Seniors Battling Anxiety in Silence


ST. LOUIS, Missouri. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Anxiety in seniors is a serious mental health condition that can have a significant impact on their quality of life. In fact, severe anxiety can be debilitating, and it impacts up to 20 percent of people over 65. It is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. This is because many people mistake the symptoms of anxiety in older adults as a normal part of aging. However, anxiety is a treatable condition. Better screening may be the first step to helping those in need.

Christy Hart says, “It’s hard to get older.”

It’s even harder for 69-year-old Christy Hart. She battles with anxiety and depression. seniors battling anxiety

Hart says, “You just dig yourself deeper and deeper.”

Geriatric Psychiatrist Eric Lenze says the most common form of anxiety, called generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, often goes undiagnosed.

Eric Lenze, MD, Geriatric Psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine says, “The typical person with generalized anxiety disorder spends about eight hours a day worrying. So, that’s like a full-time job spent worrying.”

It also puts seniors at higher risk for stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease, autoimmune disease, and dementia.

Doctor Lenze says there is a lack of anxiety screening in older adults.

Doctor Lenze says, “The US preventive services task force recommended screening for anxiety disorders, but not in older adults.”

A study in JAMA Psychiatry found that only one-third of seniors with anxiety receive treatment. Doctor Lenze says seniors should be screened yearly by their primary care physician.

“Are you suffering from pain? Are you depressed?” says Doctor Lenze.

Asking a few simple questions like ‘Do you have recurrent worries that are hard to control? Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you having trouble with concentration or thinking?’ could be key to helping seniors.

It worked for Christy. Medication and therapy changed her life.

Christy says, “I wanna play with the dogs. I wanna go for a walk.”

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from anxiety, it is important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. If you need to talk to someone now, call the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.



REPORT #3142

BACKGROUND: Anxiety can be experienced when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making a big decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. The distress they cause interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling. Types of anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Studies show that severe or long-lasting stress can change the way nerve cells within these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to another. Anxiety disorders run in families, as well as certain environmental factors can trigger an anxiety disorder in people who have an inherited susceptibility to developing the disorder.


ANXIETY AND THE ELDERLY: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most widespread mental health condition in older adults. Around 14 to 17 percent of those age 65 and older have a diagnosis. Older adults often worry about serious illnesses, fixed incomes after retirement, their loved ones’ wellbeing, and mobility issues or hearing challenges that make daily life harder to navigate. Few older adults with a diagnosed anxiety disorder get treated for it. A recent study pointed out that just one-third of people in this age group with generalized anxiety disorder receive any mental health care. “You should be able to continue to enjoy your life at any age,” said Sonja Rosen, MD, chief of Cedars-Sinai’s Geriatric Program. “Anxiety is common with aging, but it’s not a normal part of aging if it’s interfering with your life.”


NEW RESEARCH ON ANXIETY AND DEMENTIA: A recent study found that anxiety accelerates cognitive impairment in non-dementia elderly. It’s shown to contribute to mitochondrial energy imbalances which destructively alter axon/synapse pathways, thereby leading to late-life cognitive progression. The trial included 1,070 individuals between the ages of 55 and 90 and were divided into two groups, 260 of whom reported anxiety symptoms and 810 individuals without anxiety symptoms. All participants underwent a Functional Activities Questionnaire (FAQ), Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), ADNI Memory test (ADNI-MEM), and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive test (ADAS-cog). Follow-up visits were done for up to 168 months, during which periodic cerebrospinal fluid and blood collections were obtained for investigations. Results showed male participants were more susceptible to anxiety and exhibited more significant cognitive impairment and reduced quality of life than females; and that anxiety significantly increases the risk of mental degeneration through biological pathways that damage or suppress normal axon/synapse functioning.

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