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Differences Between Early-Onset vs. Late-Onset Depression

Learn the distinctive symptoms.

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Source: Image chef

Depression is a mood disorder that can begin at any age. Generally, depression is split into two distinct categories: Early-Onset and Late-Onset.

Early-onset means the illness of depression is observed in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

Late-onset typically occurs in late adulthood, around 65 years of age or older.

While depression is a serious, but treatable illness, its behavioral, physical and emotional symptoms differ within these two categories. For example, individuals who experience depression at earlier ages tend to have a genetic predisposition for depression - and also report experiencing significant sadness and despair. However, older adults who have late-onset depression have more neurological or vascular issues that cause depression – and often don’t realize they’re depressed, instead, reporting more irritability and physical complaints than younger age peers.

The general public, and even those in the healthcare field, still believe myths about depression that can interfere with diagnosis and treatment. The two biggest ones are:

  1. Depression is a normal part of aging. (It isn’t. Depression at any age is not part of the life cycle).
  2. Young children cannot be diagnosed with depression. (They can. In fact, young children, and even babies, can have depression).

Take a look at the table below to learn some of the symptoms of depression in early versus late-onset. By doing so, you’ll heighten your awareness- and can help to detect symptoms in yourself, or loved ones, so treatment can begin.

Source: Serani

Treatments for Early-onset vs Late-onset Depression: Once you've determined the category of depression you or your loved one is experiencing, treatment will take a specific course.

For example, late-onset depression will involve treatments that are brief and short term, whereas early-onset interventions will be longer. In both categories, medication will likely be part of the treatment plan, but be mindful that dosages will differ at certain ages and should be tailored uniquely to each person.

More from Deborah Serani Psy.D.
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