Feature Archive

Beyond Depression

Anxiety is twice as likely to strike as depression.

By John Cutter
WebMD Feature

Sometimes James Coats would wake his family in the darkness of a quiet night because he was sure he was about to die. His chest hurt, he felt dizzy, and he had an overwhelming sense of doom.

"I'd haul my wife and children off to the emergency room at two or three in the morning, because I thought I was having a heart attack," says Coats, 56, a semi-retired construction contractor who lives near Raleigh, N.C. "I'd find out it wasn't a heart attack, but it sure felt like one."

Coats had other unexplained symptoms. His heart rate and respiration would suddenly increase. He would begin to perspire excessively, and tremble. But most of the time he would be filled with a pervasive anxiety that left him incapable of doing such simple things as leaving the house.

It took nine years for Coats to find out that he has an anxiety disorder, and only after the proper diagnosis did he get the help he needed.

The Other Mental Health Problem

While depression in older adults is the mental health problem most often discussed, it is not the most common one faced by older adults -- a fact publicized in a new government report, Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, released in December 1999.