Aging & Health A to Z
Basic Facts & Information
What is anxiety and what are anxiety disorders?
Sometimes a little anxiety can be a good thing. If you have a project to finish for work or are having a large get-together at your home, feeling a bit worried about getting everything done on time can help you focus and finish the job. This kind of anxiety is a normal response to stress.
But too much anxiety is another thing. It’s not normal and it’s not helpful. You may have trouble managing daily activities and you may find it difficult to enjoy life. Anxiety that involves excessive worry and lasts a long time or gets worse over time is considered an anxiety disorder.
As many as 15% of older adults in community settings have anxiety disorders. These disorders are more common among older women than older men. In later life, people may develop anxiety disorders during stressful events such as a serious illness, the loss of a spouse or other close relative or friend, or when financial problems arise. Cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders commonly lead to anxiety. For example, anxiety is present in up to 40% of patients with COPD. Anxiety is often a sign of an underlying depressive disorder.
Updated: November 2016
Posted: March 2012