Signs & Symptoms of Dementia

No one experiences dementia the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of dementia is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Dementia

Learn about dementia

Dementia, a collection of symptoms that lead to the deterioration of a person’s cognitive functioning, is caused by damage to certain areas of a person’s brain. Whether it is brought on by specific genetic mutations, exposure to viruses or chemicals, or following trauma to the brain, dementia can cause a number of devastating effects to a person’s life. Memory impairment, personality changes, and a number of behavior problems are known to occur in those who are affected by this condition.

With Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form of dementia, experts believe that there are as many as fifty possible contributors that lead to dementia’s onset. And while there is no known cure for dementia, there are treatment options available that can slow the progression of symptoms. Depending on the area of the brain affected, proper treatment can improve the lives of those affected by these symptoms. Early diagnosis and intervention are known to be extremely integral in slowing cognitive decline and maintaining normal functioning.


Dementia statistics

Believed to affect nearly 24 million people worldwide, dementia is a quickly growing condition. Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, affects 1 out of every 9 senior adults in the United States. Additionally, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in America.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for dementia

There are a number of causes and risk factors that lead to nerve cell damage, which can subsequently lead to the development of dementia. The following causes and risk factors are widely accepted by experts as explanations for why dementia occurs in some people and not in others:

Genetic: Research has concluded that dementia is hereditary such that one of the causes is due to mutations in a person’s genes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, two types of genes, known as deterministic genes and risk genes, are commonly found in those with dementia symptoms and can be found in people who have a family history of dementia.

Physical: Neurological research has found that those with dementia present with damage to cells in the cerebral cortex part of the brain. This area in the brain controls a person’s ability to form memories, thoughts, and certain movements. Additionally, the cerebral cortex is partially responsible for the formation of a person’s personality. When impacted by damage, cells in this portion of the brain die rapidly and lead to changes in a person’s functioning and can cause a person to behave out of character.

Environmental: Environmental factors are also known to lead to the onset of dementia. Exposure to hazardous chemicals, like lead or toxic air pollution, can lead to the appearance of symptoms of dementia. When this kind of exposure happens early in a person’s life, onset of dementia can occur sooner.

Risk Factors:

  • Being of advanced age
  • Family history of dementia or other neurocognitive disorders
  • Experiencing brain trauma
  • Having HIV or syphilis
  • Having Down syndrome
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of dementia

Dementia can be triggered by a number of causes, therefore the signs and symptoms can vary depending on what prompted the start of dementia symptoms. If you or your loved one is concerned that symptoms of dementia are what is causing impairment or a decline in normal functioning, take note if the following are present:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Language impairment
  • Erratic or inappropriate behavior
  • Problems with planning and organizing
  • Uncalled-for aggression or violent behavior
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Getting lost in places that were once familiar
  • Requiring assistance in task completion

Physical symptoms:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Incontinence
  • Lack of balance
  • Weakened muscles
  • Hindered motor capabilities
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Poor quantity and/or quality of sleep
  • Tremors

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory impairment or loss
  • Lack of focus / attention
  • Loss of ability to think abstractly
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty reasoning
  • Inability to recognize people, places, or objects
  • Impaired perception
  • Comprehension failure

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Psychosis
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia


Effects of dementia

The onset and progression of dementia can lead to a number of effects that can impact not only the sufferer, but the individual’s friends and loved ones too. Examples of these effects can include:

  • Memory impairment or loss
  • Getting lost in places that were once familiar
  • Loss of facial recognition
  • Unwarranted distrust or suspicion of others
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Constant reiteration of things already said
  • Repeating the same actions or activities over and over

Co-Occurring Disorders

Dementia and co-occurring disorders

Because dementia is known to occur in response to other mental health conditions, it is not uncommon for a mental disorder or disorders to occur alongside dementia. This is also the case in instances when dementia precedes the onset of symptoms associated with a mental illness. The listed disorders are examples of mental health conditions that can co-occur with dementia:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Depressive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Substance use disorders
what past clients say

When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, we felt like there was no hope. Thankfully, we found StoneCrest. After getting therapeutic intervention and participating in family therapy, we were both more prepared to face his disease. I cannot thank the caring and compassionate staff at StoneCrest enough!

– Wife of a former client
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