For over 30 years, Vantage Point is the area’s only full dementia treatment facility with a complete continuum of psychiatric and behavioral health services for children, adults and seniors.
Learn about dementia and mental illness
Dementia is a syndrome that is marked by the combination of severe problems in one’s memory and the disturbance of at least one other cognitive function. There are many different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and Huntington’s disease. Dementia occurs with the onset of a decline in memory or other thinking skills that becomes so severe that it begins to inhibit a person’s ability to function appropriately on a daily basis.
Dementia syndromes tend to be progressive in nature, meaning that their symptoms will develop slowly and continue to gradually worsen as time passes. However, different forms of dementia are classified in different ways, oftentimes depending on what symptoms they have in common.
Most forms of dementia are incurable, but can be managed through proper treatment. However, there are some types of dementia that are caused by a reaction to medications or infections. Those types of dementias can be reversible with treatment.
Dementia is said to be one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. It is estimated that there are 24 million people living with some form of dementia throughout the world. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects around 13% of Americans over the age of 65.
Causes and risk factors for dementia
Any time that an individual suffers from any type of brain disease, there are multiple factors that come into play. The following are some examples of causes that can contribute to the onset of the various forms of dementia:
Genetic: One’s genetic makeup can play a role in the development of different forms of dementia. Studies have shown that people who have a biological parent or sibling that suffers from dementia are more likely to develop some form of the disease. When more than one family member suffers from a type of dementia, the risk increases.
Physical: People suffering from dementia have experienced some form of damage to the nerve cells in their brain. It can occur in several different areas of the brain, which causes people to react differently based on the part of the brain that has been affected.
Environmental: Studies have shown that exposures to certain chemicals may put one at risk for developing a cognitive decline. Chemicals such as lead, particulate air pollution, and aluminum have all been linked to possibly contributing to the onset of dementia. It is said that if people have been exposed to these forms of toxic substances, their risk of developing a decline in cognition at earlier ages increases.
There are some risk factors that may lead to the onset of dementia that one does not have any control over. These factors may include:
- Family history
- Having Down syndrome
- Exposure to certain toxic chemicals
There are also some risk factors that can lead to the onset of dementia that can be managed through behavior modifications early in life. These factors can include:
- Alcohol use
- Having high or low blood pressure
- Having high cholesterol
- High estrogen levels
Signs and symptoms of dementia
The signs and symptoms of dementia can differ greatly from person to person. The following are some examples of the various types of symptoms an individual suffering from dementia may exhibit:
- Loss of social skills
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Inappropriately laughing or crying
- Difficulty following instructions
- Inappropriate behavior
- Requiring assistance to perform complex tasks
- Poor balance
- Impaired motor functioning
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Loss of memory
- Decreased ability to focus and pay attention
- Impaired reasoning and judgment
- Decreased ability to communicate appropriately
- Loss of object recognition
- Changes in personality
- Increased agitation
- Mood changes that are unusual for the individual
Effects of dementia
The effects of dementia can be significant for both the individual suffering from the illness, as well as for the individuals in that person’s life. The following are some examples of the effects that can occur in an individual suffering from dementia and how it can affect that person’s friends and loved ones:
- Constantly walking and pacing. This can cause those around the person to begin feeling a sense of anxiety as they do not know what to expect from the continuity of this behavior.
- Increased levels of aggression, including shouting and screaming. This can cause both fear and sadness in those to whom the person is directing his or her aggression.
- Becoming suspicious of other people. This can lead friends or family members to become frustrated with the person because they may have to spend a great deal of time repeating all of the reasons why that person’s suspicious are unfounded. In doing so, the result could be more aggression from the person suffering from dementia because he or she may feel like no one believes him or her.
- Repeating questions or participating in the same activities over and over again. This can cause frustration and impatience in the people closest to the person. They may become discouraged by having to repeat themselves but then may feel guilt about their own impatience when they realize that their loved one is not acting that way on purpose.
Dementia and co-occurring disorders
Dementia can occur alongside other types of illnesses. Some examples of disorders that co-exist with dementia include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol abuse
- Traumatic brain injury
- The existence of overlapping forms of dementia (e.g. suffering from the symptoms of both Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease)