Depressed Senior

It’s natural to feel concerned for an elderly parent, especially as they become less independent and more reliant upon our care. Some signs of aging are easy to detect, such as memory loss, fragility, and the inability to perform activities of daily living. On the contrary, mental health decline can often disguise its ugly head and is less visible to the untrained eye. 

Anxiety in seniors is a significant concern that often goes unnoticed. Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the various available treatments is crucial for supporting our beloved elderly loved ones. The following article is dedicated to improving the lives of an often overlooked and vulnerable population. If you are reading this, then perhaps you have questions about anxiety and mental illness in an elderly loved one. We hope to provide guidance on this critical issue. 

Be Aware Of These Important Anxiety Symptoms In Older Adults

Older Adults with anxiety disorders can often disguise symptoms to friends and family due to shame and embarrassment. If you suspect your elderly loved one may be suffering from anxiety, here are crucial symptoms to look out for:

It’s important to note that anxiety is different than worrying. Worrying is situational, whereas anxiety is persistent and continues to exist even when the threat of danger is no longer present. According to Pam Goodfriend, Psychotherapist, anxiety is an inherent fear that has grown irrationally over time

What Causes Severe Anxiety In The Elderly?

As seniors age, they often face a myriad of challenges that contribute to feelings of anxiety. Life changes such as loss of independence resulting in relocation to an assisted living community or ongoing home care can undoubtedly cause feelings of anxiety. Additionally, most seniors are on a fixed income and face financial insecurity due to retirement or lack of job opportunities. Furthermore, age-related illnesses and conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s, aphasia, and the inability to perform activities of daily living can exacerbate these feelings. Understanding these underlying causes is crucial in providing support and care for our elderly loved ones. 

Does Anxiety Get Worse With Age?

There is no evidence supporting anxiety disorders worsening with age; however, psychological changes that accompany aging might affect how anxiety is experienced and managed, according to Cedars-Sinai. Additionally, contrary to children, older adults tend to have preconceived notions, fears, and judgments that prevent them from embracing new perspectives. These mental roadblocks can hinder the ability to confront anxieties and break free from limitations. 

Although many of our inherent fears originate from childhood and past experiences, we certainly can develop anxiety later in life. As published in the National Library of Medicine, “After phobias, generalized anxiety disorders (GADs) are the most common anxiety disorder of older adults, occurring in 1.2% to 4.6% of those in a community-based sample. Among those with the disorder, onset occurs in late life (after age 55) for about 25%.”

How To Identify A Panic Attack In The Elderly 

For seniors who have never experienced a panic attack, the symptoms can be frightening as your body goes into fight or flight mode. Recognizing the signs of a panic attack is vital to know how to manage them effectively. During a panic attack, you may experience hyperventilation, rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, chills, nausea, or shortness of breath. Seeking support from a mental health professional or practicing relaxation techniques can help manage and reduce the frequency of panic attacks among older people. 

How Can Older Adults Treat Anxiety?

When it comes to treating anxiety in an elderly patient, a comprehensive approach, including psychological evaluation, psychotherapy, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy, can be highly effective. A psychological evaluation helps in understanding the type of anxiety disorder and its root cause, tailoring a treatment plan accordingly. For example, social anxiety disorder may be treated differently than agoraphobia or separation anxiety. Medications may be prescribed in some cases to manage anxiety symptoms effectively. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapeutic approach that helps seniors identify and change negative thought patterns contributing to anxiety. 

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