Gerontophobia is an extreme fear of growing old or fear of the elderly. Also known as gerascophobia, the word gerontophobia is derived from geronto- meaning old age from the Greek geronta and -phobia from the Greek phobos meaning morbid fear. For some it encompasses a fear only of getting old, while others fear the elderly, and in some people suffering from it, they fear both.
Most people have fears of something, be it spiders, flying or clowns. Phobias differ from fears in that they may affect quality of life causing the person to suffer negatively and often causing withdrawal from everyday activities such as work or social engagements. The condition may reach such severe levels that the sufferer will feel unable to go to the shops or venture out of their front door for fear of seeing an old person. Any person suffering from a phobia such as gerontophobia, which is negatively affecting their life, should seek urgent psychological help.
The symptoms of gerontophobia are similar to those experienced by any other anxiety-type disorder and will usually manifest with signs of an anxiety attack. These may be brought on by thoughts of aging or coming into contact with an elderly person and are generally uncontrollable. Well-known symptoms of anxiety attacks may include sweating, shaking, a drop in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and an inability to speak. The occurrence of such attacks in people suffering from gerontophobia may cause withdrawal from society and require urgent medical intervention.
Treatment of phobias such as gerontophobia is usually multi-pronged. Depending on the severity of the disorder, the treating medical professional will recommend the best option or options. In most cases treatment will include regular sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling with a psychologist or counselor. Often group therapy is also beneficial for people suffering from phobias. Some people may have multiple psychiatric complaints, each of which may need treatment.
In some cases, drugs may be prescribed to treat the anxiety associated with the gerontophobia or to treat any underlying disorder. In severe cases an initial stay as an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital may be necessary but, in most cases, treatment will be on an outpatient basis. Treatment is generally long-term and requires the patient to attend both psychiatric and counseling appointments regularly. With the correct treatment program, gerontophobia can successfully be managed to allow the person suffering from it to return to their normal life.