Having fears about falling in later life is very common and often distressing. It can limit your life in many ways, but help is available to overcome your fear and anxiety.
How fear of falling can affect you
Anyone can have a trip or fall. As we age, fear of falling can become a serious concern. Some people worry about what might happen to them if they fall, even if they've not had a fall before.
A fall can leave you feeling shaken up and more cautious. You might stop doing things and lose confidence in your abilities. This is a common reaction and very understandable. However, if you find yourself constantly worrying about falling it can prevent you from having an active and fulfilling life.
Anxiety about falling
Having anxiety about falling is a very common problem – we all have worries and fears. Anxiety can make you feel like you don’t have any control in how you feel and that nothing can be done to change your situation. This can leave you feeling low in mood, frustrated and lonely.
You may be embarrassed about having these worries or fear losing your independence if you tell someone your concerns. Many people carry on living with anxiety when they don’t have to. It's not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed about.
What it feels like to be anxious
We all feel anxious at times in our lives, anxiety is our body’s normal reaction to a real or imagined threat or danger. It can develop after any stressful life event such as having a fall. A mild level of anxiety is very common and can often be seen as a normal part of life. However, some people have very strong and constant anxiety and panicky feelings about falling. If this is affecting your life, it has become a problem.
Anxiety can affect how you think, what you do and how you feel. It can also be felt in the body, causing symptoms like:
- rapid, pounding heartbeat
- chest, shoulder or neck pain
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- shortness of breath
- shaky legs
- loss of appetite
- butterflies in stomach
- tightness in muscles
These sensations are nature's way of protecting you from danger. They can be unpleasant, but aren't harmful, and will go away when your anxiety reduces and you feel calmer.
If you have any of these symptoms, speak to your GP who will check your physical health to rule out any health problems. If there are no problems then it's likely to be anxiety.
More about the symptoms of anxiety
Anxious thoughts and feelings
If you have anxiety about falling, you might:
- feel irritable and on edge
- have frequent worrying thoughts and a constant fear of falling. Anxiety can sometimes lead you to overestimate the risk of falling
- always think the worst will happen
- focus on just the negative rather than having a positive mental attitude. For example, “I can’t walk far because I will fall” rather than “I will try to walk as far as I can. I am going to do the best I can”
Negative thoughts can make things seem worse. Learning to challenge these with thoughts that are more balanced can help reduce any worries. It just takes practice.
How anxiety can affect your life
The more worried about falling you become, the less likely you are to keep active. Anxiety can make you:
- act in ways that help you feel safer – such as holding onto things because you think you will fall or not going out
- avoid or stop doing things, which can make life difficult and less enjoyable. This can lead to low mood and depression
You can lose a lot of confidence by avoiding walking. This will affect how you feel about yourself and keep fears going.
A cycle of anxiety can develop which keeps fears about falling going. Worrying thoughts can affect how you feel and what you do.
Dealing with anxiety can help to improve your mobility, confidence and quality of life.
Find out how to deal with anxiety about falling