Anxiety Disorders

Frequently Asked Questions

8. Is it difficult to diagnose an anxiety disorder in older adults?

Anxiety disorders can be difficult to detect and diagnose in older adults. Doctors can have difficulty distinguishing between anxiety caused by adapting to difficult life changes, and a true anxiety disorder. For example, if you fell and broke a hip, you may be justifiably fearful of going out for a while. But that would not mean you have developed an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes the physical symptoms of other illnesses can get mixed up with the symptoms of anxiety, making it difficult to determine if a person has a true anxiety disorder. For instance, a person with heart disease sometimes has chest pain, which can also be a symptom of a panic disorder.

Muscle tightness, feeling very tense all the time, and difficulty sleeping can also be symptoms of a physical illness or an anxiety disorder, or both, complicating diagnosis. As a result of these complications, doctors may miss the anxiety disorder.