| Tue, Dec 27, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

Anxiety Disorder May Be Missed in Older Adults

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

senior-woman-risk-of-anxietyAre you a worrywart? Worrying is common and natural. But it can become…well…worrisome when it gets out of hand.

Extreme worrying may signal an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety may be difficult to detect as we get older. Symptoms may be subtle and shrugged off as unimportant, or they may be misinterpreted. Some symptoms may be accepted as just a natural part of aging.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a common form of anxiety in late life. It is marked by extreme or unreasonable worry lasting six months or more that is difficult to control. Physical symptoms may be present as well, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension, headaches
  • Constipation or other gastrointestinal problems
  • Insomnia

GAD may occur in combination with depression, other medical problems, alcohol or substance abuse or disability, to name a few. In addition, medication side effects such as breathing problems, irregular heartbeat or tremors, can mimic symptoms of anxiety.

All of these factors serve to complicate diagnosis. Doctors sometimes can’t tell whether anxiety is causing the problems or the problems are causing the anxiety.

If you think you or someone you know may have an anxiety disorder, you may want to use this anxiety screening tool and share the results with your doctor.

Anxiety disorders affect 3 – 14% of older adults in a given year, according to the National Institutes of Health.1 In addition to GAD, anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobias, such as a fear of heights.

Untreated anxiety could lead to cognitive impairment, disability, poor physical health and poor quality of life.

Not to worry, though. Anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative therapies, such as meditation. In addition, Medicare now covers mental health care at the same rate as other medical services.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

1http://nihseniorhealth.gov/anxietydisorders/aboutanxietydisorders/01.html accessed 12/5/2014

Resources

About Anxiety Disorders: Get more information from the National Institutes of Health

Medicare & You: Get the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.

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