Mental health issues are not uncommon as we age, and anxiety can be among the most common challenges to well-being we face as women over 60. Anxiety may occur in isolation or in conjunction with depression and cognitive decline, and it may be exacerbated by loneliness, social isolation, grief, and loss.
For those struggling with anxiety, recognizing it and the potential impact of our life circumstances on our mental health is the first step to get relief and enhance our quality of life. Understanding anxiety in women over 60 and how it may present differently for us, is equally essential to ensure we obtain a correct diagnosis and the most appropriate support and care.
Anxiety can significantly curtail our ability to truly embrace joy and to live life to its absolute fullest. Let’s cover some more important information about anxiety and then talk about the best ways for us to cope with anxiety, and ultimately, overcome it.
Anxiety, characterized by excessive worry and fear, is a common mental health challenge for people of all ages.
Women tend to have higher rates of most anxiety disorders than men. These may include panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Not only are these anxiety related disorders more common in women, but they also become more prevalent as we age.
It’s essential that we recognize it when we are struggling with an anxiety related disorder. After all, there’s so much living left for us to do! And we must not settle for a life compromised by anxiety.
If you feel you or someone you know or love may be struggling with anxiety, please keep reading.
Because seeking appropriate treatment and engaging in sound mental health strategies can help women over 60 overcome anxiety and improve the quality of our life, relationships, cognition, and health.
Anxiety in women over 60 may have some distinct characteristics. It’s important for us to know how it presents so that we’re tuned into what to look out for, both mentally and physically.
Because spotting it is the first key step to recovery.
In addition to typical differences in the way women experience anxiety compared to men, there are specific factors that may impact our anxiety experience as women over 60.
One key factor that impacts both the prevalence and nature of anxiety in women in our age group is hormonal changes associated with menopause and perimenopause. Fluctuations in hormone levels contribute to anxiety symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety, such as hot flushes, can be particularly bothersome for women who are also menopausal.
Aging and health issues also impact anxiety in women over 60. Chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or arthritis, can increase anxiety. Fear of developing health problems or the uncertainty surrounding existing conditions can also trigger anxious thoughts or exacerbate and intensify our tendencies to be anxious.
Financial concerns, especially for those living on a fixed income or with inadequate savings, can further exacerbate anxiety.
Life transitions may also tip the scales towards anxiety and intensify our anxiety experience. For example, when children move away, or friends relocate in retirement, loneliness and social isolation may arise. These feelings impact mental health, and these circumstances can be what drives a tendency to worry to morph into full blown anxiety.
Loss of a spouse, sibling or friends, or retirement from a long and active career can also contribute to feelings of grief and disconnectedness that may feed tendencies towards anxiety. These changes can also disrupt our daily routines and social dynamics, leading to feelings of uncertainty and loss.
As we encounter significant life events and changes such as these, it’s essential that we acknowledge the impact they may have on our mental health.
And as we do, it’s particularly important to give ourselves large doses of self-compassion and kindness to help cope with anxiety and to nurture our overall well-being, too.
Anxiety in women over 60 can manifest in various ways. Some of the symptoms are consistent with anxiety in other age groups, but some of them are especially important to look out for as a woman over 60.
Persistent and excessive worry about everyday situations, such as health, finances, or family can lead to anxiety.
Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headaches and an upset stomach. Anxiety can also escalate into panic attacks which may result in chest pain and what feels like heart palpitations.
Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early are common symptoms of anxiety in women over 60.
Anxiety can cause social isolation. Older women who experience anxiety may be especially prone to this and are likely to avoid social situations due to fear of embarrassment or being judged.
In addition to these symptoms of anxiety, older women may also experience weakness and nausea.
Note that several of the symptoms of anxiety are the same as symptoms of coronary distress. As important as it is to recognize anxiety when it strikes, it’s as or more important to not disregard potential symptoms of a cardiac event or stroke.
Err on the side of caution if you experience chest pains, nausea, shortness of breath or other symptoms of a heart attack. Call 911 (US & Canada), 112 (EU), 999 (UK), 000 (Australia), or the number specific for your country of residence!
Though anxiety is not uncommon at any age, treatment approaches are by no means one size fits all. Thankfully, there are promising approaches and strategies that can help diminish the impact of anxiety in women over 60.
Although some treatment approaches are like those for other age groups, there are a few important provisos to keep in mind.
Healthcare providers must take extra care to consider any underlying health conditions. They must also be alert to potential drug interactions with existing medications.
Establishing and maintaining social connections, participating in community activities, and seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can diminish feelings of isolation and improve overall well-being. This strategy can be especially key to overcoming anxiety for women over 60.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven effective therapy for anxiety in older adults. It can help us to change negative thought patterns and beliefs. Impacting our mindset can yield multiple benefits beyond easing anxiety.
Anti-anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help reduce anxiety symptoms. But extra care should be taken when prescribing medications in women over 60.
As with people of any age, exercise, a healthy diet, and mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation can help reduce anxiety symptoms. As a woman over 60, be sure to talk with your doctor before undertaking a fitness program, and pace yourself appropriately.
Anxiety in women over 60 is a common mental health condition that significantly impacts quality of life. As women age, health issues, life transitions, financial concerns and hormonal changes can cause excessive worry and fear. But with proper diagnosis and treatment, anxiety in women over 60 can be managed effectively – and we owe it to ourselves to make sure that happens for each of us!
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety symptoms, follow the advice above and speak to a healthcare provider or mental health professional to get professional help.
Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and treatment can lead to a fulfilling and anxiety-free life.
Did you learn new information about what anxiety looks and feels like in women over 60? Do you know anyone who may benefit from this article? Will you share it with them, too? How about you, personally? Have you struggled with anxiety or are you going through a difficult time now? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments so we can all provide support to one another!