Social Anxiety Disorder in Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

Age related dementia complications lead to a variety of health ailments that we typically do not associate with aging. If you are caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to consider what additional health conditions may arise, including the development of anxiety symptoms.

Causes of Development

Anxiety can manifest for a variety of reasons in adults and children but, typically, it arises out of a traumatic event, a fear over a specific place or person, or even in response to an illness that has developed suddenly. For adults who have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the onset of anxiety is quite common and, more specifically, may manifest in the form of social anxiety (Doraiswamy 79).

Testing & Role of Healthcare Team
When caring for a loved one that has Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to ask a healthcare team to do an assessment to determine if there are risks for complications involving secondary mental health issues. While you may notice social anxiety well before an assessment confirms the condition, there is a great likelihood that your loved one could have anxiety and the symptoms are well hidden. In Alzheimer’s patients, the social anxiety usually develops early in the mental health complications when the patient is somewhat aware of their condition, and fearful of exposing their symptoms in public.

Types of Treatment
Once confirmed as suffering from social anxiety, an older adult living with Alzheimer’s may have very few options. While cognitive-behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy, works well with other adults who have social anxiety, patients with Alzheimer’s disease rarely respond to these types of treatments. Medications to control the symptoms of anxiety, therefore, may be your best alternative (Doraiswamy 15).

Social anxiety is one of the most profound types of anxiety as it often develops into physical symptoms that arise out of social settings or public ventures. Isolation, fear, and loneliness are the key secondary lifestyle factors that arise from a social anxiety complication and, unfortunately, become a patterned lifestyle in the Alzheimer’s patient as well. Keeping your loved one company, engaging in one-on-one activities, and using medications to control social anxiety symptoms, will give your family the most ideal outcome.


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