Anxiety disorders are quite common in older adults and they can have a serious impact on a person’s overall quality of life. Anxiety disorders affect twice as many older adults as depression. Generalized anxiety disorder, which is accompanied by debilitating and constant worry, is one of the most common mental illnesses in people older than 60. Unfortunately, even though they are quite common, anxiety disorders are often overlooked in older people.
What Causes Anxiety In Older Adults?
Seniors experience anxiety for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the condition stems from changes in life circumstances, such as medical illness or bereavement. Other times, it could be due to medications or a family history of anxiety disorders. Seniors may have several risk factors for anxiety, which increases the odds of developing anxiety disorders even more.
Types Of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders that are common among older adults.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is the most common type of anxiety disorder among older adults. GAD affects up to seven percent of seniors aged 65 and older. The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Excessive worry and apprehension about minor things
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Sleep problems
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
This disorder is common among older veterans who served in the armed forces. Post Traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental illness that some people develop after witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event like combat, a car accident or a natural disaster. Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop later in life for some people. Here are the symptoms of PTSD:
- The person must have witnessed or experienced a life-threatening event
- Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares of the event
- Avoidance of people, places and things that remind a person of the event
- Feeling easily irritated or angered
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Exaggerated startle response
Panic disorder is characterized by episodes of panic attacks. During the panic attacks, the person may believe that they are dying. These episodes can occur out of nowhere and without warning. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Trembling or shaking
- A feeling of choking
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Feeling dizzy, faint or lightheaded
- Fear of going crazy or dying
- Numbness or tingling
Evaluation of Anxiety Disorders
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is essential to be evaluated by a physician or mental health professional. Many of the symptoms of anxiety disorders are similar to other medical conditions. For example, chest pain may be a sign of a heart attack. Numbness or tingling can be caused by neuropathy. Abdominal pain can be a sign of gastrointestinal issues. Because the symptoms of anxiety often overlap other disorders, you must have a medical evaluation to rule out a physical cause.
Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
There are a variety of treatments for anxiety disorders. Low-dose anti-depressants may be effective especially when combined with psychotherapy. Your physician can determine the right treatment for you.