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Anxiety - What it is

​Anxiety is common especially in the elderly population. It can be characterized by the feelings of tension and worry thoughts. Although anxiety is a normal process in life, it can be a disorder when it becomes excessive, persistent, causing significant personal distress and affects a person’s daily function. Anxiety disorder is a common condition but unfortunately, under-recognized. It is vital to identify early and treat as untreated anxiety increases morbidity and mortality. Individuals with anxiety disorder are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and depression.

The estimated prevalence rates of late-life anxiety disorder ranges from 1.5% to 15%. The common types of anxiety disorders include Generalised anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Social phobia and Specific phobia.

Late-life anxiety disorders are significantly associated with comorbid major depression. The course of illness tends to be chronic with fluctuating symptom severity.

Anxiety - Symptoms

Anxiety can present in both physical and emotional symptoms. People may not be aware that physical symptoms are linked to anxiety.

1. Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
  • excessive (and irrational) worrying, even when there are no signs of trouble
  • unable to relax
  • hard time concentrating, “mind going blank”
  • feeling tense or jumpy
  • irritable or restlessness
  • problems sleeping 

2. Physical symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • fatigue 
  • trembling
  • racing heart
  • sweating
  • numbness/tingling sensation
  • muscle tension
  • lightheadedness
  • shortness of breath
  • gastrointestinal discomfort (eg: diarrhea, nausea, heartburn)

Anxiety - How to prevent?

  1. ​Eating well-balanced diet. Consider including multivitamin supplements.
  2. Limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, teas or sodas
  3. Getting adequate rest/sleep.
  4. Trim a hectic schedule to its most essential items, try to limit activities that you don’t find relaxing.
  5. Keep track of events or things that make you more anxious or less anxious. 
  6. Take time out for yourself everyday. Even a 20 minutes of relaxation can decrease your anxiety level. 
  7. Healthy and active lifestyle. Exercise regularly.

Anxiety - Causes and Risk Factors

The risk factor of late-life anxiety is a complex combination of both biological and environmental factors.

1. Biological risk factors
  • Female gender has twice as often risk compared to men. 
  • Family history of mental illness (anxiety/mood disorders) predisposes one to develop anxiety/mood disorders.
  • People with chronic physical illnesses have a greater risk of developing anxiety disorder.
For example, excessive fear of falling leads to an individual's avoiding activities that she or he remains capable of performing.

2. Environmental risk factors
Loneliness or lack of social support is one the main environmental factors. Low socioeconomic status or recent stressful life events such as lose of love ones and having to care for sick family member can also increase the risk one to develop anxiety. In the current climate Covid pandemic predisposes one to mental illnesses. 

Anxiety - Diagnosis

Anxiety - Treatments

​Two main form of treatments for anxiety disorders are medication and talking therapy. Should you have any concerns, you can consult your doctor.

Anxiety - Preparing for surgery

Anxiety - Post-surgery care

Anxiety - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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