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Alzheimer's Disease - Anxiety Like Medical Condition

Last updated: May 30, 2020

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative and progressive brain disease that results in impaired memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly and affects at least three to four million people in the United States.

People with AD experience gradual memory loss as well as impaired judgement, difficulty concentrating, loss of language skills, personality changes, and a decline in the ability to learn new tasks. Memory loss usually begins at about age 65 and symptoms tend to become severe within 8 to 10 years. In some cases, symptoms may appear earlier in life and advance at a faster or slower rate, but most people who develop symptoms before the age of 60 tend to have more severe forms of the disease.

Currently, there is no cure for AD, but studies suggest that medications, herbs and supplements, and lifestyle adjustments may all help to slow the progression and improve the symptoms of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The early symptoms of AD are occasionally overlooked because they resemble signs that many people attribute to "natural aging." The following are the most common signs and symptoms of AD.

Psychological Symptoms

  • Memory loss, including not recognizing friends and family members
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty comprehending words, completing sentences, or finding the right words
  • Loss of familiarity with surroundings, wandering aimlessly
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis
  • Aggression, agitation, anxiety, restlessness
  • Accusatory behaviors (such as accusations of spousal infidelity)
  • Withdrawal, disinterest, hostility, loss of inhibitions
  • Physical Symptoms
  • Impaired movement or coordination
  • Muscle rigidity, shuffling or dragging feet while walking
  • Insomnia or disturbances in sleep patterns
  • Weight loss
  • Incontinence
  • Muscle twitching or seizures

While many of these symptoms are similar to anxiety symptoms, a thorough medical evaluation is required to rule out a medical cause.

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There is no definitive test for AD, and a true diagnosis of AD can only be made after a person dies and an autopsy is performed on the brain. All individuals with AD have an accumulation of abnormal deposits (called plaque) and tangled nerve cells in their brains. The physician will try to narrow down a diagnosis, however, by eliminating the possibility of other illnesses. He or she will ask the individual (or a close family member) to describe the primary symptoms, and how long they have been noticeable.

The following tests may also be used to aid in the diagnosis.