ANXIETY IN SENIOR ADULTS

Anxiety in senior citizens can look different than anxiety in younger adults and can mimic other health conditions.  For example, many seniors who undergo testing for dementia or Alzheimer's are surprised to find that they actually have an anxiety disorder, since anxiety can impair memory and focus.  Back pain, shortness of breath, headaches, and rapid heartbeat are also signs of anxiety, but physical causes must be ruled out by a doctor before an anxiety diagnosis can reached. 

Previously, most doctors thought that anxiety lessened as adults aged, but recent research has shown that anxiety disorders are just as prevalent in senior populations as they are in younger populations.  In fact, anxiety is senior adults is twice as likely as dementia and 4- to 8-times more likely as depression.  Older adults are more likely to deal with generalized anxiety, but they may also experience anxiety around recent illnesses, the loss of independence or friends, and even family trouble.

Like all anxiety disorders, however, anxiety in seniors is highly treatable.  Low doses of anti-depressants may be prescribed along with counseling.  Older adults, however, are often reticent to accept a psychological diagnosis since emotional issues were often stigmatized by previous generations.  The family then plays a very important role in assuring their loved one that they are not "crazy" and that short-term therapy can be just as valuable as medication in their recovery plan. 

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