Does dementia change your personality? (7 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does dementia change your personality?” and explores what dementia means, its symptoms, causes and various types, the concept of personality change and the impact of the disease on a person’s personality to help understand the answer. 

Does dementia change your personality?

Yes, dementia can change your personality. Dementia can change a person’s personality in the following 7 ways –

  • Dementia can push personalities to their extreme forms. 
  • Dementia can cause hallucinations. 
  • Dementia can cause anxiety.
  • Dementia can cause confusion, paranoia and dependence. 
  • Dementia can cause mood swings. 
  • Dementia can change the person they have been without the disease.
  • Dementia deteriorates physical and cognitive capacities.

These 7 ways dementia can change your personality will be discussed in further detail below after taking an in-depth look at dementia, personality, and personality change. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a phrase that refers to a set of symptoms that impact your memory, reasoning, and social abilities to the point that they interfere with your regular activities. Dementia isn’t caused by a single disease, but it can be caused by a number of them.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, although it can be caused by a variety of factors. Memory loss isn’t always a marker of dementia, however, it is generally one of the first symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent cause of progressive dementia in older people, although dementia can also be caused by a variety of other conditions. Some dementia symptoms may be reversible, depending on the reason.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Symptoms of dementia vary depending on the aetiology, however, some frequent ones include –

Cognitive symptoms.

  • Someone else generally notices your memory loss.
  • Finding it difficult to communicate or find the right words
  • Visual and spatial difficulties, such as getting lost while driving, are common.
  • Reasoning- or problem-solving difficulties
  • Complicated tasks are difficult to handle.
  • Planning and arranging are difficult.
  • Coordination and motor functions problems
  • Perplexity and disorientation

Psychological symptoms.

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

What are the causes of dementia?

Damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain causes dementia. Dementia affects people differently and causes distinct symptoms depending on which part of the brain is destroyed.

Dementias are frequently classified according to what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the afflicted brain region. 

Some disorders, such as those caused by pharmaceutical reactions or vitamin shortages, resemble dementias and may improve with therapy.

What are the different types of dementia? 

The following are examples of progressive dementias that are not reversible –

Alzheimer’s disease. 

The most prevalent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Although not all causes of Alzheimer’s disease are known, doctors do know that abnormalities in three genes, which may be handed on from parent to child, are linked to a tiny number of cases. 

While numerous genes are likely implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, apolipoprotein E4 is one key gene that raises risk (APOE). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have plaques and tangles in their brains. 

Plaques are fibrous tangles made up of tau protein, while tangles are clusters of a protein called beta-amyloid. These aggregates are considered to harm healthy neurons and the fibres that link them.

Vascular dementia. 

Damage to the arteries that carry blood to the brain causes this sort of dementia. Blood artery abnormalities can lead to strokes or have other effects on the brain, such as harming the white matter fibres.

Problem-solving problems, sluggish thinking, and a loss of concentration and organisation are the most prevalent symptoms of vascular dementia. These are usually more visible than memory loss.

Lewy body dementia. 

Lewy bodies are aberrant balloon-like protein aggregates discovered in the brains of persons suffering from Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. One of the most frequent kinds of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Acting out one’s dreams while sleeping, seeing things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations), and issues with focus and attention are all common indicators and symptoms. Uncoordinated or sluggish movement, tremors, and stiffness are some of the other symptoms (parkinsonism).

Frontotemporal dementia. 

The destruction of nerve cells and their connections in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain characterises this category of illnesses. 

These are the parts of the brain that are linked to personality, conduct, and language. Behaviour, personality, thinking, judgement, language, and mobility are all affected by common symptoms.

Mixed dementia. 

Many persons with dementia aged 80 and up had a mix of causes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia, according to autopsy investigations of their brains. 

Mixed dementia is the subject of continuing research to see how it impacts symptoms and treatments.

What is personality change?

Personality characteristics are broad categories of individual variations that relate to how we interact with our social environments. They support our ability to think, behave, and feel consistently in a variety of contexts and across time.

Early childhood temperament variations, which are partially genetically driven and influence exposure to social situations, are assumed to be the source of adult personality characteristics. There are five personality dimensions in all.

The five factors are: “extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower‐order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self‐control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity)”. 

Individuals differ in all of these characteristics, therefore each individual is regarded to have a unique set of traits. Personality factors influence the quality of social and familial connections, marital status and satisfaction, career choices, political opinions, and crime with moderate consistency.

Your personality might evolve during the course of your life. It’s natural to have mood swings from time to time. Unusual personality changes, on the other hand, might be an indication of a physical or mental problem.

A personality shift can manifest itself in a number of ways –

  • A personality shift is indicated by behaviour that differs from how you would normally behave in the same situation.
  • A person’s mood, aggression, or euphoria are abnormally moody, aggressive, or euphoric in comparison to their regular behaviour in comparable conditions, indicating a personality shift.

Examples of personality change –

  • Being unconcerned in conditions that would typically induce anxiety or worry.
  • Being glad when hearing bad news.

What can cause a sudden personality change?

While a gradual shift in personality isn’t uncommon, an accident or sickness might create an abrupt transformation.

A generally joyful individual might become depressed as a result of grief, unpleasant news, or disappointment. After hearing the sad news, a person’s mood might be affected for weeks or months.

Some people have had bizarre or aberrant behaviour for years, which might be caused by disease or injury. After being exposed to a stressful scenario or seeing an unpleasant incident, a person’s demeanour may shift.

These behavioural changes may be caused by a mental health condition, such as –

  • Anxiety – When a person feels apprehensive or unpleasant about a situation, they are said to be anxious. It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, but when it happens without warning, it might be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.
  • Panic attacks – Panic episodes are intense bouts of dread. Fear might appear to be illogical at times. A person suffering a panic attack while seeing an elevator or speaking in public is an example of such a circumstance.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – This mental health disease, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is characterised by acute terror, flashbacks, and, in some cases, hallucinations. Traumatic memories, such as a terrorist attack or a vehicle accident, might cause PTSD.
  • Bipolar disorder – Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings that are intense. Mood swings may range from exhilaration to severe sadness, and they might modify how a person reacts to specific encounters or events, depending on their mood.
  • Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia makes it difficult to think clearly, interpret circumstances efficiently, behave appropriately in social situations, and discern what is genuine from what isn’t.

Strange or odd behaviour might be caused by medical problems that cause hormone levels to fluctuate. These conditions include:

  • menopause
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • andropause (male menopause)
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, respectively)

Medical emergencies that can cause strange or unusual behaviour include:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

How does dementia change your personality?

Dementia can push personalities to their extreme forms. 

Dementia patients retain their essence and character, albeit many will undergo significant personality changes. After the onset of Alzheimer’s, a sweet, gentle person may become even gentler, while the “bossy” type may become even more controlling. 

Dementia can cause hallucinations. 

Fronto-temporal dementia patients may have more dramatic and rapid personality changes. Another dementia-causing condition, Lewy Body, can create hallucinations that influence behaviour. 

Dementia can cause anxiety.

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit behavioural and personality changes such as irritability, anxiety, and sadness in the early stages of the disease. These changes are frequently the catalyst for families seeking medical assistance. 

Dementia can cause confusion, paranoia and dependence. 

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit personality changes, such as being excessively confused, distrustful, scared, or reliant on a family member.

As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, you may notice additional behavioural signs. Aggression, agitation, and paranoia are examples. There’s a chance they’re worried about family members taking or hiding stuff from them, and their handbag or wallet is regularly “taken.” 

Dementia can cause mood swings. 

From time to time, we all feel melancholy or irritable. The difference with Alzheimer’s is that your loved one’s mood might fluctuate dramatically from serenity to tears to fury, seemingly out of nowhere. 

Dementia can change the person they have been without the disease.

Patients may do things that are utterly atypical of the person their close ones have known over the years as a family or friend as a result of their loss of control and inhibitions.

Impulsivity, profanity, sexual solicitations, and overall social inappropriateness are examples of this. 

Apathy, loss of interest in previously liked activities, insensitivity to others, paranoia, delusional thinking, social isolation, difficulty to make decisions, and lack of initiative are all common personality changes. 

These alterations are the consequence of the patient’s brain deteriorating over time. 

Dementia deteriorates physical and cognitive capacities.

The illness affects cells in several parts of the brain over time, impairing various cognitive capacities. 

When a region of the brain is destroyed by disease and fails to fulfil its job, a person may display “strange behaviour.” The brain is a massive, intricate organ that controls our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and personality.

Dementia can make a person feel disoriented, concerned, nervous, vulnerable, and powerless, which might impact how they respond to events. 

The person’s capacity to manoeuvre through day-to-day events weakens as dementia develops. Outside stimuli, such as people, sounds, and the environment, become increasingly important determinants in determining what actions are displayed.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does dementia change your personality?” and reviewed what dementia means, its symptoms, causes and various types, the concept of personality change and the impact of the disease on a person’s personality to help determine if dementia can change your personality. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Laputz, S. Personality Changes in Dementia. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

https://www.alz.org/media/cacentral/dementia-care-30-personality-changes-in-dementia.pdf

Behavior & Personality Changes. The Regents of the University of California. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://memory.ucsf.edu/caregiving-support/behavior-personality-changes

Managing Personality and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s. NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). (2017, May 17). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/managing-personality-and-behavior-changes-alzheimers

Personality and Behavioral Changes Due to Dementia. Alzheimer’s Family Center. (2018, October 30). Retrieved from https://afscenter.org/personality-and-behavioral-changes-due-to-dementia/

How does dementia change a person’s behaviour?  Alzheimer’s Society. (2021, August 12). Retrieved from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/symptoms/behaviour-changes

Heerema, E. How Alzheimer’s Can Cause Changes in Personality. (2022, February 23). Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/personality-changes-in-alzheimers-97989

Sandoiu, A. Alzheimer’s disease: When does personality start to change? (2017, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319518

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