Are You Afraidof Aging?
 
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
By: Jennifer B. Baxt, LMFT, LMHC, PA

While it is understandable that most people have a natural tendency to feel uncomfortable with their own aging and mortality, there are a few in the crowd who are horrified by the natural process to the point of having a phobia. The phobia where people are terrified of aging is called gerascophobia. Though, to say it is simply a fear of growing old can be a little deceiving. Gerascophobia is perhaps more the fear of what can happen to a person when they grow old. It could mean a loss of independence they value, the wrinkles they will develop, the loss of hair (mostly in the case of men), any diseases that can come from aging, or even a retirement they don’t know what to do with. For many people, these thoughts briefly cross their mind and are quickly brushed away with reasoning; aging is a natural process that happens to everyone and they will deal with it when the time comes. Unfortunately, for the few who suffer gerascophobia, it is something that brings on anxiety and fear about something they really don’t have any control over. Perhaps the lack of control is one of the major worries for these individuals as well; a lack of control whether they will end up in a nursing home, for example.

How does a person know if they actually suffer from gerascophobia? It depends on a person’s reaction to the idea of their growing old and not being able to accept that it is a natural process of life that they don’t have control over. If thinking about it brings on elevated blood pressure, sweating, excessive worry, or even a panic attack, it is a possibility. This phobia can even cause people to withdraw from society and become anti-social. The phobia can even develop into a fear of losing loved ones when not dealt with properly. A professional, such as a therapist or a counselor, can often help the patient find out if what they are suffering from really is the gerascophobia, or another condition, such as depression that can often lead a person to focus more on the negative in life than the positive.

Gerascophobia is a real phobia that real people suffer, as strange as it may seem. For some people, facing their own mortality fills them with an uncontrollable dread they can’t get rid of. For anyone who believes they might have this, consulting a therapist or a counselor would be a good idea. A professional opinion, followed by the right therapy, could help a person deal with this phobia so that it doesn’t prevent them from enjoying the life they have. Therapists or counselors can help a person deal with their fear in a way that can allow them to accept that growing old is nothing to be afraid of and that they should be focusing more on their day to day life, as well as the time they spend with loved ones, than to focus all their attention on something they cannot control. To spend an entire life fearing old age will only bring it on earlier as the stress caused by the phobia will eventually take its toll on a person, whether it is in a physical way, a mental way, or in both ways.

Author : Jennifer B. Baxt LMFT
Jennifer B. Baxt, LMFT, LMHC, PA an approved supervisor for the state of Florida in marriage and family and mental health counseling. She has worked with children, individuals, couples, geriatric patients, depression, bipolar, anxiety, substance abuse, and personality disorders.