Anxiety Common in Elderly, Yet Often Undiagnosed and Undertreated

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Anxiety in Elderly

Anxiety may be the most common mental disorder experienced by older adults, affecting one in 10 people over the age of 60. As many as 7 percent of people in this age group have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a disorder characterized by uncontrollable worries about everyday things. Despite its prevalence, anxiety remains one of the most undiagnosed and undertreated conditions in this population.

An overview of current research in geriatric anxiety disorder will be presented today as part of an industry-sponsored symposium at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, being held May 20-25 in Toronto.

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With the first of the 80 million "baby boomers" turning 60 in 2006, researchers are seeing a greater need to focus attention on disorders commonly experienced by people age 60 and older.

"Studies have shown that generalized anxiety disorder is more common in the elderly, affecting 7 percent of seniors, than depression, which affects about 3 percent of seniors. Surprisingly, there is little research that has been done on this disorder in the elderly," said Eric J. Lenze, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Due to the lack of evidence, doctors often think that this disorder is rare in the elderly or that it is a normal part of aging, so they don't diagnose or treat anxiety in their older patients, when, in fact, anxiety is quite common in the elderly and can have a serious impact on quality of life."

Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias and GAD.

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