The Link Between Anxiety and Age: Does Anxiety Increase With Age?

When we think of anxiety, we often imagine it as something felt primarily by teenagers. After all, isn’t the teenage mind irrational and prone to overreactions? Does anxiety increase with age? It seems so, anxiety is not a disease reserved for teens alone.

Adults of all age groups experience anxiety from time to time. And these individuals aren’t necessarily weak-minded or less courageous than their younger counterparts. The reason that so many people develop an anxiety disorder in later life has nothing to do with how they feel about things but rather how they feel about themselves.

If you are reading this article because someone you love is struggling with anxiety, know that you’re not alone. In fact, according to research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately one-third of adults are affected by an anxiety disorder during any given year. So why is there such a prevalence in older adults?

Does anxiety increase with age?

Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. The peak ages for anxiety are typically between the ages of 5-7 years old and adolescence but are currently most common in middle-aged adults.

This is a time when children are learning to navigate the world on their own, navigating their way through the challenges of school and developing relationships with friends. Anxiety during these early years may go unnoticed and/or be misdiagnosed if a parent or teacher is unaware of the symptoms.

It is important to note that adults are more likely to seek care when they have an anxiety disorder as compared to children and adolescents since their conditions are ignored. Young boys are asked to man up! While young girls are shown how fears are common place in life.

Without treatment, anxiety can continue progressing in most individuals. You will find many older people with anxiety emanating from physical changes, emotional changes, and also behavioral changes.

Does anxiety increase with age? it is common in adults in most instances

Age-Related Changes That Increase Anxiety Risk

Anxiety is often the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Some of these factors are age-related and can increase anxiety risk.

  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders are more likely to run in families and are considered heritable. If a loved one struggles with anxiety, you may be at higher risk of developing the same or similar disorder.
  • Physical Health: As we age, our bodies naturally become less resilient and more prone to illness. This can cause anxiety and exacerbate symptoms for individuals dealing with an anxiety disorder.
  • Social Roles: As we age, societal roles can change drastically. Perhaps your child will go to college, making you an “empty nester”. Or perhaps you have been a stay-at-home parent for years, and your child is now entering the job force. These big changes can often result in feelings of anxiety.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Sleep is essential for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. However, sleeping disorders become increasingly common as we age. Insomnia, excessive sleep and even obstructive sleep apnea are extremely common in seniors. These sleep disturbances can contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Depression and Anxiety Are Related

A majority of people who experience one are likely to experience the other. Between 25% and 50% of people dealing with anxiety will also be depressed. This is called comorbidity, meaning two disorders occur at the same time.

Often treating one disorder will not cure the other. The best way to treat both disorders is to work with a healthcare professional who can help you find the best treatment for your unique situation.

Causes of anxiety in older adults

There are several causes of anxiety in older adults. Some of the common causes include:

  • Stressful life events (e.g., death of a loved one)
  • Loss of independence (e.g., physical disability, cognitive decline)
  • Financial insecurity
  • Sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia)
  • Chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, obesity, cancer)

Some older people may experience one or several of these causes. This causes older people to sink deeper into anxiety and depression.

Anxiety in your 60s:

Anxiety in the 60s is quite common in males and females. At that time the brain has started losing some of its strength and the people at this age category have severals fears. Some of the common fears that can spark anxiety in people in the 60s include:

  • Older adults are at risk of experiencing feelings of anxiety due to different life events.
  • These individuals may fear losing their independence, becoming physically disabled, or losing a spouse.
  • They may experience sleep disturbances and struggle with chronic health conditions.
  • They may also fear losing all their wealth due to different reasons
  • Some fear how their children even though old will pan out without them in their lives
  • Some have fears that death may be near
  • Past exposure to trauma and suffering

All these causes and others may cause the start of an anxiety disorder. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor incase you start getting fears that do not go away even with reassurance.

What is one of the behavioral symptoms of anxiety in older adults?

There are several behavioral symptoms that an older adult with anxiety will display. These symptoms are what the doctor uses to carry out a diagnosis of anxiety disorders. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • This can include irrational and excessive worry or fear.
  • People often check and recheck for safety.
  • They may avoid routine activities, such as grocery shopping or visiting the doctor, out of fear of embarrassment.
  • They may avoid social situations, such as attending birthday parties or visiting restaurants, because of a fear of embarrassment.
  • They may also have a racing heart, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, and sweating.

Best anti-anxiety medication for elderly

There are several medications that can be used to treat anxiety in the elderly. However, doctors recommend either having non-medication treatment or combining medications and other anxiety treatment methods.

To manage anxiety, a doctor may prescribe escitalopram, duloxetine, buspirone, venlafaxine, or sertraline for the elderly. It is important to consult your doctor first before taking the medication so that the doctor can check if it is the right course of treatment for you.

Moreover, these medications can have negative side effects, and each person responds differently to treatment. Some people have no side effects while others experience negative effects while taking the medication. This means you need to get a doctor’s guidance on the dosage, medicine type/ regime, management of side effects, and also tracking the improvements.

Natural remedies for anxiety in elderly

As discussed above, before going for medications, you can try natural remedies for anxiety in the elderly. This enables your body to fight the condition without changing the brain chemistry. Some of the best ways that the elderly can employ to manage anxiety include:

  • Taking chamomile tea – Chamomile is well known as a relaxing component that should be embraced by old people in managing anxiety disorders.
  • Getting enough sunlight – The sun is a cure for several diseases. Just by getting exposed to the sunlight, you may have no anxiety symptoms even if you are an older person.
  • Exercise – With age, strenuous exercises become hard to do. Therefore, you can go for lighter exercise types such as walking, jogging, and also light aerobics among others.
  • Meeting people – Meeting with people especially the ones you know can play a major part in minimizing the chances of getting an anxiety disorder.
  • Eating the Right Food – Eating the right food enables the body to heal and rejuvenate faster. Therefore, it is important to take the right food in the right amount to minimize anxiety disorder symptoms.

Does anxiety get worse with age?

The good news is that anxiety disorders don’t necessarily get worse with age. Moreover, older individuals are more likely to seek help, they are also more likely to receive treatment. Anxiety disorders, unfortunately, are very common in older adults.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 25% of older adults (aged 55 and over) experience an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, such as general anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affect more than 18 million Americans each year.

Unfortunately, too many people suffer in silence because they don’t know where to turn for help. The prevalence of anxiety increases with age with the peak being among adolescents. However, as you grow older chances of developing an anxiety disorder increase with more cases being reported in young adults age.

There are many elderly people who report having anxiety. This is because of several fears associated with life coming closer to an end. With age comes several diseases including chronic diseases that can cause anxiety. People fear getting diseases or losing someone close. Moreover, people with chronic diseases are scared of the prognosis.

Conclusion

Anxiety affects millions of people each year, regardless of age. For many, treatment is available and can help you live a better, more fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Research has shown that older adults are also as much likely as younger people to develop anxiety. Previously, it was thought that anxiety disorders declined with age but current studies have shown that the disorders do not but most people are able to adapt and cope.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of anxiety is the first step to getting help. Age-related anxiety is often caused by changes in the brain that lead to negative thinking patterns.

Anxiety can be treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. For best results, treatment should be started as soon as possible. While anxiety will never completely disappear, it can be controlled and managed with the right treatment plan and support network.

Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/8452-anxiety-increase-age.html

https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/what-to-know-about-anxiety-in-older-adults

Dr. David Barlow

David is a well-known researcher and author in the anxiety disorders area with extensive research on their etiology, nature, and treatment. He started the site to share his real-life experiences on the management of anxiety disorders with successful diagnosis and treatment being his motivation to write or review the content on this site.