Jonathan S. Gooblar and Sherry A. Beaudreau
Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent and understudied mental health problems in late life. Specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are the most prevalent anxiety disorders in older adults among the 11 disorders identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition). Anxiety disorders lead to significant functional burdens and interface with physical health problems and cognitive impairment, concerns frequently experienced in adults over age 65. Additional contextual factors should be considered when assessing and treating late-life anxiety, including the effects of polypharmacy, other mental health conditions, role changes, and societal attitudes toward aging. The relationship between anxiety and physical health problems in older adults can be causal or contextual, and can involve poorer estimates of subjective health and lower ratings of functioning. These factors present unique challenges to the detection, conceptualization, and treatment of late-life anxiety, including the tendency for older adults to focus on somatic symptoms and the potential for long-term behaviors that can mask distress such as substance use. Researchers are increasingly incorporating a gerodiversity framework to understand the contributions of cultural, individual, and other group differences that may affect the presentation of anxiety symptoms and disorders. Older adults in general are less likely to be treated for anxiety disorders, and intersecting individual and group differences likely further affect how anxiety disorders are perceived by healthcare providers. Cognitive behavioral therapy and its variants have the most empirical support for treatment. Newer evidence lends support to acceptance and commitment therapy and problem-solving therapy, which tend to address some of the contextual factors that may be important in treatment.
Faye F. Didymus
The cognitive–behavioral model of psychotherapy holds cognition at the core of psychological problems and disorders. The theoretical foundations of this model imply that dysfunctional thinking is common to all psychiatric disorders, psychological problems, and medical problems with a psychological component, and that changing an individual’s cognition results in causal changes in emotions and behaviors. In addition, when working with the cognitive–behavioral model, practitioners acknowledge that ongoing cognitive formulation is the basis of effective practice; that working with an individual’s beliefs about themselves, the world, and others results in sustained change; and that neurobiological changes occur following cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT). The cognitive–behavioral model has been successfully applied in many domains (e.g., clinical, occupational, and sport psychology) where interventions are framed around the beliefs that characterize a presenting issue. Cognitive restructuring is one technique for implementing CBT that has been applied in sport and performance psychology. This technique is particularly relevant to performance domains because of the focus on cognitive formulation; the underpinning associations between cognition, emotion, and behavior; and the links between positively valenced emotions and superlative performance. Findings of sport psychology research extend the application of CBT beyond clinical populations and highlight the usefulness of cognitive–behavioral approaches for optimizing experiences of and performance in sport.
Some would argue that the first scientifically testable paradigm that was built on the cognitive–behavioral model of psychotherapy, and came chronologically slightly before CBT, is rational emotive behavior theory (REBT). Because both CBT and REBT share cognitive–behavioral roots, they have many similarities in their underpinning assumptions and in the ways that they are applied. REBT, however, focuses on rational and irrational beliefs and the links between an individual’s beliefs and his or her emotions and performance. REBT has a more philosophical focus with motivational theoretical roots when compared to other CBT approaches. Distinguishing features of REBT also lie in the techniques used and, hence, the way in which the underlying principles of the cognitive–behavioral model are applied. Disputing is the applied foundation of REBT and is a method of questioning an individual’s beliefs that generate emotional responses. This technique aims to help an individual recognize and adjust flaws in his or her thinking to work toward a more functional philosophy. Research that has used REBT in sport and performance contexts is sparse but that which does exist highlights the approach as a promising one for optimizing athletes’ beliefs and their emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses.
Lydia K. Manning, Lauren M. Bouchard, and James L. Flanagan
There is a great deal of concern about the increasing number of older adults who suffer from chronic disease. These conditions result in persistent health consequences and have an ongoing and long-term negative impact on people and their quality of life. Furthermore, the probability that a person will experience the onset of multiple chronic conditions, known as comorbidities, increases with age. Despite the prevalence of comorbidity in later life, scant research exists regarding specific patterns of disease and the co-occurrence and complex interactions of the chronic conditions most closely associated with aging. It is important to review the body of literature on comorbidities associated with physical and psychiatric syndromes in later life to gain an overview of some of the most commonly seen disorders in older adults: hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, depression, and dementia. Specific patterns of disease and the co-occurrence and complex interactions of chronic conditions in later life are explored. In conclusion, we consider the need for a more informed understanding of comorbidity, as well as a related plan for addressing it.
Nancy A. Pachana, Nicola W. Burton, Deirdre McLaughlin, and Colin A. Depp
Research on healthy aging has begun to address mental health issues in later life. Despite the debates about exactly what constitutes healthy aging and which are the most useful or valid determinants of this construct to study, there is substantial evidence for several determinants of successful aging, including physical activity, cognitive stimulation, and social networks. All three of these determinants support mental health, including cognition, in later life. Resilience is another construct that plays an important role in healthy aging, but it has not received as much research attention at the end of life as in earlier periods. Factors that reduce the risk of mental distress or promote resilience with respect to mental health in the face of challenges in later life remain fruitful areas for further investigations.
Quincy J. J. Wong, Alison L. Calear, and Helen Christensen
Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) is the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) using the Internet as a platform for delivery. The advantage of ICBT is its ability to overcome barriers to treatment associated with traditional face-to-face CBT, such as poor access, remote locations, stigmas around help-seeking, the wish to handle the problem alone, the preference for anonymity, and costs (time and financial). A large number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have tested the acceptability, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of ICBT for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and associated suicidality. A meta-review was conducted by searching PsycINFO and PubMed for previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses of ICBT programs for anxiety, depression, and suicidality in children, adolescents, and adults. The results of the meta-review indicated that ICBT is effective in the treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults and the treatment of these problems in youth. Issues of adherence and privacy have been raised. However, the major challenge for ICBT is implementation and uptake in the “real world.” The challenge is to find the best methods to embed, deliver, and implement ICBT routinely in complex health and education environments.
Benjamin T. Mast and Diana DiGasbarro
Clinicians conduct capacity evaluations to determine an older adult’s ability to make and execute a decision within key domains of functioning. Questions of capacity often arise when an older adult experiences a decline in cognitive functioning due to Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or severe psychiatric illness, for example. Capacity is related to legal competency, and a lack of capacity may be proved by providing evidence that an older adult is unable to understand the act or decision in question; appreciate the context and consequences of the decision or act; reason about the potential harms and benefits; or express a choice. Capacity is domain-specific, time-specific, and decision-specific. Domains include financial capacity, medical treatment and research consent capacity, driving capacity, sexual consent capacity, and voting capacity. Each capacity domain encompasses activities that may vary in complexity or risk, and thus require different levels of capacity. For example, within the medical treatment consent capacity domain, an older adult may lack the capacity to consent to a complicated and risky surgical procedure while retaining the capacity to consent to a routine blood draw. Clinicians determine capacity by using a combination of tools including capacity assessment instruments, task-specific functional evaluations, interviews with the patient and family members, measures of cognitive functioning, and consideration of social, physical, and mental health factors. Extensive research has been conducted to determine the reliability and validity of a variety of capacity assessment instruments for many domains. These instruments generally assess the patient’s responses to vignettes pertaining to the domain in question, information gleaned from structured and semi-structured interviews, functional ability, or a combination of these methods. Although there is still need for more research, especially in emerging domains, capacity assessments help to protect vulnerable older adults from harm while allowing them to retain the highest possible level of autonomy.
Trent A. Petrie
Although the specific prevalence rates may vary, eating disorders (ED) affect male and female athletes regardless of sport type and competitive level. Generally, rates of subclinical disorders are much higher than clinical ones, with the most frequent clinical classification being Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. Further, EDs occur not only among active athletes, but are also found in samples of retired athletes as well. Existing research on the prevalence of EDs in athletes, however, has been limited due to its reliance on out-of-date diagnostic criteria, sometimes small samples, and a focus on point prevalence to the exclusion of examining how rates might change over time. Central to prevalence research and clinical assessments is the ability to accurately assess EDs in athletes. Although structured clinical interviews represent the most valid approach, they are time consuming and not often used in determining prevalence. Researchers have relied on self-report measures instead. Such measures include those developed initially in nonathletes, but used to study athletes (e.g., Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnosis; Mintz, O’Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider, 1997), and those specifically for athletes (e.g., Athletic Milieu Direct Questionnaire; Nagel, Black, Leverenz, & Coster, 2000). Most of these measures, though having adequate psychometric properties, are based on diagnostic criteria that are no longer in use, so additional research that employs prevalence measures that reflect DSM-5 criteria is needed with athletes. Most ED research in sport has used samples of active athletes; few studies have considered how the transition out of sport might affect athletes’ perceptions of their bodies, their relationship to food, and their approaches to exercise and being physically active. Retirement from sport generally is considered to be a developmental stressor and thus may exacerbate ED symptoms and body image concerns in some athletes. Yet, for other athletes, retirement may represent a positive transition in which they emerge from a sport culture, focused on weight and appearance, to reclaim themselves and their bodies. Initial qualitative findings appear to support each hypothesis in part, though longitudinal quantitative studies that track athletes from active competition through retirement are needed to understand the changes athletes experience in relation to their bodies, food, and exercise, and when such changes are most likely to occur.
Nicole D. Anderson
Healthy aging is accompanied by decrements in episodic memory and working memory. Significant efforts have therefore been made to augment episodic and working memory in healthy older adults. Two principal approaches toward memory rehabilitation adults are restorative approaches and compensatory approaches. Restorative approaches aim to repair the affected memory processes by repeated, adaptive practice (i.e., the trained task becomes more difficult as participants improve), and have focused on recollection training, associative memory training, object-location memory training, and working memory training. The majority of these restorative approaches have been proved to be efficacious, that is, participants improve on the trained task, and there is considerable evidence for maintenance of training effects weeks or months after the intervention is discontinued. Transfer of restorative training approaches has been more elusive and appears limited to other tasks relying on the same domains or processes. Compensatory approaches to memory strive to bypass the impairment by teaching people mnemonic and lifestyle strategies to bolster memory performance. Specific mnemonic strategy training approaches as well as multimodal compensatory approaches that combine strategy training with counseling about other factors that affect memory (e.g., memory self-efficacy, relaxation, exercise, and cognitive and social engagement) have demonstrated that older adults can learn new mnemonics and implement them to the benefit of memory performance, and can adjust their views and expectations about their memory to better cope with the changes that occur during healthy aging. Future work should focus on identifying the personal characteristics that predict who will benefit from training and on developing objective measures of the impact of memory rehabilitation on older adults’ everyday functioning.
Jarred Gallegos, Julie Lutz, Emma Katz, and Barry Edelstein
The assessment of older adults is quite challenging in light of the many age-related physiological and metabolic changes, increased number of chronic diseases with potential psychiatric manifestations, the associated medications and their side effects, and the age-related changes in the presentation of common mental health problems and disorders. A biopsychosocial approach to assessment is particularly important for older adults due to the substantial interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors that collectively produce the clinical presentation faced by clinicians. An appreciation of age-related and non-normative changes in cognitive skills and sensory processes is particularly important both for planning the assessment process and the interpretation of findings. The assessment of older adults is unfortunately plagued by a paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments, as most instruments have been developed with young adults. This paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments is an impediment to reliable and valid assessment. Notwithstanding that caveat, comprehensive and valid assessment of older adults can be accomplished through an understanding of the interaction of age-related factors that influence the experience and presentation of psychiatric disorders, and an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment instruments that are used to achieve valid and reliable assessments.
Schema therapy has evolved since the late 1980s as an efficacious and increasingly widely used psychotherapeutic treatment for personality disorders and many other complex disorders that correlate with underlying maladaptive schemas. Only recently, attention among clinical geropsychologists has been growing for the application of schema therapy in older adults. Schema therapy is very feasible for both therapists and older patients. Schema therapy is an integrative psychotherapy, which draws on the cognitive-behavioral, attachment, psychodynamic, and emotion-focused traditions. In this treatment model, early maladaptive schemas are considered core elements of persistent and pervasive psychopathology, including personality disorders. The goal of treatment is to decrease the impact of maladaptive schemas and to replace negative coping responses and maladaptive schema modes with more healthy alternatives so that patients succeed in getting their core emotional needs met. The emerging attention for schema therapy in older adults is in line with the increased attention for personality disorders in later life, and also with the maturing field of psychotherapy for older adults. The first scientific evidence for the feasibility and the effectiveness of schema therapy has recently been shown. Despite these developments, much work is still to be done. The question is whether schema theory, which was developed for adults in young and middle adulthood, equally applies to those in later life. Although the first tests of effectiveness of schema therapy in older adults are encouraging, age-specific adaptations of existing therapy protocols, both for individual and group schema therapy, are wanted. Furthermore, the research that has been conducted so far has focused on the young-old. Especially for the growing and highly complex group of oldest-old patients, the development of feasible and effective schema-based interventions is needed. Integrating age-specific moderators for change, such as wisdom enhancement, attitudes to aging, and integrating the action of positive schemas, deserves recommendation.