Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults

Anxiety disorders were previously believed to be less prevalent among older adults. Newer findings, however, suggest that anxiety is just as common across age groups.

One factor that may have contributed to this misconception is the tendency for older individuals to report their physical symptoms. There also is significant overlap among symptoms of medical conditions and anxiety disorders, making it especially challenging for both providers and individuals to recognize and separate out anxiety symptoms. For example, symptoms of lightheadedness, muscle pain, concentration problems and increased heart rate can be symptoms of anxiety, medical conditions, as well as side effects of prescription medications.

The clinical picture becomes even further complicated when the individual experiences anxiety secondary to or in response to a general medical condition or declining cognitive and physical functioning.

Whether this is a new experience or a longstanding one, it’s important to be aware of the signs of anxiety and to seek assistance.

The following questions have been suggested to help identify signs of anxiety:

  • Are there triggers for the feelings of anxiety?

  • Are excessive concerns present most days?

  • Is it difficult to put things out of your mind?

  • When physical symptoms begin, what are you doing or thinking about?

  • Are there fears about physical symptoms or falling that interfere with your activities and quality of life?

References and Helpful Resources to Learn More:

Older Adults | Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

Cassidy, K., & Rector, N. (2008). The Silent Geriatric Giant: Anxiety Disorders in Late Life. Geriatrics and Aging, 11, 150-156.

Rabins, P. V., & Lauber L. (2006). Getting Old Without Getting Anxious. Avery Publishers.

Madison Whiteneck