Generalized Anxiety Disorder is Common in Older Adults
While scientists aren’t entirely sure why some people are more prone to GAD than others, part of the risk is genetic, says Simon Sherry, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The condition also often coincides with other illnesses, such as depression, and women are twice as likely as men to be affected, according to Sherry.
As anxiety disorders go, GAD is one of the most common, especially in older adults. Studies suggest it affects somewhere between three and 10 per cent of people, says Julie Wetherell, a psychologist at VA San Diego Healthcare System and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego who focuses much of her research on psychological treatments for GAD in elderly patients. “GAD is more common in seniors than social-anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.”
It also manifests a little differently in people who are 55 and older. Wetherell says they tend to worry less about work and more about personal health and family issues. “Sometimes people have a lifelong history of anxiety that they’ve coped with through distraction or workaholism,” she says. “The pervasiveness of the worry becomes apparent when they’re no longer working or once they’re unable to engage in previous coping strategies.”
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