Personality changes occur in all people with Alzheimer's disease. The most common personality change is apathy, which is defined as a lack of interest and motivation. The person will not be interested in events and will prefer to isolate himself from social contact. This may be due to direct involvement of motivational systems in the brain or it may be due to decreased intellectual abilities.
The person may feel self-conscious in social situations because of poor intellectual abilities and therefore avoid these situations.
Aggressiveness is manifested by a stubborn and uncooperative attitude. At times this may also lead to aggressive outbursts. These outbursts may include hitting out at furniture. Sometimes aggression towards people may also occur. The person may have difficulty controlling his emotions and this may lead to irritability. He may struggle to tolerate delays and will become impatient.
The person may also show an inability to control impulses. Impulsive behaviour manifests in inappropriate spending of money, clumsy shoplifting, and social disinhibition. The person may openly talk about private or sexual matters. Depression and anxiety may also occur.
Sometimes the person may lose contact with reality and experience hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations may consist of seeing people that are not present (visual hallucinations) or hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). Delusions may be of a paranoid nature, where the person may believe that his possessions are being stolen. In addition he may believe that he is being followed or that there is a plot against him.
Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic.
For more information visit: Dementia SA: http://www.dementiasa.org/ or Alzheimer’s South Africa: http://www.alzheimers.org.za