Anxiety caused by stressful events like moving or losing a job is a normal part of life. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are characterized by persistent, excessive and disabling fear and worry and get progressively worse if left untreated. It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect between 3 and 14 percent of older adults in a given year. To provide an older audience with additional information, NIHSeniorHealth, the health and wellness website for older adults from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has added a topic about anxiety disorders (http://nihseniorhealth.gov/anxietydisorders/toc.html).

Visitors to the website can learn about the risk factors, symptoms and treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and specific phobias such as fear of flying or fear of public speaking. Anxiety disorders can severely affect a person’s life, and they are often overlooked in older adults.

"Conditions that commonly occur with age, such as depression, heart disease and diabetes, may have symptoms that mimic or mask anxiety symptoms, making diagnosis in older adults difficult," says Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  "Often, these health conditions will need to be addressed before a person will respond to treatment for an anxiety disorder."

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between common anxiety caused by adapting to difficult life changes — such as fear of falling after a hip replacement—and an actual anxiety disorder. The new topic on NIHSeniorHealth is a good way for older adults to learn more about the way these disorders can affect them.

Information about anxiety disorders is the latest addition to the roster of health topics offered on NIHSeniorHealth (www.nihseniorhealth.gov). A joint effort of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the website features research-based, easily accessible information on a range of health issues of interest to older people. To improve access for older adults, NIHSeniorHealth includes short, easy-to-read segments of information in a number of formats, including various large-print type sizes, open-captioned videos and an audio version.

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Thanks for pointing out those resources. Anxiety, whether the "common" variety or the "real" kind, can be highly distressing and disabling, and help needs to be available for those who suffer form it. And in the last few years, a lot of additional sources of anxiety have cropped up, from worries about hip replacement recalls to economic challenges with possibly losing ones home can trigger very understandable anxiety. In fact, some of those could also result in ptsd. Thhanks!

Very interesting article. I've read that many physicians once believed that anxiety disorders did not develop in older adults. They believed that it was a problem confined to younger people. Not until recently researchers are beginning to understand how anxiety affects older people. More research is now being conducted.

I'm really glad to see this getting some attention. Many of my subscribers (to my anxiety newsletter) are in this age group, and frankly they get overlooked. Many of them have told me in emails that they are often dismissed when they talk about this to people, which is something that generally doesn't happen with younger people with anxiety disorders (in my experience, anyway).

Hi I have been reading several of your articles and I thought I will leave a Short Reply: Thanks =)

Depression or prolonged sadness is actually quite common in the United States, around 9.5 percent of the American population actually suffer from this illness, however, not all of them get to be treated, thus, depression and its ill-effects continue to be a burden to some individuals. This illness may seem quite simple to treat but in reality, it takes more than a little cheering up to actually cure depression. Constant visits to a cognitive behavior therapist is a must as well as taking all the prescribed medicines that the doctor will ask the patient to take – none of these exactly come cheap, but the amount of suffering that a person is going through because of depression is enough reason already for others to start taking notice and face depression head on.

The latest statistics teaches us that every 7-th person in the us is suffering from anxiety disorder at some level so this problem is relevant to much more then older adults! it is an important knowledge to anyone and the NIH is a great source for such information.

It such a true statement when you say "It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between common anxiety caused by adapting to difficult life changes — such as fear of falling after a hip replacement—and an actual anxiety disorder." Knowing how to distinguish the symptoms of the kind of anxiety you have is the first move towards treatment

It's great to finally see a website that acknowledges anxiety does not discriminate between young and old. I personally feel anxiety conditions are worse in our elderly community members as it truly does isolate them to there homes. I'm truly grateful to know that there is help out there for our elderly as I think society tends to forget about them on a daily bases. Keep up the good work Kind Regards

As an older adult I can vouch (does anyone still use this word?) for the reality of anxiety. One of the chief areas in which this is precipitated is concern for being left alone and uncared for (actually, physically without care). This is amplified by the waning ability, such as to drive and the realization that being housebound is a real impending possibility. And all this before worries concerning death even land on the scale. My own experience suggests that there is a growing lack of concern fro older adults, especially in an economic climate in which many are 100% focused on their own survival. EDITOR'S NOTE: Armand, how true this is. We don't seem to have as many family members living in the same cities and have those large houses where grandma and grandpa can come live-in when they get older. In my case, it was our parents who chose to move away from our home city at age 50. No one thought what would happen as they became 80 and they are not really interested in moving back---even if there is room in one's house for them. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

My own father-in-law had a very difficult time having his anxiety and depression acknowledged. We had to advocate strongly on his behalf. Far too often these issues are viewed as a natural consequence of againg when there is no evidence to support this and every indication that improvements can be made with appropriate treatments.

I am reaching the age of retirement and my wife and I have recently moved into an adult lifestyle community that consists mainly of people who have retired. What we have found is how healthy and alive these people are and the majority of the credit can go to the interaction and support they have with each other. This situation, which I would recommend 1000%, may not be the best help for GAD but it certainly brings down the level of anxiety dramatically

Excellent post and wonderful resource. I would be interested to research whether or not thee is a consistent pattern from which anxiety and stress progress from being common and cross over to being a disorder. I have known many women in my life who seem to like to "hold in" all the stress factors they encounter. While it is not a good idea to do so, as this may lead to any number of other health risk factors, especially in aging or elderly women, it might be helpful to know early warning signs beforehand.

I believe that it is pretty common for older adults to form anxiety issues. They have alot of worries, and things to deal with. I believe that they should be acknowledged in the same manner as someone who may be in their 30's with anxiety and depression issues.

I think everyone has experienced anxiety from time to time in life. And I do not think we need to put some age bracket thing into the mix. As humans we all have fears or worries that crop up into our lives from time to time. Perhaps it is easier for an older adult to maybe deal with anxiety a little better than a younger person simply because an older adult has had more life experience with life to help them get through anxiety problems. In todays world, with people losing jobs and homes it certainly can cause some anxiety for just about anyone going through these tuff times in life. One thing I do know is this. Anxiety is real and it has no age barriers to entry.

It is sad that anxiety is so high in wealthy countries yet appears lower in less well off countries. Perhaps this shows some underlying issues but I agree with Abraha that calming the mind helps, what ever the cause

i completely agree with larry, everyone encounters anxiety in their life in some form or other, regardless of age. the best thing to run away from anxiety is to rather embrace it. the more you to run away from it, the more it will follow you, be it in any age. but it is good to see older people getting attention of late. nobody wants to care for the aging souls.

I have my own anxiety problems as well, not being able to sleep or concentrate is difficult. It seems like our society dismisses anxiety quickly whereas depression is looked at more seriously. I am not putting down depression as I know it is a serious mental health problem, but anxiety can really mess with your ADD, sleep, job performance and relationships.

I for example cannot fly. I get completely washed over with fear and anxiety when flying. I just cannot do it. I will say I am trying to learn as much as I can about these kinds of anxieties. My daughter is getting married on March 18th and I am so stressed already let alone having to fly to Boston for the wedding. I have been reading as much as possible but am thinking I will drive. Thanks. Paula

These are, actually, all common things that we forget doing. If we try to live in a more relaxed manner, things will usually fall into place. Life should be lived comfortably. You need to remember that and fid time to enjoy life.

I think this mental illness is very common nowadays because this is not only happening to adults but also to our youngsters.

Fear, doubt, anxiety results in most uncomfortable life, build up tension and most generally causes disease in our body. The most known and cheapest way to remedy it is by accepting the situation and moving forward to improving the motivation side. Calm the mind, habitually practicing thing like yoga or other mental calming exercise. Understand more on the purpose of life or at least the purpose for each thing that happen or do.

It is a debilitating illness. I for example cannot fly. I get completely washed over with fear and anxiety when flying. I just cannot do it. I will say I am trying to learn as much as I can about these kinds of anxieties. My daughter is getting married on March 18th and I am so stressed already let alone having to fly to Boston for the wedding. I have been reading as much as possible but am thinking I will drive. Thanks. Paula

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