Delayed Onset PTSD and Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerAugust 23, 2017

As any caregiver knows, dementia can change the personality of a loved one, bringing about depression, irritability and even moodiness. A new study has found that these changes may not merely be side effects of the disease, but may indicate a very serious condition called delayed-onset post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Learn more about the study and how PTSD may be playing a larger role in the behavior changes of people with dementia than previously thought.

Misdiagnosed Anxiety, Delayed Onset PTSD and Dementia

A new study published in the journal Progress in Neurology and Psychiatrysuggests that some people with dementia may be experiencing PTSD – a condition caused by very distressing, frightening or stressful events. The disorder is usually diagnosed in working-age adults and is infrequently diagnosed among seniors.

Because so many people with dementia experience changes in personality, most doctors dismiss these changes as side-effects of the disease called behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).

However, research shows that PTSD can also be experienced by people with dementia, long after the event causing the PTSD had passed. Participants of the study showed instances of reliving events through flashbacks and nightmares, causing them to feel guilty, irritable and lonely.

Being able to determine the difference between BPSD and PTSD and dementia is important, because it may change a person’s treatment plan, grant more access to therapy earlier, and tell doctors how traumatic events early in life can impact a person’s neurological health.

Senior author of the study, Dr. Tarun Kuruvilla, said of the research, “Every patient with dementia has a unique narrative, which if captured in the earlier stages of the disease, enables clinicians and their families to understand the origin of their distress.”

“Therefore, it is important to look for a history of previous trauma in patients with BPSD as this could be due to delayed onset PTSD.”

How do you feel about the connection between PTSD and dementia? Is it possible your loved one’s behavioral changes are a result of delayed onset PTSD? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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