Marin County Psychological Association
Marin County Psychological Association

Is Dad OK? What is clinical depression?

Author: Dr. Mikol Davis

Is Dad ok? Clinical Depression Clinical depression is the most common of mental conditions, which can be treated, but among elderly aging parents, it is one of the most overlooked. Sometimes, it’s because physicians don’t recognize the signs and symptoms. Sometimes it’s because of an overall attitude of society that perhaps feeling low is just part of getting old. The danger in overlooking clinical depression is twofold. 

First, quality of life that could be improved isn’t, and unnecessary suffering goes on. 

Second, the alarming fact of elder suicide looms. Clinical depression is both an emotional occurrence and a physical event. The physical component is triggered by brain chemistry, and can be helped.

Feeling low doesn’t have to be a permanent part of getting older. There are many elderly aging parents who are able to take aging in stride, and accept the many limitations that accompany getting along in years. Aging is frequently marked by losses. Loss of spouses, siblings and friends, as well as losses of physical strength and abilities can lead to sadness. The sadness associated with loss can often be lessened with time. But what if Dad, who lost his wife last year, just doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore? If more than a year has passed since loss of a spouse, and an aging parent still seems unable to move forward, it may to be time to see the doctor for a checkup.

If you are able to accompany Dad to the doctor, mention the problem specifically. Loss of enjoyment of things one normally likes is one of the symptoms of clinical depression. Other symptoms include feeling sad for extended periods, loss of appetite, sleeping too much or not enough, eating too much, difficulty making decisions, steady weight loss, or unusual weight gain, irritability, outbursts of temper which are not normal, and withdrawal from friends and family.

Clinical depression is one of the most treatable of all mental health problems. Many excellent medications can make a great difference in one’s mood and ability to participate in life. Counseling or talk therapy can also be a great help in managing feelings of loss and grief and in helping an aging parent to get through the grieving process.

If Dad is just not getting back to the way he was, and has an alarmingly long, ongoing period of sad mood and other symptoms, encourage him to see his doctor. Plan to go with him to be sure he doesn’t gloss over the problem. Many elders are unaccustomed to talking about their feelings. They may lack the basic vocabulary to describe them. The adult child can offer gentle assistance with this difficult area. If unchecked, clinical depression can become a downward spiral with no end. It can become worse and more miserable for the depressed person as time passes.

Addressing clinical depression in an aging parent can lead to relief, and improved quality of life. It is a loving act to suggest that the problem can be improved. It may take the initiative of a son or daughter to get help for Dad, but the effect of help is well worth your effort.


Do you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms on a persistent basis?

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness
  2. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  3. Loss of interest in activities that used to be fun and rewarding
  4. Lack of energy
  5. Sleeping too much or too little,
  6. Eating too much or too little
  7. Poor concentration and focus
  8. Irritability and restlessness
  9. Persistent physical aches and pains, such as headaches, stomach problems
  10. Wish to die or thoughts of suicide or self-harm

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, you should consider consulting with your physician and a mental health provider.

Below are MCPA Members with specialties in this area:

Philip M. Alex Ph.D. Kamala Allen PhD
Geraldine Alpert PhD Ann Bernhardt Ph.D.
Laura Cabanski Dunning Ph.D. Danielle Casden Clinical Health Psychologist
Valerie Crawford Ph.D. Janice Cumming Ph.D.
Sharon Cushman Ph. D. Claire de Andrade Psy.D.
Diane Engelman Ph.D. Bert Faerstein Ph.D.
Helga Fasching PsyD Joel Fay Psy.D.
Sue Fleckles Ph.D. Patricia Frisch Ph.D.
Christine Gazulis Ph.D. James K. Goetz Psy.D.
Kate Gustin PhD Diane Harnish PhD
Meghan Harris Psy.D. Katharine Hatch Ph.D.
Annette Holloway Psy.D. A. Raja Hornstein Psy.D.
Brooke Jackson Psy.D. Jacob Kaminker PhD
Haleh Kashani Ph.D. Margot Kirschner PsyD
Dorothy ("DeLee") Lantz Ph.D. Chloe Martin Ph.D.
Deb Nelson Psy.D. Robert Nemerovski Psy.D.
Summer Nipomnick PhD Annice Ormiston PsyD
Anka Paine PsyD Claudia Perez Ph.D.
Diane Pickett Ph.D. Rick Pomfret Psy.D.
Jennifer Rice Ph.D. Robbin Rockett Psy. D
Anne-Olivia Rose Psy.D. Frederick Rozendal Ph.D.
Tracy Ryaru Ph.D. Diana Sanborn Ph.D.
Roberta Seifert Ph.D. Joan Steidinger Ph.D.
Alyssa Steiger Psy.D. Shelly Stolesen Ph.D.
Diane Suffridge Ph.D. W. Keith Sutton Psy.D.
Beth Cooper Tabakin Ph.D. Amy Torchia PsyD
Julie Wolfert Psy.D. Jane Zich Ph.D.

Marin County Psychology Association (MCPA) provides this listing service for licensed psychologists who are current association members. The people on the list have entered and have direct control over what is posted. MCPA does not verify this information. We hope this service helps you find an appropriate psychologist to fit your needs.