Growing up and having children is one of the most natural and beautiful parts of living. Still, as we age into adulthood, we become more prone to developing disorders that inhabit our daily lives. Once we retire and progress into the later stages of life, we may require additional help as we age. One of the most debilitating and disheartening disorders that we can develop is dementia, which is sometimes referred to as Alzheimer’s disease. The statistics surrounding the illness are significant.
The figures that Alzheimer’s Disease International has released show that someone develops the disease every 3 seconds worldwide. There were an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015, and the number exploded to nearly 50 million people in 2017. The website also reports that the number will nearly double every 20 years, which means it will reach 75 million in 2030, and 131.5 million by 2050.
One of the concerning parts of this report is that the increase will take place in developing countries, where 58 percent of those with dementia living in low and middle-income countries. The fastest growth, however, is taking place in India, China, and in the western Pacific. In spite of the significant growth abroad, the United States also deals with its fair share of cases. The economic impact of the disease is substantial, and cost the world $818 billion in 2015. By 2018, that number rose to $1 trillion.
One link that researchers believe may contribute to dementia or psychosis is OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects roughly 2.2 million adults or 1.0 percent of the U.S. population. The disorder affects men and women equally, and it can cause debilitating effects, but what are the links between OCD and dementia?
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is considered a long-lasting disorder that causes a person to have uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) or behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat. It is considered an anxiety disorder in which individuals have intrusive thoughts that force them to repeat tasks. Some of these repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking to make sure the door is locked, or cleaning, can interfere with their daily routines.
While many people will have focused thoughts or repeated behaviors, it will not disrupt their daily lives or make tasks more challenging. For people with OCD, their ideas are persistent and unwanted. If they do not complete these tasks, they will be caused great distress. While these people are aware that their obsessions are not real, they have a hard time keeping their focus off these obsessions or putting an end to the compulsive actions.
Symptoms Of OCD Include:
- Fear of contamination by germs or by others
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or other people
- Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
- Fear of losing or not having items you may need
- Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
What Is Dementia?
Dementia, which can be considered a form of psychosis, is not a single disease. It is regarded as an overall term, such as heart disease, and it covers a wide range of medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The disorder is grouped under dementia, and abnormal brain changes cause it. These typically trigger a decline in cognitive abilities or thinking skills that are significant enough to impact someone’s daily life and independent function.
A majority of dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will start slowly and gradually get worse. If you or someone you know is experiencing a change in thinking skills or memory difficulties, do not ignore them. You must see a doctor to determine the cause. It can lead to psychosis, which can be challenging to treat.
Symptoms Of Dementia Include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
- Personality changes
- Inability to handle complex tasks
- Getting lost
- Confusion and disorientation
- Hallucinations (psychosis)
Can OCD Lead To Dementia?
There are several causes of dementia, but late-onset OCD can indicate a dementia risk. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms often occur before a dementia diagnosis, and 65 percent of patients with frontotemporal dementia have compulsive or ritualistic behaviors. The reason between OCD and dementia has not been well-studied, but these initial reports have demonstrated a definitive link between the two.
Of those surveyed, a staggering 78.3 percent of participants mention how they developed OCD or related symptoms 0 to 27 years before their clinical diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia. Of those surveyed, OCD and associated symptoms occurred concurrently with a dementia diagnosis in 17.4 percent of participants.
While there is no clear-cut answer to this question, these reports will carry weight in the argument. For now, more research must take place before scientists can conclude a definitive link.
Difference Between Dementia and Psychosis
When you think of dementia, you might think it is a mental illness because of how it affects the brain. However, some distinctions separate the two and must be discussed before coming to a diagnosis. The primary difference between dementia and psychosis is that dementia is not a mental illness. It’s a condition of the brain that leads to trouble communicating and memory loss. A proper diagnosis of mental illness or dementia in an older individual is crucial to ensure they receive the proper treatment as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, dementia and psychosis do occur. An estimated 2 million adults have something called dementia-related psychosis, which can be terribly frightening, for the individual and their caregiver. Dealing with dementia is hard enough, but when you couple that with psychotic episodes, it’s even more unnerving. To understand dementia-related psychosis, it’s important to understand the medical jargon.
Many experts refer to dementia as a “neurocognitive disorder.” However, most still use the term dementia, which is a broad term that encompasses various conditions as a result of brain changes. Alzheimer’s is the most common and widely known form of dementia, but many others exist, including the following:
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Vascular dementia
These conditions lead to a significant decline in problem-solving and thinking, making daily tasks and independent living nearly impossible. The most common symptoms of dementia include the following:
- A disappearing attention span
- Obvious memory lapses as severe as forgetting the name of your significant other, child, or other loved ones
- An inability to communicate by using unusual words
Psychosis is when someone struggles to determine what’s real and what isn’t. Individuals with frontotemporal dementia and OCD, for example, could have delusions, which are false beliefs someone is trying to kill them. Their OCD could be making it much worse.
Those with dementia-related psychosis will exhibit severe declines in their problem-solving skills and how they think due to dementia, as well as hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis. Delusions are far more common. It can trigger the following:
- Lowered inhibition
Dementia-related psychosis is challenging, but those with OCD can also have a host of other problems.
OCD and Memory
It wasn’t until the past several years the researchers found a link between OCD and memory. If you’ve been diagnosed with OCD, compulsions that cause you to repeat behaviors over and over, you might wonder if it’s causing your memory problems. Due to the repetitive nature of most OCD symptoms, there is some suggestion that individuals with the condition also have problems with their memory, or that they forget they’ve carried out their compulsion, leading to them doing it again and again.
It begs the question – does OCD cause memory impairment? Well, before proceeding, it’s important to note that there is more than one kind of memory. Some memories can be stored as words, known as verbal memory, or as experiences, including faces, sounds, tastes, shapes, and feelings, known as non-verbal memory. Comparing people without OCD, those with the disorder might have issues recalling and drawing complex geometric shapes they had just seen. OCD has been linked to other deficits in spatial memory, including remembering places on a map or locations of rooms in a house or building.
These deficits in non-verbal memory are likely caused due to how information is encoded into their brain. With OCD, some information is stored and organized in a way that’s challenging to access when it’s time to be recalled.
If you are battling OCD or have been diagnosed with dementia, seek treatment right away.