Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may occur in individuals with dementia. People typically receive an OCD diagnosis before they develop dementia. However, dementia can cause OCD symptoms to worsen over time.
This article will examine how OCD and dementia affect memory, the relationship between the two conditions, and whether there is a link between them. It will also look at its diagnosis and treatment options.
OCD is a condition where people experience uncontrollable recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions).
Symptoms of OCD can vary widely between individuals. However, one compulsion that people with OCD may experience involves checking something repeatedly. This could include repeatedly checking that they locked a door or turned an oven off.
This repeated checking has led some researchers to believe that OCD may involve memory issues. Checking the same things repeatedly could indicate that people with OCD struggle with their working memory.
A recent study compared people with OCD against people without it. Through psychological tests and imaging, the researchers found that participants with OCD had impaired working memory when compared with the participants without OCD.
Dementia is a group of diseases that affect brain function. These changes in brain function worsen cognitive abilities over time.
The symptoms of dementia depend on the type of dementia and the individual. Some of the
- getting lost in familiar places
- having trouble completing routine tasks
- forgetting words for everyday objects
- forgetting the names of friends or family members
These individuals may forget that they have acted on certain compulsions. This could lead them to repeat certain behaviors more than usual.
In some people, a late diagnosis of OCD may indicate the presence of dementia.
Experts do not understand the link between OCD and dementia well. One study found that people with OCD are at a
Although some preliminary research has found a link between OCD and dementia, the reason behind that link remains unclear. Future studies examining this relationship may lead to a more comprehensive understanding in the future.
An OCD diagnosis typically occurs earlier in a person’s life than one for dementia. We explore the diagnostic process for both conditions below.
People experiencing symptoms of dementia should visit a healthcare professional. Before diagnosing dementia, doctors may conduct a physical exam and
If healthcare professionals do not detect another condition, doctors will carry out tests for dementia. These can include:
- brain scans, such as CT scans or MRI scans
- genetic testing
- psychiatric evaluations
- cognitive function tests
A dementia diagnosis can take time. It can include several tests with a variety of different healthcare professionals. When the testing is complete, doctors can provide a diagnosis of dementia and specify the type of dementia.
A person will need to speak with a psychiatric or healthcare professional to receive an OCD diagnosis. During an initial screening for OCD, they may ask questions, such as:
- Do you double-check things often?
- Do you wash your hands or clean excessively?
- Do your day-to-day activities take lots of time to complete?
- Do you need to place certain items in a specific order?
A mental health professional can compare the results of an OCD evaluation to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) diagnostic criteria. If an individual meets these criteria, they can receive an OCD diagnosis.
People with OCD may benefit from Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This form of cognitive behavioral therapy exposes individuals to triggers and helps them develop healthy responses. Over time, this can help people manage their OCD symptoms.
Neurodegenerative forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, do not have a cure. Certain medications and types of therapy
But medications, vitamin deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances can also lead to dementia symptoms. In these instances, treating the underlying issue can help eliminate dementia symptoms.
Anyone showing signs of dementia should speak with a healthcare professional. If they have already received an OCD diagnosis, a medical professional can help them learn to manage dementia with OCD.
Individuals who show signs of OCD late in life should also consult with a medical professional. Although it is not necessarily a sign of dementia, late-onset OCD may indicate the presence of an underlying condition.
Most individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder and dementia receive an OCD diagnosis before a dementia diagnosis. Dementia may worsen OCD symptoms, but it does not typically cause OCD.
In rare instances, late-onset OCD can be a sign of cognitive decline. However, the link between OCD and dementia remains poorly understood.
Anyone showing signs of OCD and dementia should consult with a doctor. An early diagnosis and proper care can help individuals with these conditions develop the best treatment plan for them.