Can Dementia Cause People to Lose Their Inhibitions?

Dementia Can Cause a Lack of Inhibitions such as Angry Outbursts
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Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia affects people in many ways. Some of the most obvious symptoms are often those that relate to memory, communication and decision-making. But, other symptoms of dementia seem to fall more into the category of personality and behavior.

Inhibitions

In a healthy person, the brain usually has a function where it inhibits, (stops or modifies) certain behaviors or words from being conducted or said.

For example, you might be angry with your boss, but if you're wise, you will probably withhold some of the things you may be thinking as you're talking with her. Or, you might find someone attractive, but because you know he is married, you stop yourself from acting on an impulse to touch that person.

How Does Dementia Affect Inhibitions?

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, can decrease inhibitions and the ability to control impulses. This decrease in inhibitions develops in most types of dementia, but is an especially common description of behavior in frontotemporal dementia. A lack of inhibition often affects both communication (verbal and non-verbal) and behavior.

A Lack of Inhibitions in Communication

You might notice someone with dementia become very careless with what they say about others or you. She may be unkind, blunt, rude, or even vulgar and crude in her language.

Non-verbally, a person with decreased inhibitions might mimic those around him or display facial expressions such as rolling of the eyes.

Rarely, family members report that their loved one with dementia actually becomes more outgoing and friendly than they used to be due to a lack of inhibition.

A Lack of Inhibition in Behavior

A lack of inhibitions in behavior can result in several challenges, including combativeness with care, removing clothing (either with or without the intention to display themselves), attempts to inappropriately touch someone, and reaching out and hitting a passerby despite the lack of any identifiable trigger.

Coping with a Lack of Inhibitions

Remember that a person with dementia did not choose his disease, so try not to cast blame his way. Assume that he is not able to control his behavior or words, and that the dementia is the cause of his behavior. Reminding yourself of this can encourage you to react to a patient or loved one with compassion and understanding instead of irritation and frustration.

Sources:

University of California San Francisco. Frontotemporal Dementia. Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/frontotemporal_dementia/

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