WebMD reports that between 10 and 20 percent of Baby Boomers and Seniors suffer from anxiety. The APA describes anxiety as muscle tension and the avoidance of future events based on fear. By learning to identify anxiety triggers and symptoms, baby boomers can better cope with this mental health problem for a more satisfying life.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
While no one escapes occasional bouts of anxiety associated with the stress that life brings, that uneasiness in the pit of your stomach usually subsides quickly without any major impact on your ability to function. Unfortunately, some seniors find themselves overwhelmed by these feelings making it difficult to cope with basic demands. MedlinePlus defines anxiety disorders as conditions associated with ongoing anxiety that worsens over time and does not go away, effectively crippling a senior’s ability to function.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Worrying about ordinary challenges such as family, health, work and finances excessively qualify as a GAD. Baby boomers that obsess over these common life worries on a daily basis for a minimum of six months are suffering from GAD.
Phobias are defined as having an intense and unreasonable fear of something that poses minimal real danger or risk. Some of the more common phobias relate to flying, spiders, socializing or crowded spaces.
Mayo Clinic defines a panic attack as a sudden period of intense fear with no apparent cause. These panic attacks rarely have any obvious cause and are debilitating for a few minutes. People that suffer from this type of event often say they feel like they are having a heart attack or dying. This type of loss of control is extremely frightening.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The signs of anxiety are easy to identify. Below is a list of the most common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and depression.
- Trouble sleeping
- Avoiding perceived triggers of anxiety
- Feeling nervous
- Experiencing a sense of impending danger or doom
- Feeling an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly
- Feeling overly tired or weak
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Obsession with possible problems
Causes of Anxiety Disorders in Baby Boomers
While anxiety is experienced by people of all ages, boomers are likely to suffer from anxiety disorders due to stressors linked to getting older.
Below are some causes of anxiety disorders linked to seniors as well as suggested treatments for anxiety disorders.
1. Dependence on Others
After a lifetime of taking charge of your life and making independent decisions, it can be difficult to adjust to turning over control to your children, medical professionals, and other people put in charge of managing your life.
2. Financial worries
As sweet as retirement is to most people, in theory, at least, this rite of passage brings its fair share of financial handicaps. Living on a fixed income is challenging after decades of counting on a paycheck and seeking advancement opportunities to earn more money.
The anxiety associated with the possibility of outliving your nest egg is understandable and common. When you add in the increased probability of rising medical expenses into the equation, it becomes almost inconceivable that seniors aren’t stressed by financial woes.
Since it is impossible for baby boomers to control the state of the economy, inflationary times prove especially worrisome. Even when the stock market declines temporarily, this type of event causes anxiety for retirees with their nest egg at risk.
3. Fear of falling or having a medical emergency
Anyone who has experienced a medical emergency remembers vividly the fear and anxiety associated with the event. Considering how often we are bombarded with these types of memories or images in everyday life, it is not surprising that boomers worry about their next frightening emergency that can happen out of the blue when least expected.
Breaking a hip or leg when you’re older can accelerate or worsen other health challenges. Triggers that can often force people to relive their worst fears are TV shows, family and friends’ medical emergencies and the sound of a siren blasting down the street.
Few people will live a life that is not touched by loneliness at some point. Boomers are losing friends and spouses on a regular basis as they get older. This type of heartbreak is exacerbated by the future loneliness and resulting anxiety resulting from these important people exiting their life.
Additionally, seniors are less likely to be working, surrounded by coworkers that often provide much needed social interaction. Granted, many extroverts face these types of challenges by reinventing themselves after retirement. They start a new business or jump into social groups without hesitation. But, seniors with limited financial resources that are less extroverted find starting life all over again at 60, 70, or 80 quite daunting.
5. Underlying medical conditions
Mayo Clinic reports that anxiety disorders may be among the first indicators of a health issue. The medical problems often associated with increased or unexplained anxiety are diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, tumors, thyroid conditions, and side effects from prescription drugs.
Coping with and Treating Anxiety Disorders
1. The APA recommends self-help strategies such as support groups, meditation and avoiding caffeine.
2. Consult with a therapist and physician to diagnose the problem and identify treatments.
3. Identify possible anxiety triggers.
4. Consider anti-anxiety medications as a way to address the worst symptoms.
5. Practice healthy living with a balanced diet and adequate sleep.
6. Strengthen your support group and reach out to others on a regular basis.
While some anxiety in life is inevitable, seniors don’t have to suffer with severe anxiety disorders. Get help as needed. Consult a trusted medical professional as soon as possible. There is no reason to suffer when there are solutions available.