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What is Anxiety Disorder
By
Lakshmi Jaisimha

 

So, what is anxiety? Well, anxiety is our body’s natural reaction to stress. It is what you might have experienced the day you went for a stage performance for the first time when you were young. 


An example in elders’ lives can be the time they meet the colleagues or bosses of their children. The problem can be that elders really want to make a great impression, but know that the generation gap and their age can become a hindrance. 


So, the answer to one of the first questions on this topic - what is the meaning of anxiety is that it’s a feeling of fear and nervousness. 


What Is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is just anxiety at a more severe level. It is not limited to feelings. Rather, we use that term to define physical symptoms like too high blood pressure, nausea, restlessness, and sleep problems.


At a mental level, you will have difficulty concentrating on the work at hand and may have uncontrollable negative feelings if you have anxiety disorder.


While a normal feeling of anxiety is occasional, an anxiety disorder is severe and stays with you for long. So, it makes it difficult to do even the smallest of tasks like climbing down the stairs. In such a case, an elderly’s mind may just be filled with negative thoughts of falling down the stairs.


Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders in the elderly include panic, shakiness, headaches, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and digestion issues. 


Along with these, breathing difficulties, lightheadedness, chest pain, substance abuse, fatigue, muscle soreness, issues with the vision, confusion, nightmares, irritation, negative thoughts of all kinds, irrational/ illogical thoughts, and increase in forgetfulness can be some symptoms too.


You might find elders avoiding certain activities in the home, some places or people as well. These can be the triggers of their anxiety disorder. 


Weight gain or weight loss, changes in their eating habits, sleeping pattern, isolating behaviour, not willing to talk to anybody attitude, and obsessive and compulsive thoughts, are some signs of anxiety disorder too.


What Causes Anxiety?

Wondering why anxiety happens? Well, there are no straightforward answers to this question. The causes of anxiety can be many and complicated.


Anything from finances to health issues can trigger an elder’s anxiety problem.


Possible causes of anxiety disorder:

1. Genetics: 

If any person in the family ever had an anxiety disorder, it is more likely to be in a person. And it may increase as age advances.

 

2. Environmental factors: 

Problems with the spouse, children, problems at work (if the elder is not retired yet), or issues in the neighbourhood where the elder lives can raise the chances of having an anxiety disorder. 


Sometimes elders who face a transition from being a job goer to staying at home or from staying at home to going to an assisted living set up may face such problems.


3. Medical reasons: 

An elder may have some diseases. The medications, the surgeries, the ever growing changes in their diet and way of living due to these diseases may be another cause of their anxiety.


Apart from these, certain things like grief and loss of a loved one, end of life planning, dependence on others, being bedridden, chronic pain, isolation, lack of people to talk to, role reversal and financial issues are what causes anxiety attacks.
    

How to Reduce Anxiety Naturally? 

So, how to deal with anxiety? Thankfully anxiety can be cured and there are quite many effective ways to do that. And natural ones are the most preferred.


Meditation, working out, Pranayam like Kapalbhati and Anulom Vilom, sleeping properly and having a great well balanced healthy diet are some of the superb natural methods. 


As soon as you know that an elder has an anxiety disorder and is a smoker or drinker, make sure to encourage him to quit smoking and alcohol, as these can make things pretty worse.


One of the best natural methods for anxiety treatment is the use of essential oils. You can diffuse them near the elder. Inhaling the goodness through their aroma can not only bring calm and peace to the elder but will also help them get rid of many diseases.


How to use lavender oil for anxiety?

Lavender oil is just like any other oil, you can use it simply by diffusing it. Otherwise, you could add a few drops of lavender oil to hot boiling water and inhale the steam. You could also add a few drops to your head massage oil or just put a few drops on a tissue paper and inhale.


How to Overcome Anxiety - the Other Ways.

Medication: Tricyclics, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and buspirone can be helpful. Make sure not to take them or give them to an elder without a consultation by an expert doctor.


Counselling: During counselling experts perform cognitive behavioural therapy on the elder. This is a type of psychotherapy that helps to recognise and change the negative thought patterns in the brain. It helps elders confront their fears and reduce the effect of triggers on them.


Self-treatment techniques: The self-treatment certainly includes all the natural methods we talked about before. Apart from that, you could encourage an elder to write down their fears and affirm positive thoughts in exchange for them. 


A supportive network of people can also help by listening to what the elder might have to say and being there with them during anxiety attacks.


What Are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?


Phobia: 

A phobia is an excessive fear (mostly irrational) of specific events, things, and situations. It may be due to a certain trigger. For example, some old people have a phobia from taking a bath because they feel they will fall down in the bathroom.


Social anxiety disorder: 

This anxiety disorder defines the fear of being negatively judged by people. This one especially affects the elderly because, at their age, they are trying to stay connected with positive people.


You see, they are old and maybe losing their close friends and family to advancing age. So, they want to make sure that the people who are there for them do not judge them negatively.


Panic disorder: 

This disorder defines sudden and intense attacks recurring at unexpected timings. These attacks can lead to nausea, confusion, dizziness, breathing difficulties and trembling hands.
    

Reasons like planning for the future, medical responsibilities, financial insecurity etc. may trigger the panic disorder.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder: 

It is one in which irrational thoughts make the elder do certain things or have things their way, compulsively. It’s obsessive behaviour. For example, the elder might recheck if the doorknobs are closed every night multiple times before sleeping.


Illness anxiety disorder: 

A form of anxiety that occurs due to a trigger which is a health problem. For example, a disease like Dementia can cause anxiety in an elder by bringing up thoughts like they will forget the way to their home or might forget their children and family forever.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 

This disorder, as the name suggests, happens after some traumatic event in the life of the elder. For example, the elder might have lost an old spouse or friend and might be grieving over that loss. 

 

Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q 1. Can anxiety cause fever?

Ans. Yes. The fever you get due to emotional factors like stress and anxiety is called psychogenic fever.

 

Q 2. Does anxiety cause gas?

Ans. Yes, because our brain and our gut have a strong connection. You may experience bloating and gas issues due to anxiety. Also, even if they are not due to anxiety, gas issues may increase the likelihood of having an anxiety disorder.

 

Q 3. How to stop heart palpitations due to anxiety

Ans. Drink more water, do some yoga, breathe deeply, have a session of meditation, and avoid stimulants like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.

 

Q 4: What does an anxiety attack feel like?

Ans. An anxiety attack feels like you are going to faint. You might feel difficulty in breathing. Chest pain, a racing heart and palpitations are common to feel too.

 

Q 5: Can anxiety cause a heart attack?

Ans. No, stress and anxiety cannot directly cause heart attacks. But, they do contribute to the development of heart diseases like coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

 

Q 6: Can anxiety cause chest pain?

Ans. Yes, this happens due to fast breathing, because anxiety makes it difficult to breathe.

 

Q 7: An anxiety cause cognitive problems?

Ans. Yes, a study done in 2017 proves that cognitive problems are three times more likely to happen in patients who have anxiety.

 

Q 8: Can anxiety cause numbness in fingers?

Ans. Yes, That is because while having an anxiety attack, there is a blood rush to the crucial parts of the body. Fingers not being the most important part, do not get enough blood and thus, get numb.

 

Q 9: Can anxiety cause pins and needles?

Ans. Yes, anxiety causes muscle tightening which leads to pins and needles (paresthesias).

 

Q 10: . Can anxiety increase heart rate?

Ans. Yes, this is due to the blood rush to more essential parts of the body and deepened breathing.

 

Q 11: Can anxiety lead to psychosis?

Ans. Yes, severe anxiety can lead to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

 

Q 12: Can anxiety run in the family?

Ans. Yes, it can.

 

Q 13: Can chills be a symptom of anxiety?

Ans. Yes, they are.

 

Q 14: Can depression and anxiety cause health problems?

Ans. They certainly can.

 

Q 15: Can exercise cause anxiety?

Ans. Excessive exercise can cause anxiety.

 

Q 16: Can fish oil cause anxiety?

Ans. Not if consumed in limited amounts. But high consumption of Fish oil can encourage anxiety.

 

Q 17: Can lack of sleep cause anxiety?

Ans. Not directly, but it can promote anxiety.

 


Summing Up

Those were the basics about anxiety in elders that you must know. We have also answered the frequently asked questions in short for your knowledge.


Remember anxiety is an emotional stress response. Do not take it lightly as it leads to certain physical diseases that are way too hard to handle.


But anxiety is not that hard to deal with. You can opt for a simple exercise like meditation or talk to supportive people.


At Emoha, we help elders with this particular thing through MOH TV. It's a place where elders connect with each other and doctors to perform various fun activities, talk cool stuff like Bollywood and also discuss how to stay peaceful and healthy at all times.


If the anxiety issue is severe for your elder, you may want one of our carers to use their empathetic nature and be with your elder to take care of them and their anxiety.


You can know more about it by calling our toll free number 1800-123-44-5555, today!
 

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