Feeling anxious or nervous is a common emotion and can help us handle problems and strange situations, and even avoid danger. It is normal to feel anxious about illnesses, new social interactions and frightening events. But, when one feels anxious often and the anxiety is overwhelming and affects daily tasks, social life and relationships - it may be an illness.
Anxiety is one of the most common feelings in America today. More than 30 million people in America experience some form of anxiety each year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop anxious or stressful feelings. Anxiety is a common illness among older adults, affecting as many as 10-20% of the older population.
Older adults with anxiety disorders often go untreated for a number of reasons. Older adults often do not recognize or acknowledge their symptoms. When they do, they may be reluctant to discuss their feelings with their physicians. Some older adults may not seek treatment because they have suffered symptoms of anxiety for most of their lives and believe the feelings are normal. Both patients and physicians may miss a diagnosis of anxiety because of other medical conditions and prescription drug use, or particular situations that the patient is coping with. For example, the anxiety suffered by a recently widowed patient may be more than normal grieving. Complicated or chronic grief is often accompanied by persistent anxiety and grieving spouses may avoid reminders of the deceased.
Anxiety is not fun for the millions of people who experience it. For some it can be a sense of apprehensiveness or uneasiness of mind – or worrisome thoughts and tension, sometimes panicky feelings about the ordinary stresses associated with everyday routine life events and activities. For others, it may be an undesired sense of uneasiness that may be accompanied with self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it. An anxiety sufferer may anticipate something worse even though there is little reason to expect it.
Untreated anxiety can lead to cognitive impairment, disability, poor physical health, and a poor quality of life. Anxiety costs billions of dollars in the U.S. alone in direct and indirect costs annually. One survey found that people experiencing anxiety feelings make more trips to their health care provider than the general population.
For older adults, depression often goes along with anxiety, and both can be debilitating, reducing overall health and quality of life. Anxiety is strongly linked to memory. Anxiety can interfere with memory. The single most important thing you should know about anxiety is that relief is there for you. But, you need to help yourself by taking advantage of the help that is available.
Older adults who think they may be suffering from anxiety should share their concerns with their primary care physician. A physician can help determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. If the physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is to see a mental health care professional. Both patient and provider should work as a team to make a plan to treat the anxiety disorder.
Treatment can involve medication, therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, and family or other social support.
An increase in physical exercise also appears helpful. Numerous studies have shown that lack of physical activity is a risk factor for health problems. Overall, the results show health concerns are almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people as in those who are more active.
Research has also demonstrated that if people do not get enough sleep, physical as well as psychological distress may occur. This could be fatigue, daytime sleepiness, concentration difficulty, anxiety, panicky feelings and other unwanted feelings.
A healthy diet and changing the way you eat will change the way you feel. The right foods can lower the risks for potential health problems while also promoting overall health.
There are so many things you can do about anxiety disorders to help you live a fuller, more active life.