What Kind of Emotional Changes Will Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or Mild Cognitive Impairment Go Through?

Finding out that you have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) can be an extremely difficult time for everyone involved. Emotional reactions to the diagnosis will vary depending on the individual, but the following responses are fairly common:

  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Overly emotional responses
  • Apathy
  • Loss of motivation
  • Frequently agitation

If you are experiencing these emotions, you are not alone. Being aware of the emotional changes that you may go through as the disease progresses will help you cope with common emotional responses as they occur. Senior woman

Depression and anxiety are common.

When anyone receives a diagnosis that changes the rest of their life, they are likely to experience depression and anxiety. Receiving an AD or MCI diagnosis is no exception. However, learning about the disease and taking a “can do” approach to coping with it can significantly curb these feelings.

You may not be able to read faces for emotion or pick up other emotional cues.

If you have been struggling to empathize with your friends and relatives, this might be due to the disease. AD and MCI may affect brain structures that regulate emotional processing, which decreases your ability to sense emotion in others and react appropriately.

Emotion-based decision making will likely decrease.

Decision-making abilities generally decrease when you have AD or MCI. However, the ability to make decisions based on emotion may disappear all-together in later stages of the disease. Even if you often made sacrifices for others prior to the disease, you may not have the same mentality later. The inability to show and convey emotion may inhibit your ability to contribute emotionally to others.

Combating these emotional reactions:

  1. Have a “take charge” attitude. If you approach the disease as something to fight and not something that should simply be accepted, then you are likely to have a much higher quality of life and depression is less likely to occur.
  2. Learn about the disease and what to expect. Much of the anxiety caused by a diagnosis is based on the fact you do not know much about that disease and how it will progress. Learn about it to curb this anxiety.
  3. Join a support group. Studies indicate that joining a support group can increase self-esteem and overall quality of life. Many people find it helpful to discuss the progress of the disease and how they are dealing with it with others who are having similar experiences.

 For more information about AD or MCI, contact the Palm Beach Neurological Center by calling 888-369-1010.


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Zarit, SH, et al. (2003). Memory Club: A Group Intervention for People With Early-Stage Dementia and Their Car Partners. The Gerontologist. 44(2): 262-269. doi. 10.1093/geront/44.2.262.

Spoletini I, et al. (2008). Facial Emotion Recognition Deficit in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer disease. Am. J. Geriatr. Psychiatry. 16(5): 389-398.

Bayard S., et al. (2014). Apathy and Emotion-Based Decision-Making in Amnesic Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease. Behavioural Neurology. 2014: 1-7. doi. 10.1155/2014/231469.

Clare L. (2010). We’ll fight it as long as we can: Coping with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Aging & Mental Health. 6(2): 139-148. doi. 10.1080/136078602220126826.


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