Pseudodementia

Pseudodementia is a mental condition that is present in approximately 10-20% of all cases of depression. Read and know what is Pseudodementia as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Pseudodementia Definition

It is a syndrome that makes an individual suffer from depression as well as cognitive impairment. It is quite similar to dementia, but actually results from an underlying psychiatric condition such as depression.

Pseudodementia Symptoms

The symptoms of Pseudodementia, which closely resemble those of real dementia and also involve signs of depression, include:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor self-care
  • Mental confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Chronic pain
  • Major changes in sleep habits
  • Reduced rate of cognitive response
  • Forgetfulness
  • Reduced energy
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest
  • Self-blaming
  • Retarded decision-making
  • Reduced problem-solving abilities
  • Inability to recall immediately

The person may also suffer from a general feeling of illness and sadness. However, Pseudodementia is markedly different from other conditions in two distinct ways. Firstly, its symptoms cannot be explained by any recognized neurological condition. Secondly, the cognitive deficits associated with the disorder improve or reverse considerably even when treatment is going on.

The symptoms of Pseudodementia vary widely in elderly individuals and closely imitate those of Dementia:

Pseudodementia Causes

Some of the main suspected causes of this condition are:

Hyperactive thyroid gland

An overactive thyroid gland reduces the functioning of the entire body.

Age

Increase in age is believed to be a reason for development of this condition. The condition is commonly seen to arise in individuals over 65 years of age.

Pneumonia

An old person who suddenly catches Pneumonia is also found to suffer from this problem.

Depressive Illness

Presence of depressive disorders may also give rise to this problem.

Brain Injury

The condition is also believed to result from accidental head trauma that causes brain injury.

Pseudodementia Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this condition requires a thorough clinical interview. Patients suffering from depression and complaining of memory problems should undergo neuropsychological tests in the office of a doctor. Such tests are usually enough to determine impairment in the memory or cognitive abilities of sufferers.

The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) is frequently used to distinguish between Pseudodementia and other types of dementia. Results from this examination are combined with the medical history and current functioning of patients to make a proper diagnosis.

Some other diagnostic tests for this disorder involve:

  • Screening tool test, to detect the main cause of the disorder
  • Blood test, to diagnose any neurological disorder
  • Electroencephalography
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • CT (Computed Tomography) scans

Pseudodementia Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis for this disorder involves distinguishing it from other conditions that give rise to similar symptoms. Such conditions can be:

  • Depression
  • Encephalitis
  • Frontal lobe tumor
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitamin deficiency

Treatment of Pseudodementia

This condition can be treated by two methods. Antidepressant therapy is the first approach. If patients fail to show a good response to this therapy, electro-convulsive therapy can be the other curative approach. The second treatment approach is not generally used and kept only as a second option as it may result in some amount of memory loss.

The treatment of Pseudodementia actually depends on the signs and symptoms exhibited by patients. If underlying conditions like Depression is treated immediately, the signs of the disease will clear away. Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography is also used for curing the condition.

Pseudodementia Prognosis

If Pseudodementia is associated with untreated depression, prognosis can be bad with chances of complications high in patients. False dementia has a good outcome. Psychiatric treatment can cure mental retardation and restore normalcy in patients within a short time.

Fortunately, most people with this disorder show good response when treated with antidepressants. If patients are adequately treated for depression, symptoms may show a complete reversal.

While treating elderly patients of this disorder, it is important to use medicines with care. Majority of antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel (Quetiapine), have been found to yield good results in younger people but should not be considered a bankable treatment in case of elders.

Pseudodementia Prevention

There is no specific way of preventing this ailment. However, its development can be avoided to an extent by a healthy lifestyle that involves:

  • Regular physical exercise, which includes running, jogging and any type of short workouts
  • Frequently indulging in recreational activities, such as playing cards
  • Keeping away from all sources of tension

Pseudodementia Vs Dementia

It is often difficult to distinguish Pseudodementia from Dementia due to multiple similarities between the two conditions. However, there exist a few signs that can help experienced physicians differentiate the two disorders. These symptoms are more apparent in elderly people.

Pseudodementia symptoms in elderly patients

  • Has an acute onset
  • Sufferers focus on failures
  • They do not suffer from any confusion at night
  • They often avoids answering questions
  • They are aware of their problems
  • Varying cognitive capacity

Dementia symptoms in elderly patients

  • Has a slow onset
  • Patients focus on past successes
  • They suffer from increased confusion at night
  • Progressive decline of cognitive capacity
  • They guess answers and have an imaginary memory (Confabulation)
  • They are unaware of problems

Depressive Pseudodementia

It is a condition marked by deterioration in cognitive abilities associated with natural increase in age. The disorder is marked by early loss of social skills and depression. They also exhibit minimal efforts to cope up with dysfunction. On treatment, however, patients show a good response. Treatment helps reverse cognitive impairment and restores normalcy in sufferers. Antidepressants are found to be quite effective in improving and managing this condition. However, little is known about the long-term results of this disorder.

The condition is also referred to as “Melancholic Dementia”.

If anyone in your family is displaying symptoms of this condition, get him or her to a doctor immediately. Timely diagnosis and treatment goes a long way in curing such mental ailments. In case of elderly sufferers, it is important to carry out proper treatment in time to check the condition and prevent worsening of its symptoms.

References:

http://www.depression-guide.com/pseudodementia.htm

http://www.geroeducation.org/HyperText_Module/Depression/html/dementia_versus_depressive_pseudodementia.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3911280

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=15336&cn=231

Published on January 16th 2012 by  under Mental Health and Behavior.
Article was last reviewed on 16th January 2012.

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