It is indisputable fact that we live in a society where youthfulness is adored. Many people now have aversion for old age and almost everything it represents. So they are ready to do anything within their power to slow their aging clock. To be more correct, we have to say this phenomenon is not peculiar to our age or generation. People have shown interest in fighting aging since time immemorial. The search for the elusive, mythical "Fountain of Youth" has been on for centuries and still continues.
The haggard-looking and, perhaps, wrinkled person staring back at you every time you stand in front of a mirror may prove unsettling. But why is it that so many individuals are afraid of getting old, even when it is a given? And what can you do to control this fear?
Clinically, what is more commonly referred to as fear of getting old is called gerascophobia. The term has Greek origin. It is a combination of "gerasko" and "phobos." Gerasko means something similar to "I am getting old" or "I grow old." Phobos means fear – deep fear. So, gerascophobia may be described as a great, persistent or an abnormal fear of getting old or aging. To be honest, you cannot find many people that relish the realization that they are growing old. The time of youth is one that most of us wish could last forever. But not everyone that does not appreciate aging can be said to be gerascophobic. Signs that you may have this problem include:
• Chronic fear of getting old
• Rapid heart, shortness of breath, panic, shivering and dizziness from the thought of getting old
• Fear of what to expect in future
• Thoughts of dying
• Seemingly perpetual readiness to do anything to prevent or slow aging
These symptoms and several others can impact negatively on a person's quality of life. Gerascophobia can not only have adverse effects on your personal life, but also on your professional life. Some might think older, frail individuals are the ones likely to nurse this deep fear. The fact, however, is that young and healthy persons are not entirely exempted.
In some cases, gerontophobia is alternatively used to describe the fear of getting old. This term is derived from the Greek words "geron," which means "old man," and "phobos" (fear). But it means more that the fear of growing old. It is also used to describe fear of or hostility towards the elderly.
Based on the description, you might wonder if gerascophobia then have a mental dimension to it. Indications suggest it may. You could think of it this way because of its irrational nature, which is the case with phobias generally. You may ask again as to why it is irrational. This is as a result of the fact that it is completely unneeded and useless. We will all get old with time – it is simply a natural process. So why preoccupy your mind with something you have entirely no control over? It's just not worth it. As we already stated, it is okay to not feel cool with aging. But there is no need to be worked up at every slightest reminder that you are getting old. It is just unhealthy and excessive. You only increase your worry and stress levels when you dwell perpetually on this inevitable outcome. This generates negative vibes around you and could, in fact, speed up your aging clock. Extreme fear of aging won't hold time still, so no use.
Sadly, we live in a society where the qualities of youthfulness are seemingly extolled to the high heavens. Almost everywhere you look you are served a reminder on why it pays to be a younger person. Talk about what you see in advertisements and what the media promotes generally. Any conspicuous signs of aging could have you relegated to the background. Certainly nobody will relish that treatment.
Loneliness – People seemingly become invisible as they reach certain age, starting from the 40s. For some reasons, signs of aging such as frown lines, laugh lines, wrinkles and sagging skin suddenly make people undesirable. Older persons often find themselves left all alone most of the times as a result of this. Millions of elderly people in the United States are said to live alone. You will agree it is something of a nightmare to be left to yourself, if you have ever experienced such. Yet, the elderly often need special care and assistance more than young people. The likely loneliness can make a person to be fearful of getting old.
Failure – As a child, you probably had goals you wished to have achieved by the time you are an adult. These goals or dreams could change slightly as you get older. But then things don't always go the way we want them. You could start getting apprehensive if, for instance, you are not at the level you hoped to be in your 30s. This could give rise to fear about what life could be like as you get older without achieving your goals.
Sickness and diseases – It is arguable that a major reason people are afraid of getting old has to do with health. People are thought to be more prone to falling sick as they become older. Awful and unpleasant medical conditions are known to be more common among the elderly. These include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cancer and heart disease. This often make family members to consider older people unnecessary burden, although not explicitly. The fear of getting old is more likely to be greater if you knew older people that had any of these conditions. They are typically dependent and left alone in a nursing home. This is certainly not the sort of treatment people want to look forward to.
Loss of income – With old age comes retirement, which leads to loss of income. The thought of not being able to meet up to one's financial responsibility can be saddening. You may consider it an awful thing to be unable to support yourself and the ones you love financially. This makes some people not to look forward to growing old.
Loss of loved ones – This is yet another loss that can be quite depressing. Just imagine some of the people you have close relationship with passing away. Talk about friends, siblings or even parents moving to the great beyond. This can make life lonely and unexciting. Thoughts along this line often prove too strong for some people to see any good in growing old.
Death – Although inevitable, death is yet another reason many are not happy to realize the years are fast rolling by. Each of us draws closer to our time of departure from this life as days, weeks, months and years go by. Death brings an end to our human existence, as we know it. While many have resigned to the inevitability of dying, many other wish there is a way to avoid it.
The main remedy to gerascophobia is for a person to accept that getting old is inevitable. However, there are some treatment techniques that are thought to help. These include:
• Exposure Therapy
• Energy Psychology (Emotional Freedom Technique)
The above treatments and some others are usually carried out by experts, including psychologists.
The following are some suggestions on what you can do yourself to better handle the fear of getting old.
Fight the fear – According to the Freudian school of psychologists, an unconscious fear being repressed is at the base of any phobia. To put that simply, you are not really afraid of a phenomenon, but what it represents. This means you are not really afraid of getting old; you are afraid of what comes with it. For example, the main issue could be loneliness, sickness or death. So you need to identify your real fear and make efforts to get over or, at least, reduce it. You may succeed at this by looking more at the bright of getting old.
Safeguard your health – As you are aware, health concerns are a major reason people fear getting old. You can reduce your worry about this significantly by taking proactive measures to protect your health. The debilitating conditions older people experience don't always just happen because of their age. They are sometimes the result of lifestyle choices – eating habits, exercise (or lack of) and other factors. So it helps to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You should avoid smoking and cut down on your alcohol intake. Supplements may also supply you with certain vital nutrients you may not get from your normal diet.
Nurture relationships – The value of great relationships increases as you get older. This can hugely help to deal with loneliness that may accelerate aging and onset of awful medical conditions. Try to maintain regular contact with your loved ones – could be family, friends or even neighbors. Call them regularly and try to spend more time with them. You don't really have to have many of such people in your life. It is not about quantity, but quality. One or two persons with whom you have strong connection are better than many people that don't care much.
Connect with your inner self – People often tend to ignore the opportunity old age provides in getting to know oneself better. Rather than nursing fears about getting old, get to know yourself better. Try to use your spare time to connect to your inner self. This could be through meditation, yoga or prayer – anything that helps to put things in right perspective. Such efforts help you make more meaning out of life and avoid being incapacitated by irrational fears.
Plan for the future – Whatever may be the fears you are having about growing old you can reduce the intensity by planning ahead. Are you afraid about retirement and loss of income? You can start now to prepare something that you can fall back on when you are older, if you have not started already. It is also possible to start planning how to deal with loss of loved ones and loneliness that may come. How do you spend your lonely times – volunteering, writing a book, traveling or learning a new skill? Having a great plan in place may go a long way in reducing the degree of fear of getting old.
The market is awash with products that are supposed to help prevent or slow aging in one way or another. There is also a variety of surgical procedures that are used to eliminate signs of aging on the skin. The obsession with looking young transformed the anti-aging industry in America to a multibillion-dollar one in just about a decade. Companies keep coming out almost every time with one breakthrough or another that is marketed to halt aging incredibly. Yet, consumers often get burned in the end, wasting their hard-earned money on what doesn't work.
The infatuation with looking young is so great these days that you may be amazed at what you find in the skincare regimen of a woman in her early 20s. We even observed people search for anti aging products for 18-year-olds online. It is worth pointing out that too much of everything is bad. You should have realistic expectations when using products or undergoing procedures to fight aging. Do not let yourself to be unduly influenced into extreme treatment options just to look 25 when you are 55. The side effects that come from some of these treatments could leave you feeling worse and screwed. So make sure you read up the experience of other before trying any treatment.
You need to also watch how far your fear of getting old pushes you to slowing aging. It is not bad to try to look 5-10 years younger. But trying to look younger by as many as 25 years is an invitation to trouble. Your anti-aging efforts should be geared more at maintaining great health. This is more important than merely transforming your outward appearance drastically. No amount of work done on your skin can extend your life span, but good health may. Cosmetic procedures or treatments may only help to mask your fears, even though you are still getting old.
It is important to put aging in the right perspective. It should not be something you lose sleep over. Sadly, there is absolutely nothing you can do about something that is inevitable. Or is there? The human lifespan is finite and sufficient. In a society where wisdom that comes with age isn't always considered invaluable, trying to live longer doesn’t appear to be worth much. You should try not to freak out when you realize you are getting old. It has its benefits, including knowing yourself better and worrying less about trivial matters. Instead of getting apprehensive, you should focus more on staying healthy and leaving a legacy to your children and other young people.
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