Anxiety disorders are extremely common, affecting 40 million adults throughout the U.S. People suffering from an anxiety disorder, generally, have prolonged states of anxiety that affect how they live their everyday lives. This anxiety can affect daily activities, getting in the way of a person’s career, job performance, personal relationships, and everyday tasks. Although the most common anxiety disorder among older adults is generalized anxiety disorder, there are still other types of anxiety disorders that seniors can suffer from, two of them being panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Panic disorder is characterized by the experience of spontaneous panic attacks and the continual fear of having an attack. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of a panic attack can include:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Panic attacks generally last for a few minutes. Often, people confuse the experience of a panic attack with having a heart attack or other sudden health issues, and are unaware that they are having a panic attack.

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is the feeling of anxiety in social and performance situations. Social anxiety is often misinterpreted as shyness, and therefore, is often misdiagnosed and mistreated. People suffering from the disorder usually have trouble making and maintaining social and romantic relationships and at many times feel isolated and defenseless. Symptoms can include:

  • An intense fear of being negatively viewed
  • Having a hard time talking to other people
  • Feeling self-conscious or embarrassed in front of others
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Having trouble making and maintaining friendships
  • Blushing, sweating, trembling, nausea, abdominal pain, fast heartbeat, lightheadedness and/or headaches

Social anxiety most commonly begins in adolescence, around the age of 13, and can affect a person for years. Around 15 million Americans currently suffer from social anxiety disorder, and 36 percent reported waiting over 10 years before seeking professional help.  

If you do suffer from any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor or a medical professional. For more information about anxiety, visit the links below:  

www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml 

www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/older-adults