Anxiety Disorders in Seniors
This article was updated on: 09/15/2018
Everyone feels stressed or anxious at times, so it can be hard to tell when everyday worries may be signs of an anxiety disorder. Here’s how to identify an anxiety disorder and get the help you need.
What is anxiety vs. an anxiety disorder?
Having an anxiety disorder is different from occasionally feeling anxious. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, extreme anxiety lasting for months. Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms might include:
- Feelings of excessive anxiety or restlessness
- Having trouble concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
Panic disorders are another type of anxiety disorder marked by episodes of intense anxiety. According to the NIMH, symptoms of panic disorder might include:
- Unexpected, abrupt, and repeated occurrences of extreme anxiety
- Feeling unable to breathe
- Fear of when the next panic attack may occur
Some people experience anxiety in social situations, known as social anxiety disorder. According to the NIMH, social anxiety disorder symptoms may include:
- Intense anxiety over people rejecting or judging them
- Strong fear of talking to others
- Feelings of nausea or panic around other people
- Having trouble making friends
What causes anxiety disorder?
What causes anxiety isn’t always clear. Those with generalized anxiety disorder may have multiple issues that cause worry. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seniors with an anxiety disorder often have fears connected with a traumatic fall or an ongoing illness.
According to the NIMH, what causes anxiety may come down to hereditary and environmental factors, such as having a family history of anxiety or experiencing traumatic events as a child or adult.
How to deal with anxiety disorder
According to Harvard Health Publishing, generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions among those 60 and older. However, many people fail to recognize the signs in older adults.
Some older adults may react defensively to suggestions that they have an anxiety disorder or mental health condition. If you’re a caregiver, here are tips from the ADAA on how to broach a sensitive topic:
- Can you tell me what caused you to feel afraid?
- Have you noticed it’s hard to stop worrying about certain things?
- What are you thinking of when you can’t sleep?
- Can you remember what you were doing when you felt like you couldn’t breathe?
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have an anxiety disorder, talk to a doctor. According to the NIMH, if you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, treatment may include prescription medication, support groups, or psychotherapy, depending on the type of anxiety disorder. Many older adults with anxiety disorders see improvement with treatment and can learn how to deal with anxiety successfully. Conditions related to anxiety disorders are PTSD and OCD. Learn more about antidepressant medications that may help treat these disorders.
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