According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “depressive disorders are an under-recognized condition and often are untreated or under-treated among older adults.” Because depressive disorders are not diagnosed in older adults, many seniors can suffer from anxiety and depression without their families or physicians being aware of the issue at all.
Anxiety can be dangerous because it is the source for a wide array of other health issues that stem from depressive disorders. The CDC goes on to say that “adequate social and emotional support is associated with reduced risk of mental illness, physical illness, and mortality.” With the right amount of support and understanding, it’s possible to prevent severe illnesses that your loved one may face.
It is essential when providing emotional support to seniors to understand:
- How to spot anxiety disorders
- What your loved one is experiencing
- How to help someone facing anxiety
Warning Signs of Anxiety
Because family and physicians often overlook anxiety, it can be difficult to determine whether your family member is facing a depressive disorder or not. Although it's not easily identifiable, there are some established signs of anxiety in seniors that you can look for to spot the disease sooner rather than later. Some emotional symptoms of anxiety in older adults are:
- Difficulty making decisions
- Easily startled
- Frequently nervous or tense
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Being panicked constantly
- Fear of certain situations or events
While there are many emotional signs of your loved one having anxiety, it is also common for them to experience physical symptoms as well. Anxiety is a mental disorder, but many disorders also translate into harmful, physical symptoms. Some physical signs of anxiety are:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
- Vomiting or nausea
Some of these symptoms are common with many disorders or illnesses. However, if your loved one is experiencing any one of these on a frequent basis, it may be a good idea to speak to a physician to learn more about their condition.
What is it like with Senior Anxiety?
Many people of all ages experience conflict with anxiety, but it can be a completely different experience for a senior. If your loved one is living in an assisted living community, it is more common for a professional to be monitoring them on a frequent basis, which can increase the likelihood that a condition is recognized earlier. On the other hand, if your loved one is living in an independent living community, they have more freedom to be alone. While in many cases, this can be a great thing, this can also decrease the chance that a professional would spot your loved one’s condition. This makes it essential to speak with your loved one on a frequent basis and understand their feelings and mood at all times.
So, what is it like for a senior to experience anxiety? Many people have described anxiety as a heavy, unrelenting force that weighs on them. It is common for seniors with anxiety to feel as if there is no help and their situation has no solution. Even though the majority of older adults say that they are receiving adequate support, almost 10% of them state that they are not able to gain support from friends and family.
Seniors may already present many challenges that your loved one may have not faced in life. However, battling anxiety alone can be one of the most challenging things a person can ever do. Make sure that you're always there for your family and listen to their concerns to determine their mood.
How Can I Help My Loved One?
There are a few things that you can do to help your loved one in their struggle with anxiety. Seeking professional attention is essential in diagnosing anxiety and treating the disorder. If your loved one doesn’t know they have anxiety, they can’t actively fight against it. Once diagnosed, it is much easier to overcome anxiety, as over 80% of anxiety disorders may be treatable.
Another critical technique in treating anxiety is to speak with your loved one and learn what makes them anxious. Talking about anxiety triggers can help you understand what your loved one needs. If arriving at appointments on time or remembering important events can cause anxiety, try sitting down and planning out the next few weeks to give some concrete assurance to your loved one. If meeting new people is causing stress, try speaking with a professional about small group meetings in the area to introduce your loved one to others, reducing their anxiety. Meeting others with the same anxiety problem can make them feel like they are not alone and have another person who knows what they are going through on a daily basis.
Anxiety is a complex problem in the United States and often goes undiagnosed. Help prevent this disorder in your loved one by looking for signs of distress and meeting with professionals who can offer help to you and your family.
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