This Little-Known Sign Of Dementia Is Often Overlooked

This symptom of dementia is often overlooked, but very damaging.

types of depression

This symptom of dementia is often overlooked, but very damaging.

Apathy is the most forgotten symptom of dementia and has a greater impact than memory loss, research concludes.

Nearly half of all people with dementia are apathetic: being highly indifferent, passive, unconcerned and lacking in enthusiasm.

People who are apathetic tend to feel little motivation, passion or excitement in life.

Apathy is linked to worse clinical symptoms and, naturally, is very distressing for families.

Apathy is distinct from depression, the researchers found, with some people with dementia not necessarily feeling down.

Apathy tends to be ignored as it is not a disruptive state, said Mr Miguel Vasconcelos Da Silva, study co-author:

“Apathy is an under-researched and often ignored symptom of dementia.

It can be overlooked because people with apathy seem less disruptive and less engaging, but it has a huge impact on the quality of life of people living with dementia, and their families.

Where people withdraw from activities, it can accelerate cognitive decline and we know that there are higher mortality rates in people with apathy.

It’s now time this symptom was recognised and prioritised in research and understanding.”

The conclusions come from an analysis of 4,320 people with Alzheimer’s disease included in 20 separate studies.

The results showed that 45 percent were apathetic at first, while 20 percent remained that way over time.

Professor Clive Ballard, study co-author, said:

“Apathy is the forgotten symptom of dementia, yet it can have devastating consequences.

Our research shows just how common apathy is in people with dementia, and we now need to understand it better so we can find effective new treatments.

Our WHELD study to improve care home staff training through personalised care and social interaction included an exercise programme that improved apathy, so we know we can make a difference.

This is a real opportunity for interventions that could significantly benefit thousands of people with dementia. “

The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles (Da Silva, 2019).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.