Pharmacological Management of Anxiety Disorders in the Elderly

Elizabeth A. Crocco, Sindy Jaramillo, Caroline Cruz-Ortiz, Katherine Camfield

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Anxiety disorders are common in the elderly. Additionally, anxiety symptoms often accompany comorbid psychiatric, medical, as well as neurodegenerative diseases in the older population. Anxiety in the elderly, often accompanied by depression, can lead to worsening physical, cognitive, and functional impairments in this vulnerable population. Antidepressants are considered first-line treatment. Both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are efficacious and well-tolerated in the elderly. Some SSRIs are strong inhibitors of the cytochrome P450 hepatic pathway whereas others have less potential for drug interaction. Those antidepressants with more favorable pharmacokinetic profiles should be considered first-line in the treatment of anxiety. Mirtazapine and vortioxetine are also considered safe treatment options. Buspirone may have a benefit, but lacks studies in elderly populations. Although tricyclic/tetracyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may be effective in the elderly, their side effect and safety profiles are suboptimal and thus are not recommended in late-life. Benzodiazepines and beta-blockers should generally be avoided when treating anxiety in the elderly. There is not enough evidence to support the use of antipsychotics or mood stabilizers given their risk of problems in both the long- and short-term. In addition, antipsychotics have a black box warning for increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Elderly
  • Older adults
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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