Coping with an Anxiety Disorder

Recently, we discussed several things that you need to know about anxiety in older adults, including symptoms and factors that may influence the development of an anxiety disorder.

Everyone experiences stress, which is a reaction to a threat of any kind. Likewise, everyone experiences anxiety, a normal reaction to stressful situations. However, when anxiety persists long after the stressors go away or when it interferes with daily life, it may be an anxiety disorder. Distressing on their own, lasting or severe anxiety symptoms can also dramatically impact cognitive ability, overall wellness and social functioning. Learning to cope with the symptoms can greatly improve quality of life. Consider these suggestions.

  • Visit the doctor. We recently explored the factors a doctor may consider when diagnosing anxiety, and it is crucial that these factors be explored. Physical causes and medication side effects must be ruled out before anxiety can be properly treated.
  • Consider therapy. Anxiety disorders respond extremely well to specific kinds of therapy. A qualified professional can help you or your loved one reduce and cope with symptoms.
  • Avoid temporary fixes. Many people with anxiety find that using substances, overeating, or giving in to obsessive behaviors temporarily dulls the problem. However, these remedies do not provide lasting relief and can cause damage.
  • Don’t feed it. What do you do if you want a stray cat to stay at your house? You feed it. Anxiety is like a stray cat. For example, when a person stays home from an anxiety-provoking event, it validates that anxiety, giving temporary relief but increasing it in the long run. Getting help will allow the anxious person to slowly start confronting overwhelming feelings, and in turn stop the cycle.
  • Address valid concerns. Consider that some anxiety-provoking situations are legitimate. Anxiety brought on by social situations could be related to difficulty hearing, fear of falling down on uneven pavement or even a difficult relationship. Talk about it and make a thoughtful decision about whether the situation should be dealt with, faced or avoided.
  • Limit exposure to negativity. With limited mobility or less on their schedule, many older individuals will turn on the news all day long. Some spend hours on social media in search of connection. Neither of those things are bad, but excessive exposure to bad news, negativity and arguing will increase anxiety. Talk about reasonable limits.
  • Build a healthy life. Almost every problem we explore can be improved with these steps: exercise, a healthy diet, proper rest, following the doctor’s advice, continuing to learn, calming activities (prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.) and engaging in healthy social activity. Anxiety is certainly no exception to this rule.

It is important not to underestimate the impact of anxiety on your aging loved one’s life. If you suspect that your loved one may have developed an anxiety disorder, don’t delay in getting help.

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