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in Older Adults and Caregivers

Feeling anxious or nervous is a common emotion and a normal reaction to stress, but excessive anxiety that interferes with daily activities can lead to a variety of health problems and decreased functioning. 


Common Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Chronic, exaggerated worry about routine life events and activities

  • Panic Disorder: Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning 

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Recurrent unwanted thoughts or rituals and feeling unable to control them

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Persistent symptoms occurring after having a traumatic event

  • Phobia: An extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger 


Risk Factors

  • Chronic medical conditions

  • Overall feelings of poor health

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Alcohol, caffeine, drug, and medication use

  • Negative or difficult events in childhood

  • Extreme stress or trauma

  • Bereavement and chronic or complicated  grief

  • A family history of anxiety disorders

  • Excessive worry or preoccupation with physical health symptoms


Older Adults: Poor health, memory problems, and losses can cause an anxiety disorder, and common fears about aging can lead to anxiety. Some older adults may not seek treatment as they believe the feelings are normal, while physicians may misdiagnose them due to other medical conditions or reactions to life changes.


Caregivers: Balancing many responsibilities and coping with a loved one’s illness can feel overwhelming. Feeling a lack of control over one’s own life, having to do medical tasks you are not prepared for, and uncertainty about the future can also contribute to feeling anxious.


Common Signs of Anxiety

  • Excessive worry, fear, or nervousness

  • Being overly preoccupied with routine or safety

  • Avoiding social situations

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Racing heart, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, sweating, dizziness

  • Muscle tension, feeling weak and shaky

  • Hoarding or collecting items

  • Loss of appetite

  • Trouble concentrating and remembering

  • Fatigue, headaches, chest pain, dry mouth, and shortness of breath


Treatment Options and Recommendations

The most effective treatment is a combination of therapy and medication. Medication will not cure anxiety disorders but will keep them under control. Therapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional to discover what caused the anxiety disorder and how to address the resulting symptoms.

  • Acknowledge worries and fears 

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, over-eating, alcohol

  • Prioritize tasks

  • Exercise

  • Adopt stress management techniques, such as meditation, journaling, and deep breathing 

  • Limit news of current events

  • Allow time for treatment to work

  • Ask for help and accept it

  • Seek professional support

  • Make time for yourself, spend time with others

  • Connect with other caregivers


Crisis Resources

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