DEPRESSION AND OTHER DISEASES
Depression is a physical disease that, among other things, causes the victim to be sad and withdrawn. Because it often not only affects the mind but also interferes with the function of other parts of the body as well, physicians refer to it as the “great imitator”. Thus, many older people who are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease (senile dementia) may, instead, actually be depressed. This is so in about 25 percent of “dementia” cases, Geriatrics (42#4:53) reports.
The big difference between these conditions is that depression begins suddenly whereas Alzheimer’s dementia comes on gradually over a period of years. Even though both disorders tend to affect behavior in the same way, it is important to distinguish between them since depression often responds to medication, whereas Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible.
Depression, too, often occurs as a complication of disabling illness, such as a heart attack or stroke, when it tends to interfere with recovery. For example, according to the Lancet (1:743), stroke victims with depression generally remain severely impaired after two years, whereas equally severe stroke patients who are not depressed are much more likely to regain use of their limbs and the power of speech. However, unless one thinks of the possibility, depression in stroke victims can easily be overlooked.
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