6 Signs of Mental Health Issues in Seniors And How to Spot Them Early On

May 23, 2023

Changes in Personal Hygiene 

Personal hygiene is one of the first signs of a decline in mental health for seniors. Poor personal hygiene, such as not bathing regularly or wearing dirty clothes, could be due to depression. It is important to take note of these changes and regularly evaluate the health status of elderly individuals to provide proper care for their mental wellbeing. If these changes are observed, seeking professional help from should be strongly considered to ensure that your loved one receives appropriate care and treatment. 

Unexplained Mood Changes  

If your loved one seems to have an unexplained change in mood or demeanor, it could be a sign of depression or anxiety. They may become withdrawn and isolated from others, or conversely they may become more aggressive and irritable. Some signs to look out for include difficulty sleeping (either too much or too little), changes in eating habits, and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.  

Sleep Changes

Mental health issues in seniors can not only be difficult to track and diagnose, but they can also be incredibly detrimental to their mental wellbeing, overall health and quality of life. Often, sleep changes, including insomnia or hypersomnia, serve as red flags that mental health issues in seniors may be developing. In many cases, a lack of sleep paired with feelings of isolation or depression can indicate mental health problems in older adults.  

Fortunately, mental health services are available to those experiencing mental turmoil throughout the aging process. If you or an elderly loved one is experiencing inconsistency in sleep issues, it is important to seek medical and mental help as soon as possible. Only a doctor or mental health professional can accurately diagnose mental conditions and ensure a successful treatment plan is developed. 

Substance Misuse 

Substance misuse has become a deepening problem among seniors, with increasingly more people falling into substance abuse due to mental health problems. The mental health issues that oftentimes come with aging, such as loneliness and depression, can lead seniors to try to cope with their emotions by using substances. This can range from milder forms of misuse like consuming excessive amounts of alcohol to more extreme types of drug abuse. Even if substance use is a form of self-medication instead of an outright mental illness, it is still a sign of mental distress in seniors and left unaddressed could worsen mental health conditions and other aspects of their lives. Therefore, identifying the signs early on and helping seniors get professional mental health help is important to reduce the possibility of substance misuse in this population.  

Substance misuse is also common in seniors with memory loss—they forget what to take, when to take it or how much to take. It's essential that those closest to seniors pay attention to changes in habits or behaviors that could indicate an issue with substance misuse, so they have the chance to intervene early on and receive the help needed. 

Physical Symptoms 

Unexplained physical symptoms can be an important sign that mental health issues may be at play in seniors. Common mental health issues experienced by the elderly range from anxieties, stresses and mood disorders to memory impairments and dementia, any of which can manifest in physical form. It is important to understand these links in order to properly diagnose mental illness among the elderly population and ensure they receive the quality of care they need. Examples of unexplained physical symptoms that could signal mental distress include: sleep disturbances, slowed movements, stiffness or soreness in particular areas of their body, to name a few. If unexplained physical symptoms are present, it’s especially important for seniors to talk about mental health with their doctors or other professionals in order for them to experience improved mental health and better overall well-being. 

Social Withdrawal  

If your loved one is avoiding social situations where they normally engage with friends or family members, it could signal depression or anxiety. It could also indicate that they are having trouble with activities such as shopping or driving due to physical limitations. If you suspect there is something wrong, talk openly with them about their feelings and what you have noticed so that you can identify the root cause of the problem and address it together effectively.  

Enlist the Help of the Professionals at BrightStar Care! 

Caring for someone with mental health issues can be difficult but it’s important not to ignore any warning signs that something might be wrong. Be sure to pay close attention to any changes in behavior or demeanor that occur in seniors so that you can get them the help they need sooner rather than later. At BrightStar Care, we provide comprehensive care services tailored specifically for seniors--from companionship services all the way through nursing care--so don’t hesitate to reach out if you think your loved one might benefit from additional support! We’re here whenever you need us! Contact us today at 703.267.2380 to learn more about our care facilities and team. 


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