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Anxiety in Women Over 60: Spot It and Conquer It Today!

By Joan Senio September 30, 2023 Health and Fitness

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.

Frequency of Anxiety in Women Over 60

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.

Anxiety Undermines Our Self-Confidence, Happiness, and Health

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.

What’s Different About Anxiety in Women Over 60?

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.

Hormonal Changes

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.

Health Issues

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.

Worry About Money

Financial concerns, especially for those living on a fixed income or with inadequate savings, can further exacerbate anxiety.

Life Transitions

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.

Various Types of Loss

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.

Is it Anxiety?

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.

Excessive Worrying

Persistent and excessive worry about everyday situations, such as health, finances, or family can lead to anxiety.

Physical Symptoms

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.

Sleep Disturbances

Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early are common symptoms of anxiety in women over 60.

Social Withdrawal

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!

Treatment Options for Anxiety in Women over 60

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.

Consider Underlying Health Conditions

Healthcare providers must take extra care to consider any underlying health conditions. They must also be alert to potential drug interactions with existing medications.

Staying Socially Connected

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.

Therapy

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.

Medication

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.

Lifestyle Changes

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.

Overcoming Anxiety

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.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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!

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Deb Wisdom

very useful article. thank you so much. Clear and concise and highlights lots of issues. Reassuring to know that this is very common and there are lots of ways of combating and overcoming anxiety as we get older.

Jensy

Totally off-topic: So happy that you included Australia’s emergency phone number.
And how spooky that the US (& Canada) use 911. Nine-eleven???
A date (event) that made the whole world anxious. We’ll forever experience the consequences.
I have suffered from anxiety all my life.
It was only after one particular lot of therapy that I understood the reason why.
I found an app that is very helpful—& over the last few years, I have become more relaxed, accepting, able to ignore, and changed (most of) my thought patterns
Great article.
Best wishes to everyone. 🇦🇺

Lori Schuett

What is the app?

Jensy

It’s the “Calm” app

Peggy

A couple years ago, my extreme anxiety led to a nervous breakdown and I wound up in a psychiatric ward for a week. It was a horrible experience and led to a second and much worse breakdown, mainly because the arrogant young psychiatrist at the first hospital said I was schizophrenic rather than merely suffering severe anxiety. He put me on meds that were way too strong which made me worse rather than better. Happily, at the second hospital an older and wiser psychiatrist immediately took me off the meds and started me on the right ones. Trust your instincts if you think you are taking the wrong meds; either you or family members should find out what your diagnosis is and why they are putting on the meds they put you on. A correct diagnosis and the right meds can put you on the road to recovery, but the wrong ones can make you worse.

cecilia

Yup thats me, anxiety along with depression. Started medication for both in July, praying it kicks in soon. Will be starting therapy this week.
I do a lot of praying. I have to admit this in no fun, actually its painful. I used to have an active life, children grandchildren but no more. Married to an alcoholic narcissist. Main reason no one is around. Thinking of divorce, am I too old, 70? Start over could be worst, anyway that is my story. Thanks for listening.

Sue Legree

Get out of that relationship. No you are not too old. Never let anyone steal your light. Seek therapy and run like your hair is on fire. Go to a women’s abuse centre and let them help you find your way, so much support out there. It will be a slow walk to the grave otherwise, God helps those who help themselves………

Jensy

No! You are never too old to start again. You will have people again in your life if you take a bold step, get away from this person you married, join support groups, online or socially, & fill life with your interests.
It may take a while to again be busy—but small steps. Please be aware that your long-time friends may have moved on, but there are squillions of ladies out there who would like to meet you, get to know you & be your friend.
You could discuss this with your therapist. All the best! 🇦🇺

naomi

Hi Ladies,

It surely is very challenging and scary starting over. I am starting over at 62 and boy, is my anxiety and depression terrible. And I am trying to get over this nagging fear that I have. I am open to any suggestions.

Karen

I’ve struggled with anxiety for years, and turning 60 hasn’t changed that. My father died two months ago, which sent my anxiety through the roof. I try to manage it with daily meditation, exercise, and getting out in nature. (I’m grateful that there’s a park in my neighborhood where I can watch each year’s fawns grow up.) I’m also in therapy. For those considering benzodiazepines like valium or xanax, I’d recommend using them sparingly. There’s no shame in it. Just be aware that benzos are not a problem for 2-3 weeks, but after that the brain and body can become dependent, leading to a very unpleasant withdrawal if/when you stop. I still haven’t found a long-term solution to my anxiety-related sleep problems, though! Wondering if anyone has discovered something helpful?

Janice

Zoloft and gabapentin can help. Don’t take Zoloft at night. As it can disrupt sleep for some people. Check your sleep hygiene. Look into that as it’s too much to describe here. Don’t give up.

The Author

Joan Senio is the founder of KindCompassCoach. She is an entrepreneur, author and consultant. Joan is passionate about the study of positive psychology and is an active personal development mentor and coach to women of all ages. Joan can be contacted at what.i.have.learned.so.far@gmail.com.

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