Pseudo Dementia: Are You Losing Your Mind?

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - One in four people will be diagnosed with dementia in our lifetime. We all worry about it, but could losing your mind be all in your head? Your forgetfulness could be completely treatable!

"You're in a go," Carolyn Conley said. "It's like you can't even think."

"I couldn't do anything," 90-year-old Irene White said.

Conley and White are two women in different stages of life with the same fear.

"I started experiencing memory lapses, a really odd feeling," Conley said.

But these women are not losing their minds. After years of suffering, Conley found out the opening at the base of her skull was not big enough, and put pressure on her brain stem. Surgery corrected it, but for millions of others, no surgery is needed for the solution.

"Many of us complain about middle aged pauses or senior moments," Gary Smalls, Ph.D., a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles Center on Aging in Los Angeles, Calif., said.

Dr. Smalls says many women suffer from pseudo dementia and don't know it.

"You may be stressed out," Dr. Smalls explained. "You may be fatigued. It could be anxiety."

Mildred Mcaffey, an internist at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Fla., says clinical depression is often confused with dementia. Studies show when patients are given antidepressants, their symptoms improve.

"It can be mistaken for dementia," Dr. Mcaffey, explained. I had this one patient who thought she had dementia. As it turns out, once we started her on the anti-depressant, her memory significantly improved."

Anemia, thyroid disorders, malnutrition, alcoholism and vitamin D and B deficiencies can also cause memory loss.
"It turned out it was vitamin B12 deficiency," White said.

So if you feel like you're losing your mind, check with a nutritionist first. A simple change in your diet could get your memory back on track.

"I'm 90 and I'm happy," White exclaimed.

"I absolutely feel like a new person," Conley concluded.

Signs that your memory loss may be dementia include asking the same questions repeatedly, becoming lost in familiar places and being unable to follow directions. And unlike pseudo dementia, it's not curable. For these women, that was not the case.

If you would like more information, please contact the National Institute of Mental Health.

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