Does anxiety get worse with age?

I’ve always been an anxious person – even in childhood. I write about it a lot. Sometimes that’s all I can do with this nervous energy.

When I think back on certain events in my life it has become pretty clear that my anxiety has gotten worse with age. This is most apparent when it comes to my fear of driving. In the past, I was willing to drive greater distances. I even took a road trip by myself in my late twenties. Now as I inch closer to my 40th birthday, I stay within a few miles of my house. It even makes me nervous to take my daughter to school which is only a four-minute drive.

I’ve also noticed that since I had my daughter my anxiety has exploded. Can any other parents relate? I have a lot of sleepless nights and she’s not even a baby anymore.

I have a lot of mental health issues, and I see a therapist every week, but I think I need to do more work on my own to prevent my anxiety from getting any worse. I need to gently push myself to do the things that make me nervous. Any suggestions?

I have a hard time with the grocery store. People and food make me nervous and I never go shopping alone. Maybe I should start there.

Obviously, I will address this more with my therapist, but I always love getting your input. Are there any other anxious people out there? Did your anxiety get worse with age? How do you cope?


  1. flex says

    My wife has a problem with anxiety, and it has been getting worse with age. We are now in our mid-fifties. I don’t know if her issue is as bad as yours (I have no way to tell), but she has also started having trouble going to the grocery store.

    A dozen years ago we saw a physician about it, who prescribed a psycho-tropic drug, which failed miserably. After two months both my wife and I agreed that it wasn’t working and was causing side effects which were even more disturbing. My wife started having agoraphobia beyond simple crowd anxiety as soon as she was put on that psycho-tropic drug. The agoraphobia has diminished somewhat over the years, but re-wiring brain behavior is not a quick process. The drug was prescribed after a 20-minute conversation with a med student, who then had the attending physician sign off on the diagnosis and prescription. I don’t think anyone was being malevolent, but both my wife and I think there was a certain level of negligence in the diagnosis and prescription. I don’t recall the name of the drug.

    We did find one thing which does work incredibly well. By accident. We were travelling in Scotland about a decade ago and going on a lot a ferries. So my wife wanted some sea-sick medicine. We went to Boots and asked what they recommended, and ended up with a package of Kwells. It worked well for sea-sickness, but it also greatly reduced my wife’s anxiety. To the point where we looked up the active ingredient.

    The active ingredient in Kwells is scopolamine. You know, the drug shown in many Hollywood movies used as a truth serum.

    Scopolamine is a prescription-only, controlled, medication in the US. When we spoke with our physician here in the US they suggested that it would be easier to occasionally pick up packages of Kwells in Europe than get a prescription for it in the US. Kwells contains a very small amount of scopolamine, and other than the reduction in anxiety my wife hasn’t noted any other effects. She doesn’t use it all that often, maybe 10-15 times a year, so I don’t know if a resistance could be built up to it. But when she knows she is going to be in a situation which causes anxiety, we have that tool available. It’s helped her get through a few job interviews.

    I don’t, and wouldn’t, recommend taking any drug without consultation with a physician. Especially a drug which alters brain chemistry. It may be worthwhile trying Kwells, if you can get some, but I would recommend speaking with your therapist or physician first. We discovered it by accident, it’s working for us and our physician has not said to discontinue it. But my wife also uses it very infrequently, partially because we do have a limited supply.

    • ashes says

      Wow, that’s really interesting. I’ve never heard of Kwells before. I will ask my doctor about it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Katydid says

    Everyone feels anxious sometimes (especially parents with young children) but your anxiety sounds worrying. Yet another thing to be anxious about! Have you spoken to your therapist about this? Meditation and breathwork might help, and there are free meditation sessions available on Youtube (search for Guided Meditation for Anxiety, some are as short as 10 minutes).

    Regarding breathwork: it can help to focus on your breathing with breathing in on a count (2, 4, 8…whatever’s appropriate for you), holding it for that count, and breathing out for double that count. Do it for a couple of minutes and it changes your body chemistry and calms you down.

    These are things that cost nothing and don’t interfere with any medication you might be taking.

    If those don’t help, your therapist might be able to offer other suggestions.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    I have been on a number of hiking trips into the woods, and one aspect of it that I found very interesting and enjoyable was planning for mishaps. For example, I would always carry at least a couple of black plastic garbage bags. From one of those, I could make a waterproof tunic in case it started raining and I had lost my regular rain gear. Also, it could keep me warm if the weather turned unexpectedly cold. Also, I could use it in the desert to make a solar still to get drinkable water out of the moisture in the soil. I never once have had to do any of those things, but I can be easy in my mind going into the wilderness because I have thought about those contingencies. The same principle can be applied to any situation – think about what could go wrong ahead of time, then develop a plan to deal with it.
    One of the best bits of survival advice I ever read was how it was a good thing to have all the makings for a cup of tea. If you ever get lost, sit down and make a fire to brew a cuppa. By the time you have made it and drunk it your panic will have subsided and you can now calmly work out your solutions to your problem.
    Ashes, you might benefit from reading one of the many wilderness survival books that are available even if you plan to never get out of sight of a paved road. Just knowing you have some wilderness survival skills makes any situation easier to deal with – at the absolute worst case you know you don’t have to depend on the trappings of civilization, you know you can simply walk away at any time.

    • ashes says

      Wow, I’ve never thought of that before but I can see how that would help. Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll look into it!

  4. Allison says

    I’ve always been at least somewhat anxious about driving. I am very conscious of how small a calculation it takes to produce a terrible accident, plus, I have had severe trust issues — at a gut level, I can’t believe that anyone else on the road would go to any trouble to avoid hurting me. So I am always watching and thinking what I would do if that car that’s racing to the intersection doesn’t stop, for instance.

    It’s gotten worse now, I think because my reaction time has gotten longer and it takes me longer to take in what is going on around me (I’m getting near 70.) Also, I am getting less willing to live with stress. So, for instance, there’s a freeway near me that is very convenient for getting me many of the places I go, but it’s also full of people driving fast and doing IMHO dangerous manouvers. I finally stopped driving on it altogether and use the local roads instead. It’s still a bit crazy, but things don’t happen quite so fast and people seem to be more aware that they have to be careful and alert.

    They say “young people” (teens? 20-somethings?) act like they can’t really believe they might die, but I see a lot of much older people who drive as if they can’t believe that anything they do might have consequences. (Not to mention the number of people who drive the wrong way on the freeways around here.)

  5. Bruce says

    You note some anxiety at the grocery store. This is a valid feeling, but it is also somewhat logical to have a concern there because of your past food issues. So I’d say anxiety at the store is not an example of any irrational anxiety issue.
    On the other hand, because of the significance of it to you, it might be one of the harder issues to conquer. I believe you will succeed, but I’d suggest first starting by dealing with anxiety issues in situations that are less powerful for you. Do some of the easier examples first. Save food places for after you have a long track record of beating other anxieties. We all have them.
    Good luck. As they once said on Star Trek, may random chance operate in your favor. 😃


    I don’t see my best friend much anymore because she has become so anxious about driving that she mostly doesn’t do it at all. I retired six years ago so I don’t drive downtown much anymore, certainly not daily. When I do, I realize that I’m not used to it anymore, my reflexes are slowing, and downtown keeps getting more congested and confusing. So I suggest you define the geography where you want to be able to go with some frequency, and make a point of driving it regularly so it stays familiar. Use non-essential trips to lower the stress, and work up to busier times of day. Otherwise, like my friend, your world will shrink more than you would prefer.

  7. John Morales says

    I myself have never suffered chronic anxiety.

    No particular credit to me, just the luck of the draw, I guess.

    So, can’t really advise, only point out it’s not an universal condition.

  8. brightmoon says

    I grew up in an abusive home so anxiety with agoraphobia as a child and young woman was crippling. I would dance and do yoga moves for hours to trigger endorphins . It worked, I could feel the anxiety ebb . But over exercise isn’t great for you . You could do damage to your joints ( I haven’t because I can’t stand pain and would stop) . I finally realized that the agoraphobia was caused by my parents toxic behavior so it less of a problem. It hasn’t fully gone away because I’ve had it for almost 65 years. But yoga with its emphasis on feeling where your body is and paying attention to how you feel , your posture and what’s going on around you really helps

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