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Worried and Afraid | Don’t You Outgrow It?

Senior Counseling, anxiety, Pinehurst, NC

 

Worried and Afraid  |  Don’t You Outgrow It?

 

Many people never really “outgrow” the possibility of being worried or afraid, which are common feelings, after all.  They can occur when something or someone gives you a reason to be anxious or apprehensive. It can be productive in the face of danger or harm, yet, it isn’t something to dismiss, particularly when it is impeding your normal functioning and day-to-day activities. Fears, worries, or to a greater extent, panic and phobias, could be serious signs that you are suffering from anxiety.

Older adults can be at a particularly high risk for anxiety. If you have gone through a difficult loss, such as the passing away of your spouse, the struggle with chronic pain or a medical condition, or you are living on your own, it’s important to be extra vigilant. These life events can unduly pull you down fast into a state of emotional vulnerability. Similarly, being on various medications and being increasingly dependent on caregivers because of physical necessity can contribute to your excessive worries and fears.

Be wary, though, because anxiety often goes undiagnosed and untreated in many seniors. The foremost reason is ignoring symptoms, thinking they’re a usual part of the aging process. If you are showing the signs and symptoms of this condition, know that it is treatable.  Receiving professional help can be invaluable, as you gain an understanding of what anxiety is.

 

Types of Geriatric Anxiety

There are several types of anxiety that can grip you in your later years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association identifies six types of anxiety disorders. These are acute stress disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A Place for Mom describes these as:  

  • Acute Stress Disorder: Anxiety and behavioral disturbances that develop within the first month after exposure to an extreme trauma.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms of acute stress disorder that persist for more than one month.
  • Panic Attacks: A sudden, unpredictable, intense, illogical fear and dread.
  • Social Anxiety: A preoccupation with how a person is viewed by others.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A pattern of excessive worrying over everyday occurrences and events.
  • Phobias: Irrational fear of situations, such as heights, or fear of other things, such as elevators.
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD): A pattern of intrusive thoughts that assault the mind and produce extreme anxiety that can only be mitigated by an action, such as hand washing in a ritualistic way.

The cases vary from mild to severe. Mild symptoms may not significantly interfere with functioning, which could be why they are ignored. Though the case may be mild, the symptoms must not be taken lightly because the condition can become more complicated or it may co-occur with depression, other emotional conditions, and/or substance abuse.

The “Silent” Symptoms to Know and Watch Out For

Late-life anxiety is often dubbed as a “silent geriatric giant.” It is a “giant” because a significant number of older adults suffer from its gripping symptoms. According to Medicine Today, geriatric anxiety is “twice as prevalent as dementia… and four to eight times more prevalent than major depressive disorders…”  despite the statistics, many of its sufferers have “silent” symptoms that are not being readily recognized, diagnosed and treated. 

According to a study by Beekman (1998), which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, “10 percent of adults 55 to 85 years of age had elderly anxiety disorders…”  The symptoms are often missed or difficult to diagnose, though, because of other health, emotional, and medication concerns. “Somatizing” emotional issues, which is expressing them in terms of body pains can further complicate the process of recognizing the signs and symptoms.  

There can be similarity in the presentations of symptoms in various age groups. There may also be different presentations in your age group compared to younger people. According to Medicine Today, older adults may have “less intense physiological response to strong emotional states” compared to younger people. They are, however, prone to having somatic or autonomic symptoms, such as tremors, gastric discomfort, and heart palpitations.  There are also “common age-specific presentations,” namely health anxiety, fear of falling and “home boundedness.”

 

The Complications of Anxiety

Anxiety can be an incapacitating condition and older adults can be prone to its negative prognostic issues when they are suffering from other chronic medical conditions. These include increased physical impairment/disability, reduced stamina, and diminished physical activity. It may also co-occur with depression.  When combined, these can result in more reason to feel anxious.

Without diagnosis and treatment, your risk can increase, and the symptoms may take a downward turn, resulting in other issues, such as depression. A number of studies reveal that “13 to 30% of older adults who meet criteria for an anxiety disorder also meet criteria for a depressive disorder. Conversely, 25 to 50% of older adults with depression had a comorbid anxiety disorder.”

Anxiety may also increase your risk for drug and alcohol use. There is also emerging evidence that “… anxiety is associated with an increased risk for cognitive impairment and dementia.” Medicine Today also says that, “Anxiety may be a prodromal presentation of dementia.” Thus, “It is important not to view an older anxious person who is worried about cognitive impairment as just ‘being worrisome,’ and to ensure full investigation of their cognition.”

 

Freeing Yourself from Excessive Fears and Worries

Keep in mind, aging may be life changing, but can still be a satisfying, productive and meaningful time. If you feel weighed down by anxiety and the associated symptoms have impacted your functioning, it can render you in a hindered state.  As with other medical conditions, it may need to be treated by a professional.

Recognizing the symptoms is critical – the knowledge can steer you toward seeking the right help. “Self-diagnosis” should not be used as a substitute for a proper screening by a capable and licensed practitioner. To properly assess the symptoms and resolve your anxiety, a methodical process must be administered by a trained professional for your particular condition.

The diagnosis forms the basis of your treatment, and is something that can be efficiently performed by a therapist. Therapies, such as talk therapy, can work wonders. Thus, it is a wise step to seek the help of a therapist first if you have geriatric anxiety.  Therapists do not prescribe medications, rather, they make use of established processes.

 

Senior and Free from Anxiety

If you’ve had anxiety before, you may be vulnerable; and if it runs in the family, you could be genetically predisposed. Considering the combined factors, medical issues and other distressing life events, you may be at high risk.  Despite this, you do not need to suffer from excessive fears and worries because anxiety is a treatable emotional condition.

You can gain a renewed outlook and begin to realize that anxiety has nothing to do with a personal flaw.  With the proper intervention there is the opportunity to improve its co-occurring conditions and start enjoying this time in life more.  Let the help of a right-fit therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC helpCall today to schedule an appointment!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Standard, Medicare and Cash
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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374