Somatic symptom disorder is known by several other names, including illness anxiety disorder and hypochondriasis. It is not unusual for elderly people to feel anxiety about some of their physical symptoms because they are in the demographic that has the highest risk of illnesses and diseases.
While it’s normal to worry about their health, those with somatic symptom disorders experience extreme anxiety that everything they feel is a serious disease or life-threatening illness. They may frequently complain to family caregivers, friends, home care assistants, and more about how they feel and what it means. When it reaches a point that their worry and panic interferes with their everyday life, it’s time for professional help.
All About Somatic Symptom Disorder.
Somatic symptom disorder, or SSD, is similar to an anxiety disorder where a person can’t control their thoughts and their obsessive compulsive behavior affects their everyday life. The intensity of the thoughts and feelings in relation to their health can cause stress, which can make them suffer from additional symptoms. Even if the symptoms they feel are real, their mind takes things to the extreme and they struggle to think the aches and pains are anything other than a very serious illness.
Elderly people with SSD may go to their doctor for multiple tests, believing that the test results were not accurate or that the doctor missed some of the symptoms. Still others may go “doctor-shopping,” seeking a doctor that agrees with their personal diagnosis. Sometimes, seniors will spend their own time and energy researching symptoms, talking to others about illnesses and disease, and spiraling further downward in worry and concern.
Treating Somatic Symptom Disorder.
Because somatic symptom disorder is more mental illness than physical illness, it often takes a combination of a doctor and a therapist to get an elderly person to be at peace with their health. A physician can run tests to reassure the elderly person that their physical symptoms are within the normal range of health and wellness. A therapist can help them deal with the anxiety and depression they may be feeling. They will also help elderly people find ways to reduce stress and cope with different symptoms. Family, friends, and home care aides can provide the support and encouragement they need to help them cope. The most important thing is that the elderly person knows that the symptoms are not in their head, but that their reactions to them are out of proportion.
Without treatment, elderly people can have significant problems with depression, anger, frustration, and even suicidal thoughts. They can make themselves sick with stress and worry. They may overlook actual symptoms of an illness because they are focused on other things. Most importantly, SSD robs elderly people of the ability to enjoy themselves and find pleasure in daily activities, family and friends.
SSD is a chronic condition that needs professional help to overcome. With the right support, it’s possible for elderly people to return to a healthy mental state where they can minimize their worries about their health and wellness.
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