The Effects of Anxiety and Aging

A person who appears demented may be tormented by grief and anxiety. His demented behavior may have been brought about by emotional pain. A grieving person at any age is less able to pay close attention to everything that happens around him. He takes less care in grooming and dress. He has less emotional energy to welcome new opportunities or to respond to challenges. He feels uncomfortable with his body. His mind may be constantly uneasy or tortured.

Loss and grief are common in old age as death removes loved ones. An old person may have suffered other significant losses, of occupation, residence, physical mobility, belonging, or usefulness – all of which produce a grief response.

So much mental and emotional energy may be absorbed by the multiple losses experienced by the old person that he drifts away from contact with the practical, daily environment. Add to this situation our own tendency to avoid the old and troubled, and we have a person left to dwell in sorrow.

Anxiety is another obstruction to clear mental functioning. When we are tense, frightened, or insecure, we are not likely to have firm control of our thoughts. We pay too much attention here, not enough there. We become either too concrete or too abstract, depending upon our personality style. Our behavior may become as fragmented as our thinking: restless pacing, doing and re-doing, fluttering, tapping, exercising our own brand of nervous habits. Or we may be paralyzed by anxiety, unable to move our thoughts at all, rigid and automatic in our actions. Anxiety often makes intelligent people seem foolish.

Old people have good cause to be anxious. There are practical reasons such as health and physical safety. There are psychological reasons as well. People bring anxieties and sorrows with them into old age, in addition to the new difficulties they encounter.

Anxiety can, however, be relieved. Sorrow can be shared and as a result, much of the confusion can eventually disappear, vanish.

Constructive human relationships and a suitable environment can go a long way toward the prevention or reversal of mental changes that are too often mistaken for dementia.

Quotable Quote: “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.” Anon.
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