Anxiety Issues Among Seniors

By July 28, 2014Healthy Aging

While a certain amount of anxiety is considered normal, excessive amounts can pose serious health risks, especially among seniors. High anxieties can quickly lead to an irrational sense of dread for everyday situations. These feelings sometimes morph into a disabling disorder.

Left untreated, stress and worry can lead to:

Anxiety among older adults frequently occurs alongside other illnesses such as depression, diabetes and heart disease. In a cruel twist, depression also increases a senior’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Combined with cognition difficulties and life changes, matters can get highly complicated.
Late-life anxiety is more common in females than males; both genders tend to have chronic medical disorders. For these reasons, accurately diagnosing a senior’s anxiety disorder can be tricky.

Seniors with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience persistent upsetting thoughts or obsessions. To ease the anxiety, older adults perform rituals. Let’s say a senior is obsessed with germs; he may spend hours on end cleaning with bleach or washing his hands. Even when prolonged exposure to cleaning chemicals forms hand sores, seniors with OCD continue performing the very rituals that caused the sores to develop.

To be clear, agonizing over something like germs and performing constant rituals is not pleasurable for seniors with OCD. Instead, the rituals are more like putting a band-aid on a festering wound. Older adults who suffer anxiety disorders are often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Seniors who suffer from compulsive hoarding will exhibit some clear-cut behaviors. First and foremost, they bring home excessive and unexplainable collections of items. Once they have these items in hand, seniors cannot bear the thought of throwing them away.

Compulsive hoarding is another disorder that’s associated with anxiety and OCD. With a never ending collection of items that most people would see as trash, seniors tend to ignore the fact that junk has taken over. Some hoarding seniors are perfectly willing to let the clutter build, ignoring the fact that their living spaces are rapidly declining. The home of a hoarder can quickly be identified by cramped living conditions, dilapidated homes swimming in germs, and narrow walkways carved out through the mountains of clutter.

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