Anxiety in the Elderly – Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention

Aging healthily means looking after physical and mental health concerns. Without professional support, seniors dealing with anxiety may miss out on some of the best years of their lives.

Anxiety in the Elderly

Anxiety in the Elderly in Brief

Every person worries from time to time, no matter their age. Anxiety disorders are different. For those suffering from diagnosable anxiety, occasional fear and nervousness have turned into an overwhelming emotion. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the United States. It is more likely to affect people as they age. 

Seniors suffering from an anxiety disorder experience extreme fear and worry almost daily. Their condition affects their quality of life and prevents them from enjoying retirement. In addition, anxiety disorders may also predispose seniors to other physical and mental health problems. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in five Americans over 55 suffer from a range of mental health problems. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in seniors, ahead of depression and other mood disorders. Medical experts believe that between 10% and 20% of older adults are affected by anxiety, although not all of those are being diagnosed. 

Not being diagnosed makes accessing the proper behavioral and mental health care harder, leading to unnecessary suffering. 

Senior Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

Anxiety in seniors presents a range of signs and symptoms that cover physical and emotional aspects. Understanding those symptoms makes it easier for family members and loved ones to spot changes before they develop into a mental health condition. Knowing which signs to look out for can help seniors recognize the first indicators of an anxiety disorder. 

Common physical signs and symptoms of senior anxiety include:

  • Racing heart
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Muscle tension leads to fatigue and soreness
  • Changes in weight and diet
  • Using the bathroom more often than normal
  • Inability to sleep or stay asleep, further increasing fatigue
  • Headaches, eye, and vision problems

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms include:

  • Irrational thoughts 
  • Forgetfulness and irritability
  • Refusing to leave home and withdrawing from their social circles
  • Avoiding places or situations that trigger anxiety
  • Obsessive thoughts, accompanied by compulsive behaviors
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of panic

Some signs and symptoms can also be related to other mental and physical health conditions. If in doubt, it is essential to consult with a fully qualified and experienced mental health professional to assess whether an older person is suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

Causes of Anxiety in Seniors

In most cases of anxiety in seniors, it is hard to identify one single trigger of the condition. Instead, it is often an accumulation of different situational and environmental challenges that lead to the development of an anxiety disorder. Those same factors can also lead to normal anxiousness and nervousness becoming more severe and harder to control.

Whereas children and adolescents tend to develop anxiety over issues including academic pressures, older adults become more anxious if they face frequent changes.

For example, moving from independent to some form of assisted living is a big transition that may trigger anxiety. The change marks the beginning of the last phase of someone’s life. Even if seniors are still in good health and reasonably active, it can be hard to accept this change. 

Other common anxiety triggers include financial constraints and worrying about how to finance retirement. As people age, they tend to be more susceptible to health problems, including immobility or chronic pain. Managing those conditions can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety. The mental health condition may also be a side effect of medication an older person relies on. 

Seniors experience proportionally more grief and loss than people at any other age. Struggling to deal with losing a spouse or long-term partner may lead to mental health challenges. The same is true for a person’s own end-of-life planning. Facing this challenge can trigger strong emotions. Finally, dementia has also been connected to developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. 

Treatment of Anxiety in the Elderly

Mental and behavioral health conditions vary widely from one person to the next. Anxiety in seniors is no exception to this. As a result, it is essential to take a personalized approach to any treatment and address causes and issues specific to the individual senior. 

Anxiety counseling is an excellent way of addressing senior anxiety. This talk therapy aims to find the causes and triggers of a person’s anxiousness and help them develop better coping strategies. Counseling usually follows a series of steps:

Diagnosis and assessment: Before treatment can begin, seniors need to see a mental health professional who will assess their condition and diagnose them accurately. This diagnosis forms the foundation of all other steps.

Treatment plan: Based on the diagnosis, counselors develop a customized treatment plan for their clients. Methods may differ in approach, the type of talk therapy suggested, and the number of recommended sessions. 

Counseling sessions: Throughout the sessions, both counselor and client explore the causes of the anxiety disorder and start developing ways of addressing them. It may include following specific coping strategies or changing thought patterns. 

Review: During a senior’s counseling treatment, counselors will regularly review progress and adjust sessions, if necessary. 

Effects of Anxiety in Seniors

Severe anxiety can be debilitating. Those suffering from the condition often struggle to leave home and complete daily chores. 

Instead, they may choose to withdraw, including from family and friends, to avoid any situation that could induce anxiety. Over time, anxiety disorders become life-limiting. Not only will those conditions stop a person from enjoying activities they used to like, but they will also start to creep on personal relationships and quality of life. 

Many seniors have years, if not decades, ahead of them when they retire. Allowing those years to be governed by anxiety is wasteful and may also accelerate an older person’s physical decline. 

How does Truecare’s Anxiety Counseling Help Seniors?

TrueCare’s anxiety counseling gives seniors easy access to the professional mental health services they need to deal with anxiety and other behavioral health challenges. 

The TrueCare platform unites a nationwide network of experienced counselors and other mental health professionals. It allows seniors to reach out to the specialist they need as and when they need them. 

Seniors can choose between in-person or online counseling. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, online counseling was often the only option, and many older people benefitted from telehealth counseling. Today, in-person counseling is widely available once more. Seniors can travel to their counselor’s office or opt for in-home counseling. 

TrueCare also offers specific behavioral health counseling services through assisted living facilities. Those services are covered by Medicare, which is essential for those dealing with financial insecurity. 

FAQs on Anxiety in Seniors

Why do seniors develop anxiety?

Most seniors with anxiety develop the condition for various situational and environmental reasons. As people age, dealing with frequent changes becomes more challenging. For some, transitioning to a nursing home or assisted living facility can trigger anxiety, too. 

How common is anxiety in seniors?

Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition in seniors. Medical experts believe that between 10% and 20% are affected by some anxiety disorder. In that respect, anxiety is more common than depression or other behavioral health challenges and mood disorders.

Isn’t it normal to be worried from time to time?

Absolutely. Every person feels nervous or anxious from time to time. If those feelings disappear fast, then there is nothing to worry about for most. However, when feelings of anxiety and fear become almost permanent and debilitating, it is time to consider professional help.  

How can anxiety in seniors be treated?

Anxiety counseling is one of the most effective courses of treatment of anxiety in older people. This type of talk therapy can be delivered remotely or in person. Seniors can choose to travel to their counselor’s practice if they are mobile. For those struggling with mobility, in-home counseling is a great option. Leading assisted living facilities also offer behavioral health counseling services that can address anxiety. 

Where can I find senior-specific counseling services?

Platforms like TrueCare™ make it easy and convenient for seniors, their families, and their carers to access counselors nationwide. Finding the right specialist becomes easy and convenient. There are no wait lists or other delays. Counseling and care are simply available as and when seniors need them. 

About TrueCare™

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.

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