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Our Time: Depression more serious as we age, expert says

By Jane Glenn Haas, The Orange County Register –

Psychologist Debbie Serani says discovering depression early can save lives.

“Depression is not part of the expected psychological makeup of people 50 and older,” Serani said. “Yet as we get older, there are more pressures that manifest as real depression, although we are often told what we are feeling must be a lack of rest or irritation from medications.

“So people who are aging and are depressed have to be advocates for their own treatment and also educate the knuckleheads around them.”

Serani, who practices in Long Island and is often seen speaking about depression on national TV, is author of the book “Living With Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter Along the Path to Hope and Healing.”

Long title notwithstanding, it’s a short book full of hope. And it was just released in paperback.

“I had the good fortune to speak to both Mike Wallace and Dick Cavett about their depressive illness,” she said. “Depression has a lot of different variables, and too many people do not treat it, fight with their partner, are irritable at work, among other manifestations.”

Serani should know. Her depression — at a young age — was so great she contemplated suicide. Instead of picking up a gun, however, she turned to a textbook and has been in practice now for more than 20 years.

“Depression is serious enough when you are young,” she says. “But it becomes more and more serious as you age.

“People over 50 are eight times more likely to die of heart attack, high blood pressure and diabetes, all often brought about by a weakened immune system due to depression.”

It is critical that depressed elders realize they are not alone, she says.

As she writes in her book: “One of the most moving accounts of depression for me came from the American author William Styron, whose descent into a ‘dank joylessness’ is vividly worded in his 1990 memoir ‘Darkness Visible.’ … What I found in his pages … was quite different. The textures of his experiences offered me consolation.

“Again, I wasn’t alone.”

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