Alongside alcohol, cigarettes, and a routine lack of sleep, natural aging is a common threat to mental health. Mental functioning decreases as we age, and some people manifest clear signs of age-related mental decline. Nevertheless, the situation is different for all elderly people. Some senior citizens preserve a perfect long-term memory til their 90s and stay active in the community and at home. As a younger generation, we have to care about our elders so that they could think and speak clearly for as long as possible.
The best way to stimulate the brain is to make it work. Let your elders read, write, learn something new, and utilize skills acquired long ago. Think about old teachers who remain working at school for so long past their retirement age – their everyday mental activity saved them from becoming slow and unable to comprehend.
Doctors say physical exercise and manual work helps us build new connections between brain cells. Physical activity lowers cholesterol level and saturates cells with oxygen-rich blood. Besides stimulating mental activity, exercise is important for elderly people to keep their muscles active and functioning.
On the wrong side of 50, one cannot eat whatever they want any more. Metabolic processes slow down, and huge calorie intake gets critical in the old age. Saturated fats increase clot formation in vessels as we age, and the elderly shall pay more attention to grains, legumes, and vegetables. Extra intake of B vitamins will be a plus. These nutrients lower homocysteine that is linked to dementia.
Irritability, inability to work, and feeling miserable may indicate serious physical conditions. They may also tell us that the person has exhausted themselves with the lack of sleep while working, watching TV shows, or playing video games all night long. Fatigue is a passing inconvenience, but it can grow into something bigger when ignored. Lack of sleep does not only prevent us from being vigorous and thinking clearly but also puts our physical and mental functioning at risk. It is very easy to injure oneself or spend an unproductive day half-asleep.
In the late 1950s, a popular New York DJ stood awake for 200 hours to raise charity with his record. He was an important case for physicians who watched the man staying awake for more than 8 days. By the third day, DJ Peter Tripp became highly irritable and by the end of the week he began to hallucinate and behaved like a paranoid. Most people suffering from the lack of sleep do not repeat the Tripp’s case, but the effects are similar. Increasing irritability, bad spirits, anger, and anxiety always give out a person who does not sleep well at night.
All these effects happen due to the processes that happen in the brain that does not get enough rest. People cannot control their emotions because their amygdala is hyperactive. The hippocampus is the brain region responsible for storing new memories. When awake for a long time, it cannot memorize things like it did before. Besides, the brain starts overproducing stress hormones that are not neutralized by serotonin because of the lack of sleep.
Psychiatrists are demanded medical professionals. Mental conditions are not yet as common as a toothache, but every clinic has a psychiatrist or two. Their job is to diagnose and treat mental illnesses but these tasks are hardly simple. In psychiatry, they deal with psychotherapy and psychoanalysis often encountering violent and uncooperative patients. Their work schedules can be long and irregular, and their previous training is long.
To become a psychiatrist, one requires a Doctor of Medicine degree. It is a long way starting yet during high school years. It is hard getting into a medical school, and students need to get some volunteering experience at local hospital alongside a high GPA. After that, psychiatrists come through the same medical school training as other physicians. In four years, a medical degree program is complete. It takes future psychiatrists another four years of post-doctoral training in hospitals. After the first year of training, they complete 36 months of psychiatry training learning psychopathology, psychopharmacology, and related disciplines.
After the training is complete, psychiatrists have a licensing procedure ahead. State-licensed psychiatrists pass the US Medical Licensing Examination. To prescribe drugs, they also require a federal narcotic license. There is a voluntary Board Certification of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. It confirms that practitioners have a medical school degree and a current state license. Board Certification is renewed every 10 years.
With the “epidemic” of depression, drugs like Zoloft and Prozac have become bestsellers at the pharmacies. The number of people taking antidepressants has risen by 400% since the 90s. Since their introduction in the 1970s, Prozac and Zoloft became a goldmine for pharmaceutical chemists. These antidepressants belong to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which means they prevent reabsorption of serotonin and increase its concentration in the brain. The drugs were called a relatively safe and quick remedy for depression. Nevertheless, like any drug, SSRIs have their counter-indications and side effects.
Prozac contains fluoxetine, and side effects of the drug are caused by this chemical compound. Among the most common side effects, we find restlessness and inability to sit still. Patients seem hyperactive and many of them consider it better than being suppressed with depression. Skin problems like hives, itching, or rash are also common consequences of fluoxetine intake. A headache is another very common response the nervous system gives to the drug. Chills, fever, joint and muscle pain happens less frequent, though some patients complain of feeling uncomfortable during the therapy.
Among the very rare side effects of Prozac, pharmacists put anxiety, drowsiness, irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and lack of energy. In some cases, antidepressants cause worsening of depression and suicidal attempts. Irritability, hostility, and panic attacks are sometimes reported and related to the antidepressants. Pharmacists cannot tell causality of these effects. After all, existing depression treatment drugs are not perfect. Their efficacy is also questioned by some physicians.