Gerascophobia is the fear of growing old. People with this condition are irrationally and overly obsessed with aging. The term is a combination of the Greek words geras, which means old age, and phobos, which means fear. It is thought to be a common phobia, though it does not appear to be widely reported.
People with gerascophobia are often horrified by some of the changes that come with old age, such as the need to depend on others, loss of mobility, and possibly being moved to a retirement home. Declining health is another common concern of patients with the phobia. Suffers may also be excessively worried about losing their youthful appearance.
Gerascophobia tends to develop in most patients when they are in their mid-thirties, around the time when signs of aging such as wrinkles may start to appear. Awareness of these changes may bring on the phobia. It is believed that external factors such as images in the media and the value placed on youth in many societies can also contribute to the problem. The condition is believed to be most common among women.
It is believed that gerascophobia can develop from a fear of being helpless and alone. This can inspire terror and dread. When people with the condition think about these kinds of things, it can also have a physical effect.
Physical symptoms of gerascophobia can include nausea, breathlessness, profuse sweating, and heart palpitations. Other common effects include anxiety or panic attacks, a fast heartbeat, and detachment from reality. Patients may also feel extreme anger or have a strong fear of dying.
People with gerascophobia may be aware that their anxieties are irrational, but still lack the ability to overcome them. Therapy is the most common method of addressing the problem. This can include behavioral, exposure, or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy can also be used to treat the condition. Some patients may also take drugs to manage the anxiety caused by the phobia.
Treatment can help to manage the condition in several ways. Therapy can help the patient to build self-confidence and worry less about looking youthful. It may also guide the patient through activities, such as exposure to the elderly, that can help to reduce fear.
Gerontophobia is often confused with gerascophobia. While it also includes a fear of growing old, people with gerontophobia also dislike or even fear the elderly. People with this condition often suffer from many of the same symptoms as those with gerascophobia. Common effects include anxiety or panic attacks, sweating, and breathlessness.