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Tuesday, 27 September 2016 00:00

Personality changes – Midlife Crisis or Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is a little-known and even less understood neurological disease that not only destroys the thinking skills of the person affected but can badly damage, if not, kill relationships.

The nature of this devastating disease presents as a fairly rapid descent into madness. Reliability is replaced with recklessness; comfort becomes silence and apathy, carefully nurtured and skilled vocations supplanted with ineptitude and carelessness, politeness disappears and in its place is inappropriate declarations and even harsh aggression.

Unfortunately the presence of any physical cause is hidden deep inside the brain, making it hard to recognise anything other than what appears to many as a midlife crisis. Communication breaks down and the person affected becomes like a stranger to friends and loved ones.

Frontotemporal dementia is different to Alzheimer’s. Initially it has no effect on memory, but rather appears as bizarre and inexplicable personality deviations. It also progresses faster and affects a much younger demographic.

Understand before you act

Without a proper diagnosis, a devastating and utterly unnecessary consequence of the disease is often divorce. The protracted tragedy of this is that a person often doesn’t survive long after the appearance of initial symptoms, on average it’s about eight years. In spite of the disease being recognised a century ago, there is still no preventative measure, treatment or cure for it.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been ongoing and extensive research into trying to gain a better understanding of how and why it develops, in an attempt to find a successful treatment. Just recently researchers made important discoveries that linked causes to biochemical and genetic defects and as such have developed a ground-breaking drug that targets the abnormal protein build-up in the brain. The first ever human drug trials to target this particular disease could begin as early as 2017 in the United States.

In the meantime, if your spouse begins to behave uncharacteristically, consider taking them to a doctor, instead of a divorce lawyer.

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