About Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults
If you have an anxiety disorder, worry or fear becomes long-term and may get worse instead of better as time goes on. Doctors and older adults tend to view anxiety and fear as normal given the circumstances of aging. But developing an anxiety disorder late in life is not a normal part of aging.
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Studies estimate that anxiety disorders affect between 3 and 14 percent of older adults in a given year. More women than men experience anxiety disorders. They tend to be less common among older adults than younger adults.
Anxiety caused by stressful events like moving or losing a job is a normal part of life. But anxiety disorders are different. An anxiety disorder lasts a long time and can get worse if it is not treated.
Anxiety disorders commonly occur at the same time as other illnesses. In older adults, anxiety disorders often occur at the same time as depression, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems. In some cases, these other illnesses need to be treated before a person will respond to treatment for the anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several basic types of anxiety disorders. Although they share some characteristics, each is slightly different and may respond to different treatments.
Here we discuss six different anxiety disorders:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- social phobia
- panic disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- specific phobias.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
In generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a person becomes very worried about things like health, money, and family problems, even if everything is OK. A person may be very anxious about just getting through the day.
In social phobia, a person fears being judged by others or of being embarrassed. This fear can get in the way of doing everyday things such as going to work, running errands, or meeting with friends. People who have social phobia often know that they shouldn't be so afraid, but they can't control their fear.
In panic disorder, a person has sudden, unexplained attacks of terror, and often feels his or her heart pounding. During a panic attack, a person feels a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. Panic attacks can occur at any time.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after undergoing a terrifying ordeal like an accident or an act of violence. A person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, or have a loved one who was harmed, or have witnessed a harmful event.
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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feel the uncontrollable need to check things over and over, or they may have certain thoughts or perform certain routines over and over. The thoughts and rituals of OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
The repeated, upsetting thoughts of OCD are called obsessions. To try to control them, people with OCD repeat rituals or behaviors, which are called compulsions. People with OCD can't control these thoughts and rituals.
A specific phobia is an intense, extreme fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias involve closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and the sight of blood.