is a terminal disease, which means that it is ultimately fatal. The average life expectancy for people with Huntington’s disease is about 15 to 20 years after the onset of symptoms.

Symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

The symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can vary from person to person. Some people may experience only slight muscle weakness, while others may experience more severe symptoms. The most common symptom of ALS is muscle weakness. This can lead to difficulty moving the arms and legs, and difficulty speaking and swallowing.

Other symptoms may include muscle cramps, twitching, fatigue, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and depression. It is very important to watch out for these signs in older adults to prevent mental illnesses in them.

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