September 5


The Ultimate Guide: Best Anti-Anxiety Medications for Elderly

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Anxiety is a common mental health concern among elderly individuals. Various factors, including chronic illness, loss of independence, and social isolation, can cause it. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe and significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are several anti-anxiety medications available that can help manage these symptoms.

When choosing the best drug for elderly individuals, several factors must be considered. These include the type and severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and potential drug interactions and side effects.

In addition, non-pharmacological therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques may also help manage the condition. Working with a healthcare provider, elderly individuals and their families can develop a treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and concerns.

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety is a common mental health concern among elderly individuals.
  • Choosing the best drug for elderly individuals requires consideration of several factors, including symptoms, medical conditions, and potential side effects.
  • Non-medication therapies such as cognitive-behavioral and relaxation techniques may also help manage it.

Understanding Anxiety in Elderly

Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects people of all ages, including older adults. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition among older adults. Various factors, including stress, medical conditions, and drug side effects, can cause it.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common among older adults. It is characterized by excessive worry and fear about everyday events and activities. Panic and social anxiety disorders are also common among older adults.

It is important to note that the condition is not a normal part of aging. However, older adults may be more susceptible to it due to changes in their physical health, social support system, and life circumstances.

Symptoms in older adults may include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Older adults must seek help if they experience severe anxiety, which can harm their physical and mental health.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

Some of the most common symptoms in older adults include:

  • Nausea: This can be caused by the body’s natural response to stress and can lead to discomfort and unease.
  • Fatigue: This can result from the body’s increased production of stress hormones, which can lead to feelings of exhaustion and lethargy.
  • Dizziness: This can be due to the body’s response to stress, leading to changes in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Headache: This can result from increased neck and shoulder muscle tension, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Panic attacks: These can be triggered by various factors, including stress, fear, and anxiety.
  • Sweating: This can result from the body’s natural response to stress, leading to increased sweating and clamminess.
  • Insomnia: This can be caused by the body’s increased production of stress hormones, which can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Memory and confusion: This can result from the body’s increased production of stress hormones, leading to difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
  • Irritability: This can result from the body’s increased production of stress hormones, leading to frustration and agitation.
  • Headaches and chest pain: This can result from increased muscle tension and changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Muscle tension and forgetfulness: This can result from the body’s increased production of stress hormones, which can lead to muscle tension and difficulty remembering things.
  • Agitation: This can result from the body’s increased production of stress hormones, which can lead to feelings of restlessness and unease.

The Link Between Anxiety and Other Conditions

Anxiety can often be linked to other conditions, such as depression, dementia, illness, OCD, phobia, disability, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irrational thoughts, psychosis, and Alzheimer’s.

It is not uncommon for elderly individuals to experience it in combination with one or more of these conditions. For example, depression and anxiety often occur together, exacerbating each other’s symptoms.

Dementia can also lead to anxiety, as the individual may become confused, disoriented, and forgetful. Illness can also trigger the condition as the individual may be worried about their health and future.

OCD and phobia are also common causes, as individuals may have irrational thoughts and fears that they can’t seem to shake. Disabilities can also lead to it, as the individual may be worried about their ability to perform daily tasks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be another cause, as individuals may experience flashbacks and nightmares related to a traumatic event. Psychosis, or a break from reality, can also lead to the mental health condition as the individual may feel overwhelmed and scared.

Alzheimer’s can lead to anxiety as the individual may become confused and disoriented, not recognizing their surroundings or loved ones. It is vital to address these underlying conditions when treating it in elderly individuals, as they can often be interrelated.

Types of Anti-Anxiety Medications

Several types of medications can be used. These include:

  • Antidepressants: These regulate the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. They are often used to treat both anxiety and depression and can take several weeks to start working.
  • Buspirone: This is a non-benzodiazepine anxiolytic used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It can take several weeks to start working and is not habit-forming.
  • Benzodiazepines: These are fast-acting and can provide immediate relief from symptoms. However, they are habit-forming and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, and memory problems.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are often used to treat disorders and depression. They increase serotonin levels in the brain and can take several weeks to start working.
  • Beta-blockers: These are often used to treat high blood pressure and can also help treat the condition. They work by blocking the effects of adrenaline in the body, which can help to reduce symptoms.

Not all prescriptions suit everyone, and different medicines may be more effective for others. Working with a healthcare provider to find the best drug and dosage for each individual’s needs is vital.

Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medications

Non-pharmacological meds are widely used but can have side effects. Some common side effects include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headache, and sleep disturbances. These side effects usually disappear after a few days or weeks of treatment.

They can also affect appetite and cause insomnia. Some older people may experience memory problems or confusion while taking these meds. Monitoring these side effects and reporting them to a healthcare provider is critical.

Drinking alcohol while taking these meds can increase the risk of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and constipation.


Withdrawal symptoms can occur if they are stopped suddenly. Symptoms such as nervousness, dizziness, sweating, and insomnia can occur. Gradually reduce the dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

They can also cause cognitive impairment, balance problems, and falls in older adults. Sedation is another common side effect. Discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare provider before starting treatment.

Considerations for Men and Older Adults

When selecting an anti-anxiety drug for men and older adults, there are a few things to remember. For example, older adults are more prone to falls, so medicines that cause dizziness or balance issues should be avoided. Older adults with dementia or memory problems may have difficulty remembering to take their prescriptions as directed, which can lead to complications.

Men and women may respond differently to them. Men may be more likely to experience side effects such as decreased libido or erectile dysfunction. Discussing these potential side effects with your doctor before starting any drug is necessary.

Another consideration is the potential for confusion or cognitive impairment. Some can cause drowsiness or confusion, which can be especially problematic for older adults who may already be experiencing cognitive decline.

Non-Medication Therapies for Anxiety

These therapies include:

  • Therapy: Regular therapy sessions with a licensed psychologist or therapist can be helpful. Talking through fears and concerns with a professional can provide perspective and coping strategies.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms. Encourage elderly individuals to engage in physical activity, such as walking or yoga.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be effective. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Fear: Encourage elderly individuals to face their fears and confront anxiety-provoking situations. Gradual exposure to feared conditions can help.
  • Coping: Teach elderly individuals coping strategies, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to help manage symptoms.
  • Psychologist: Consider referring elderly individuals to a licensed psychologist specializing in disorders.
  • Clinical Trials: Encourage elderly individuals to participate in clinical trials for new treatments.
  • Routine: Establishing a daily routine can help by providing structure and predictability. Encourage elderly individuals to stick to a regular sleep schedule and engage in activities they enjoy daily.

Support for Elderly with Anxiety

Many resources are available to help seniors manage their anxiety and improve their mental health.

One of the most critical forms of support for seniors is therapy. A trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, can help seniors understand the root causes of their mental health condition and develop coping strategies to manage it.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a particularly effective form of therapy. It focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. CBT is effective in reducing symptoms in seniors.

Support groups can be a valuable source of emotional support and practical advice. Meditation, exercise, and other relaxation techniques can also help reduce symptoms.


In conclusion, treating anxiety in the elderly can be challenging and requires careful consideration of the patient’s medical history, comorbidities, and potential drug interactions. While several medications are available, not all are suitable for older adults.

Benzodiazepines, while effective, should be used with caution due to their potential for abuse, dependence, and adverse effects, especially in older adults. SSRIs and SNRIs are generally considered safer and better tolerated, but they may take longer to achieve therapeutic effects and require careful monitoring for side effects.

Non-pharmacological interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and exercise, can also effectively reduce symptoms and improve mental health outcomes in older adults.

Overall, the best approach to treating the condition in older people should be individualized and multidisciplinary, involving pharmacological and non-pharmacological strategies, regular monitoring, and ongoing support from healthcare professionals and caregivers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the drug of choice for anxiety in older adults?

The drug is usually a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). These are known to be effective and have fewer side effects.

What helps elderly with severe anxiety?

The elderly can benefit from a combination of medication and therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help the elderly manage their mental health condition better. Prescriptions like benzodiazepines can also be prescribed, but they come with a risk of addiction and should be used cautiously.

What is the number 1 anxiety medication?

There is no one-size-fits-all medication as different drugs work differently for different people. However, SSRIs like Zoloft and Prozac are among the most commonly prescribed ones.

What is the best anxiety medication with fewer side effects?

SSRIs and SNRIs are generally considered to have fewer side effects. Buspirone is another one that can be used to treat it with fewer side effects, but it may not be as effective.

What are some new antidepressants for elderly anxiety?

Vortioxetine and Vilazodone are two new antidepressants approved by the FDA for treating it in adults. These may not be suitable for everyone and should only be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

What are some symptoms of panic attacks in older adults?

Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, trembling, and a feeling of impending doom. These can be very distressing and lead to a decreased quality of life if left untreated.

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