Elderly Anxiety Disorders

 In Adult Day Care

No one is immune to anxiety; everyone feels anxious from time to time. Sometimes, it’s actually useful, like when you’re working towards a goal or watching a thrilling movie.

But anxiety can quickly become crippling and make people unable to experience and enjoy a normal life. This could be a sign of an actual psychiatric disorder of some kind. Here are a few of these elderly anxiety disorders and some of their signs.

Acute Stress Disorder.

Acute stress disorder happens quickly. It develops within a month of exposure to a traumatic event. Someone with acute stress disorder may re-experience the traumatic event in thoughts, flashbacks, and dreams. In addition, those with acute stress disorder may actively avoid anything that could trigger memories of the traumatic event, and they may even seem more irritable or short-fused.

Reasoning with someone experiencing Acute Stress Disorder doesn’t help; you have to do your best to provide comfort to someone experiencing this.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is a chronic anxiety disorder. It’s partially genetic, meaning some people unfortunately can’t avoid having this disorder no matter what.

Those with GAD notice all the bad and none of the good. Setbacks as simple as missing a green light could blow way out of proportion and cause needless suffering to a GAD sufferer. Naturally, those with GAD tend to be stressed all the time. This stress leads to symptoms like muscle tightness, headaches, back pain. Other signs of GAD include restlessness, fatigue, and ease of being startled.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD for short) suffer from intrusive thought patterns that can only be kept at bay by engaging in irrational, ritualistic behaviors like excessive handwashing or constantly cleaning services.

For someone to be considered suffering from OCD, their obsessions and/or compulsions need to take an hour or more a day and must interfere with important aspects of life like work and socializing.

Panic attacks.

Panic attacks strike when people least expect them. Two easily identifiable symptoms include an overwhelming sense of impending doom and a sudden fear of death or loss of control. Contrary to some public belief, panic attacks aren’t just in a person’s head, though; other signs and symptoms include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, chills, hot flashes, shortness of breath, and shaking/trembling.

To help someone experiencing a panic attack, speak gently to them. Take them to a safe, quiet place and give them a place to sit and lie down. Their breathing will be rapid, so do some slow breathing exercises with them.


Phobias are irrational fears of something. Common phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders, and storms. Most people with phobias know their fears are irrational, but they can’t help being scared anyways.

Phobias can be worn down by ever-so-gradually exposing the person with the phobia to their fear. However, people may not appreciate your efforts to do so, so it’s up to the fearful person to seek out professional help.

Neither phobias nor OCD are as common in the elderly as other disorders as they tend to be diagnosed earlier in life, but don’t rule them out completely.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder last for longer than a month, then it’s reclassified as PTSD. PTSD is found in high rates among war veterans and violent crime victims, but any traumatic event can cause PTSD.

Similar to Acute Stress Disorder, you can’t do much but provide comfort to the victim.

Social Anxiety.

Crowds and strangers aren’t always fun to deal with, but they’re terrifying for those with social anxiety. In fact, social anxiety sufferers are so terrified of interaction that they may refuse to attend social gatherings at all, even when invited.

Elderly people can have it even worse, as they can feel embarrassed over elderly-specific behaviors like requiring assistance to walk or needing a hearing aid.


Once again, Main Line Adult Day Care has trained medical professionals on staff. If you or someone you know shows any of these signs, our medical staff can help determine if it’s an elderly anxiety disorder and can work with you to treat it.

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