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Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Mental health plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and aging well overall. Many older adults may not be able to tell you exactly how they are feeling, and others do not express it with any visible signs, so they may “seem ok”, but really they may be suffering from a variety of challenges.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is estimated that the prevalence of mental health problems in adults over 65 years ranges from 17 to 30 percent.

What is Anxiety? 

That feeling of worry, tension, and nervousness that many people feel are classified as anxiety. Everyone expresses it differently, and at times, anxiety can be helpful in small doses, such as a motivator to be more productive in finishing a task with a short deadline. However, when these feelings become so strong that they affect the person’s ability to perform tasks that were once simple and routine, the person may have an anxiety disorder.

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a group of illnesses including Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorders. These disorders alone, or in combination, can pose serious limitations on a person’s ability to function with everyday life skills, be social with others, and at times may lead to other conditions, such as depression.


Phobias are strong feelings of anxiety about what some would term as irrational fears of situations or objects. Phobias can range from a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) to the fear of the outdoors (agoraphobia). Although problematic depending on the phobia, many are treatable, and may not be as disabling as other kinds of anxiety disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Those with OCD have a pattern of frequent, repeated actions that are a result of repeated anxious thoughts. For example, a person may become obsessed with the fear of getting robbed. Therefore they feel compelled to check the doors and locks repeatedly. However, the anxious thought about having their items stolen appears shortly afterward, making the person check their doors and locks again and again in a cycle, to the point where it’s the only thing that person thinks about.

Panic Disorder

This illness is generally classified with the onset of a panic attack. Panic attacks typically include extreme physical attributes such as difficulty breathing, pounding heart, and dizziness, or trembling. Panic attacks are triggered by any number of fearful or anxious thoughts or events.

How to Manage Anxiety

Self-Care – Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and finding time to do activities that you enjoy are all ways that can benefit us and lead to fewer feelings of anxiety.

Finding Calm – Meditation, a quiet space, and breathing techniques are ways that we can bring more calm into our lives. These opportunities for silence can also allow you to become aware of what triggers your anxiety and can make a positive impact on your mind and body.

Stay Connected – Relationships are important for a variety of reasons. Connecting with loved ones and close friends can reduce the amount of worry that occurs when we are alone. Staying connected is also a great way to seek help from close friends and relatives when you are feeling anxious or worried.

Seeking Help

If you or a loved one is experiencing these or any other mental health crisis, please reach out to the services below, or speak to your family doctor.

  • Find services close to home by searching the Ontario Health Care Options directory.

  • Contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or They provide free professional counselling by phone or online and can connect young people to information and local help. Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 for children and youth between the ages of 5 and 20. Online chat is also available at certain times — check the website for hours.

  • Speak to a counsellor or nurse.

  • Tell your family doctor.