Dementia Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with dementia build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding Dementia

Learn about dementia

When certain areas of a person’s brain are damaged and cognitive functioning deteriorates as a result, it is probable that that person is suffering from dementia. A collection of symptoms that can be triggered by brain trauma, exposure to harmful chemicals or viruses, or mutations to a person’s genes, dementia can bring about personality changes, behavioral concerns, and devastating impairments to an individual’s memory.

Dementia symptoms are degenerative and can ultimately cause a sufferer of these symptoms to require round-the-clock care as they worsen. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a condition that can be diagnosed and treated if it is caught early enough. Early detection of dementia symptoms is crucial to slowing the progression of symptoms. Luckily, treatment and care for dementia is available that can help sufferers retain a good quality of life and prevent a rapid decline in functioning and autonomy.


Dementia statistics

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia affects an estimated 24 million individuals. Alzheimer’s disease, more specifically, has been ranked as the seventh leading cause of death for people in the United States. Lastly, it is believed that Alzheimer’s affects just over eleven percent of adults of advanced age and researchers speculate that that percentage is expected to rise over time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for dementia

While mental health professionals agree that dementia is caused by damage to a person’s brain functioning, the following causes and risk factors explain how such damage occurs through the examination of genetic, physical, and environmental influences, as well as other risk factors for causes of dementia:

Genetic: Research has found that dementia can be caused by certain genetic mutations. Deterministic genes and risk genes have been identified as the mutated genes found in those with dementia. Because of this finding, experts agree that a person’s genetics can be a deciding factor for the development of this illness in some people.

Physical: Because dementia impacts a person’s cognition, a number of studies have been done to examine the effects of this disease on the brain. What these studies found is that certain areas of the brain, specifically the cerebral cortex, become damaged as symptoms of dementia worsen. This area of the brain allows a person to form thoughts and memories, in addition to carrying out movement. When this part of the brain is damaged or experiences trauma, it is likely that a person will experience symptoms synonymous with dementia.

Environmental: Studies on dementia have found that certain influences from a person’s environment can trigger the onset of dementia symptoms. Hazardous chemicals, such as those found in air pollution or lead, can alter an individual’s brain chemistry and cause symptoms of dementia to manifest. Additionally, experts believe that smoking, obesity, certain viruses, and having Down syndrome can also increase a person’s chances for experiencing dementia at some point in life.

Risk Factors:

  • Being older in age
  • Family history of dementia or other neurocognitive disorders
  • Experiencing brain trauma
  • Obesity
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Personal history of being a smoker
  • Having HIV or syphilis
  • Having Down syndrome

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of dementia

Depending on the severity of symptoms present, the signs of dementia can be vast. Additionally, depending on what caused the onset of dementia symptoms, the obviousness of signs present can also vary. If you suspect that you or a loved is presenting with symptoms of dementia, it is important to report symptoms present and consult with a mental health professional so that a definitive diagnosis can be concluded. Examples of such symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Getting lost
  • Language impairment
  • Problems with planning
  • Problems organizing
  • Erratic behaviors
  • Uncalled-for aggression
  • Violent behaviors
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Requiring assistance in task completion

Physical symptoms:

  • Hindered motor capabilities
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lack of balance
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weakened muscles
  • Incontinence
  • Tremors

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired perception
  • Difficulty reasoning
  • Comprehension failure
  • Memory impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of focus
  • Inability to recognize people, places, or objects
  • Inattention
  • Loss of ability to think abstractly
  • Poor decision-making

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Unpredictable moods
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Irritability


Effects of Dementia

Because dementia is degenerative in nature, it is possible that a person could experience adverse effects as symptoms worsen. The listed effects are examples of worsening symptoms and behavior changes that are known to happen when a person is suffering from dementia:

  • Memory impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Getting lost places that were once familiar
  • Constant reiteration of stories or conversation
  • Repetitious behaviors and actions
  • Inability to recognize faces
  • Inability to remember names
  • Unwarranted distrust of others
  • Suspiciousness of others
  • Increased aggression

Co-Occurring Disorders

Dementia and co-occurring disorders

Dementia can trigger, or occur in response to, a mental health disorder or medical condition. The following mental health disorders are examples of those that frequently occur alongside dementia symptoms and often require treatment to alleviate side effects as well:

  • Depressive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Specific phobias
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Substance use disorders

So thankful to have made some great friends at Rolling Hills who could understand what I was going through.

– Former Patient