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Abstract: What is pseudo-dementia? What is dementia and what are the differences?

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Written by: , lecturer of Psychiatry in the University of Ioannina Medical School, Greece. Eva Gerasi, postgraduate student in the Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Ioannina, Greece.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 29 Jul 2008.

What is pseudo-dementia? What is dementia and what are the differences?


Pseudo-dementia is the name given by doctors to a type of depression which appears superficially as a problem with memory and which is relatively common in older people and may be confused with the presence of dementia.

Dementia is the term applied to illnesses where memory and other higher mental functions are affected and includes illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease.

In pseudo-dementia, patients' memory appears to be affected, but closer examination will reveal that they are inattentive to their surroundings and hence unable to retain new information in the form of new memories. Also they are able precisely to date the onset of this impairment and are acutely aware that memory is insufficient. Their slowness and apathy is, of course, similar to the effects of dementia. However, other signs and symptoms of depression are usually present. The significance is that depression in this age group, unlike dementia, can generally be successfully treated if recognized.

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