Gerascophobia

Gerascophobia

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Gerascophobia refers to excessive fear or anxiety about the process of growing older. This fear can result in avoidance of aging-related stimuli or situations and can have a negative impact on an individual’s overall well-being. Although gerascophobia is less common than other phobias, it can affect an individual’s functioning by causing distress and impairment in significant areas of life.

What Is Gerascophobia?

Gerascophobia is a psychological condition 1 Lynch, S. M. (2000). Measurement and Prediction of Aging Anxiety. Research on Aging, 22(5), 533–558. https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027500225004 that refers to an excessive, persistent, and irrational fear of aging, encompassing physical, cognitive, and social changes associated with it. This condition can manifest in various ways, including avoiding mirrors or social activities involving older adults and engaging in excessive skincare or anti-aging routines to delay aging-related changes.

The term “gerascophobia” originates from the Greek phrase “tha geraso,” which means “I am getting old 2 Kornadt, A. E., Kessler, E. M., Wurm, S., Bowen, C. E., Gabrian, M., & Klusmann, V. (2019). Views on ageing: a lifespan perspective. European journal of ageing, 17(4), 387–401. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-019-00535-9 ,” combined with the word “phobos,” meaning dread or deep fear. Despite its prevalence, gerascophobia has not been categorized in DSM-5.

However, it can affect both men and women 3 Perales-Blum, L., Juárez-Treviño, M., & Escobedo-Belloc, D. (2014). Severe growing-up phobia, a condition explained in a 14-year-old boy. Case reports in psychiatry, 2014, 706439. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/706439 equally, and individuals with a history of trauma, negative attitudes toward aging, or a family history of anxiety or depression may be more susceptible to this condition.

Read More About Aging Here

Signs Of Gerascophobia

Here are some potential signs and symptoms 4 Aggarwal, R., Kunik, M., & Asghar-Ali, A. (2017). Anxiety in Later Life. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 15(2), 157–161. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.20160045 that may suggest an individual is experiencing gerascophobia:

  1. Persistent and excessive fear of aging or growing old
  2. Avoidance of situations or activities that remind them of aging or mortality
  3. Anxiety or panic attacks 5 Cackovic, C., Nazir, S., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Panic disorder. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430973/ related to aging or mortality
  4. Obsessive preoccupation with physical appearance or youthfulness
  5. Fear of losing independence or becoming dependent on others
  6. Obsession with health, illness, or death 6 Khajoei, R., Dehghan, M., Heydarpour, N., Mazallahi, M., Shokohian, S., & Azizzadeh Forouzi, M. (2022). Comparison of Death Anxiety, Death Obsession, and Humor in Nurses and Medical Emergency Personnel in COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of emergency nursing, 48(5), 559–570. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jen.2022.02.004
  7. Difficulty accepting compliments or positive feedback related to aging
  8. Withdrawal from social activities or relationships due to fear of aging or mortality
  9. Depression or low mood 7 Fiske, A., Wetherell, J. L., & Gatz, M. (2009). Depression in older adults. Annual review of clinical psychology, 5, 363–389. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.032408.153621 related to aging or mortality
  10. Changes in sleep or eating habits 8 Drewnowski, A., & Shultz, J. M. (2001). Impact of aging on eating behaviors, food choices, nutrition, and health status. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 5(2), 75–79. related to anxiety or fear
Interesting Facts About Gerascophobia

What Causes Gerascophobia

Some potential causes and risk factors of gerascophobia may include:

1. Genetic Factors

Some research suggests genetic factors may play a role in developing phobias, including gerascophobia. For example, some individuals may be more prone to anxiety and fear due to their genetic makeup 9 Rodríguez-Rodero, S., Fernández-Morera, J. L., Menéndez-Torre, E., Calvanese, V., Fernández, A. F., & Fraga, M. F. (2011). Aging genetics and aging. Aging and disease, 2(3), 186–195. (the unique combination of DNA individuals inherit from their parents), which may contribute to the development of gerascophobia.

Read More About Genetics Here

2. Family History

Individuals with a family history 10 McLaughlin, K. A., Behar, E., & Borkovec, T. D. (2008). Family history of psychological problems in generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of clinical psychology, 64(7), 905–918. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20497 of anxiety or phobias may be at an increased risk of developing gerascophobia.

3. Physical Health Conditions

Individuals with chronic health conditions 11 Akosile, C. O., Igwemmadu, C. K., Okoye, E. C., Odole, A. C., Mgbeojedo, U. G., Fabunmi, A. A., & Onwuakagba, I. U. (2021). Physical activity level, fear of falling and quality of life: a comparison between community-dwelling and assisted-living older adults. BMC geriatrics, 21(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-020-01982-1 or physical disabilities may be more likely to experience gerascophobia.

4. Personal Experiences

Traumatic or negative experiences related to aging or death, such as the loss of a loved one 12 Parkes C. M. (1998). Bereavement in adult life. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 316(7134), 856–859. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7134.856 , may contribute to the development of gerascophobia.

5. Cultural Attitudes

Societal attitudes such as discrimination against older adults and cultural emphasis on youthfulness may impact an individual’s perception 13 Hofmann, S. G., Anu Asnaani, M. A., & Hinton, D. E. (2010). Cultural aspects in social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Depression and anxiety, 27(12), 1117–1127. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20759 of aging and contribute to their fear.

6. Societal Messages or Media

Negative portrayals of aging or the elderly 14 Bodas, M., Siman-Tov, M., Peleg, K., & Solomon, Z. (2015). Anxiety-Inducing Media: The Effect of Constant News Broadcasting on the Well-Being of Israeli Television Viewers. Psychiatry, 78(3), 265–276. https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.2015.1069658 in media and popular culture may perpetuate negative attitudes toward aging.

Effects Of Gerascophobia On Mental Health

There are several effects of gerascophobia such as:

1. Anxiety

Gerascophobia can cause significant anxiety 15 Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2022, May 8). Anxiety. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/ and fear related to aging and mortality, which may interfere with an individual’s ability to engage in daily activities and enjoy life.

Read More About Anxiety Here

2. Depression

Fear of aging and the future can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and depression 16 Chand, S. P., & Arif, H. (2022, July 18). Depression. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/ .

Read More About Depression Here

3. Social Isolation

Gerascophobia may lead individuals to withdraw from social activities and relationships in an attempt to avoid aging-related fears and triggers.

4. Reduced Quality of Life

Fear and anxiety related to aging 17 Netuveli, G., & Blane, D. (2008). Quality of life in older ages. British medical bulletin, 85, 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldn003 can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, including their physical health, emotional well-being, and social functioning.

5. Other Mental Health Concerns

Gerascophobia may be associated with other mental health conditions, such as stress disorder, body image concerns, dementia, and agoraphobia 18 Balaram, K., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Agoraphobia. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554387/ (fear of places and social situations).

Treatment For Gerascophobia

Here are some common treatment measures for gerascophobia:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and challenge negative 19 Liu, T. W., Ng, G. Y. F., Chung, R. C. K., & Ng, S. S. M. (2018). Cognitive behavioural therapy for fear of falling and balance among older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and ageing, 47(4), 520–527. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afy010 thoughts and beliefs related to aging or mortality and develop coping strategies to manage anxiety and fear.
  • Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing 20 Wetherell, J. L., Bower, E. S., Johnson, K., Chang, D. G., Ward, S. R., & Petkus, A. J. (2018). Integrated Exposure Therapy and Exercise Reduces Fear of Falling and Avoidance in Older Adults: A Randomized Pilot Study. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(8), 849–859. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2018.04.001 individuals to situations or stimuli related to aging such as visiting a therapist’s clinic and watching documentary films about aging, or discussing aging-related topics with others.
  • Mindfulness-based interventions, such as meditation 21 Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008 or yoga, that help in promoting relaxation and reduce anxiety.
  • Support groups or peer counseling 22 Pachana, N. A., Woodward, R. M., & Byrne, G. J. (2007). Treatment of specific phobia in older adults. Clinical interventions in aging, 2(3), 469–476. to provide social support and connection with others experiencing similar fears or concerns.
  • Family or couples therapy 23 Atiq R. (2006). Common themes and issues in geriatric psychotherapy. Psychiatry [Edgmont (Pa. : Township)], 3(6), 53–56. to address any relationship or communication issues related to gerascophobia.
  • Medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications 24 Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S. S., Cameron, M. E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(1), 30–57. , to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression related to gerascophobia.

Read More About CBT Here

How To Cope With Gerascophobia

Here are some effective coping strategies that individuals can use to overcome gerascophobia:

  • Practice relaxation techniques 25 Norelli, S. K., Long, A., & Krepps, J. M. (2020). Relaxation Techniques. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513238/ , such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calmness.
  • Engage in regular physical activity 26 Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 100(2), 126–131. , such as walking, running, or cycling, to promote physical and mental well-being.
  • Challenge negative thoughts 27 Thomsen, D. K., Mehlsen, M. Y., Hokland, M., Viidik, A., Olesen, F., Avlund, K., Munk, K., & Zachariae, R. (2004). Negative thoughts and health: associations among rumination, immunity, and health care utilization in a young and elderly sample. Psychosomatic medicine, 66(3), 363–371. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000127688.44363.fb and beliefs related to aging or mortality by reframing them in a more positive or realistic light.
  • Stay socially connected by maintaining close relationships 28 Moghadam, K., Mansour-Ghanaei, R., Esmaeilpour-Bandboni, M., & Atrkar-Roshan, Z. (2020). Investigating the relationship between social support and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of education and health promotion, 9, 215. https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_149_20 with friends and family or joining support groups for individuals with similar fears or concerns.
  • Focus on self-care activities 29 Ahmad Sharoni, S. K., Shdaifat, E. A., Mohd Abd Majid, H. A., Shohor, N. A., Ahmad, F., & Zakaria, Z. (2015). Social support and self-care activities among the elderly patients with diabetes in Kelantan. Malaysian family physician : the official journal of the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia, 10(1), 34–43. , such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
  • Seek professional help 30 Mackenzie, C. S., Scott, T., Mather, A., & Sareen, J. (2008). Older adults’ help-seeking attitudes and treatment beliefs concerning mental health problems. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 16(12), 1010–1019. https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e31818cd3be , such as therapy or medication, if symptoms of gerascophobia interfere with daily life.
  • Practice acceptance and gratitude 31 Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry [Edgmont (Pa. : Township)], 7(11), 18–22. for the present moment and the experiences that come with aging.

Takeaway

Gerascophobia is a fear of aging that can significantly impact an individual’s mental health and well-being. While the exact causes of this phobia are not well-established, it may be influenced by personal experiences, cognitive factors, societal attitudes toward aging, and physical health conditions. If left untreated, gerascophobia can lead to anxiety, depression, social isolation, reduced quality of life, and other mental health concerns.

At A Glance

  1. Gerascophobia is a fear of aging that can greatly affect an individual’s mental health and quality of life.
  2. Symptoms of gerascophobia may include anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance of aging-related situations.
  3. Causes of gerascophobia may include personal experiences, culture, societal messages, physical health, and genetics.
  4. Gerascophobia can cause other mental health disorders like anxiety, panic, and substance use disorder.
  5. Gerascophobia treatment may involve therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and education for individuals.
  6. Coping strategies for gerascophobia may involve relaxation, exercise, challenging negative thoughts, social connections, and self-care.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is gerascophobia common?

Gerascophobia, or the fear of aging, is not as common as other phobias but it can affect individuals from different backgrounds and age groups. It is more likely to occur in individuals who have experienced trauma or negative attitudes toward aging.

2. How do I stop fearing aging and death?

Fearing aging and death is a natural human response, but it can be helpful to reframe these fears as opportunities to live life to the fullest. Engaging in activities that bring joy, staying socially connected, and seeking professional help can also assist in managing these fears.

3. How many people have Gerascophobia?

It is estimated that around 4 to 6 individuals in every 100 may have gerascophobia. However, it is important to note that phobias, in general, are often underreported, so the actual number may be higher.

References:

  • 1
    Lynch, S. M. (2000). Measurement and Prediction of Aging Anxiety. Research on Aging, 22(5), 533–558. https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027500225004
  • 2
    Kornadt, A. E., Kessler, E. M., Wurm, S., Bowen, C. E., Gabrian, M., & Klusmann, V. (2019). Views on ageing: a lifespan perspective. European journal of ageing, 17(4), 387–401. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-019-00535-9
  • 3
    Perales-Blum, L., Juárez-Treviño, M., & Escobedo-Belloc, D. (2014). Severe growing-up phobia, a condition explained in a 14-year-old boy. Case reports in psychiatry, 2014, 706439. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/706439
  • 4
    Aggarwal, R., Kunik, M., & Asghar-Ali, A. (2017). Anxiety in Later Life. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing), 15(2), 157–161. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.20160045
  • 5
    Cackovic, C., Nazir, S., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Panic disorder. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430973/
  • 6
    Khajoei, R., Dehghan, M., Heydarpour, N., Mazallahi, M., Shokohian, S., & Azizzadeh Forouzi, M. (2022). Comparison of Death Anxiety, Death Obsession, and Humor in Nurses and Medical Emergency Personnel in COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of emergency nursing, 48(5), 559–570. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jen.2022.02.004
  • 7
    Fiske, A., Wetherell, J. L., & Gatz, M. (2009). Depression in older adults. Annual review of clinical psychology, 5, 363–389. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.032408.153621
  • 8
    Drewnowski, A., & Shultz, J. M. (2001). Impact of aging on eating behaviors, food choices, nutrition, and health status. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 5(2), 75–79.
  • 9
    Rodríguez-Rodero, S., Fernández-Morera, J. L., Menéndez-Torre, E., Calvanese, V., Fernández, A. F., & Fraga, M. F. (2011). Aging genetics and aging. Aging and disease, 2(3), 186–195.
  • 10
    McLaughlin, K. A., Behar, E., & Borkovec, T. D. (2008). Family history of psychological problems in generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of clinical psychology, 64(7), 905–918. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20497
  • 11
    Akosile, C. O., Igwemmadu, C. K., Okoye, E. C., Odole, A. C., Mgbeojedo, U. G., Fabunmi, A. A., & Onwuakagba, I. U. (2021). Physical activity level, fear of falling and quality of life: a comparison between community-dwelling and assisted-living older adults. BMC geriatrics, 21(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-020-01982-1
  • 12
    Parkes C. M. (1998). Bereavement in adult life. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 316(7134), 856–859. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7134.856
  • 13
    Hofmann, S. G., Anu Asnaani, M. A., & Hinton, D. E. (2010). Cultural aspects in social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Depression and anxiety, 27(12), 1117–1127. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20759
  • 14
    Bodas, M., Siman-Tov, M., Peleg, K., & Solomon, Z. (2015). Anxiety-Inducing Media: The Effect of Constant News Broadcasting on the Well-Being of Israeli Television Viewers. Psychiatry, 78(3), 265–276. https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.2015.1069658
  • 15
    Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2022, May 8). Anxiety. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/
  • 16
    Chand, S. P., & Arif, H. (2022, July 18). Depression. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/
  • 17
    Netuveli, G., & Blane, D. (2008). Quality of life in older ages. British medical bulletin, 85, 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldn003
  • 18
    Balaram, K., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Agoraphobia. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554387/
  • 19
    Liu, T. W., Ng, G. Y. F., Chung, R. C. K., & Ng, S. S. M. (2018). Cognitive behavioural therapy for fear of falling and balance among older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and ageing, 47(4), 520–527. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afy010
  • 20
    Wetherell, J. L., Bower, E. S., Johnson, K., Chang, D. G., Ward, S. R., & Petkus, A. J. (2018). Integrated Exposure Therapy and Exercise Reduces Fear of Falling and Avoidance in Older Adults: A Randomized Pilot Study. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(8), 849–859. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2018.04.001
  • 21
    Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008
  • 22
    Pachana, N. A., Woodward, R. M., & Byrne, G. J. (2007). Treatment of specific phobia in older adults. Clinical interventions in aging, 2(3), 469–476.
  • 23
    Atiq R. (2006). Common themes and issues in geriatric psychotherapy. Psychiatry [Edgmont (Pa. : Township)], 3(6), 53–56.
  • 24
    Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S. S., Cameron, M. E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(1), 30–57.
  • 25
    Norelli, S. K., Long, A., & Krepps, J. M. (2020). Relaxation Techniques. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513238/
  • 26
    Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 100(2), 126–131.
  • 27
    Thomsen, D. K., Mehlsen, M. Y., Hokland, M., Viidik, A., Olesen, F., Avlund, K., Munk, K., & Zachariae, R. (2004). Negative thoughts and health: associations among rumination, immunity, and health care utilization in a young and elderly sample. Psychosomatic medicine, 66(3), 363–371. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000127688.44363.fb
  • 28
    Moghadam, K., Mansour-Ghanaei, R., Esmaeilpour-Bandboni, M., & Atrkar-Roshan, Z. (2020). Investigating the relationship between social support and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of education and health promotion, 9, 215. https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_149_20
  • 29
    Ahmad Sharoni, S. K., Shdaifat, E. A., Mohd Abd Majid, H. A., Shohor, N. A., Ahmad, F., & Zakaria, Z. (2015). Social support and self-care activities among the elderly patients with diabetes in Kelantan. Malaysian family physician : the official journal of the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia, 10(1), 34–43.
  • 30
    Mackenzie, C. S., Scott, T., Mather, A., & Sareen, J. (2008). Older adults’ help-seeking attitudes and treatment beliefs concerning mental health problems. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 16(12), 1010–1019. https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e31818cd3be
  • 31
    Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry [Edgmont (Pa. : Township)], 7(11), 18–22.
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