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Brusque changes of mood

Changes in mood


Mrs West came into the kitchen and sat down at the table with a pleasant smile. Then as her daughter was pouring tea into a cup, for no apparent reason, she stood up abruptly and started pacing up and down the kitchen in an agitated fashion. Her daughter was startled but calmly drew her attention to the tea. Mrs West then sat back down at the table and a pleasant, relaxed expression returned to her face. Whilst at the day centre, Mrs Brown asked for a handkerchief. When she had used it, she couldn’t find a pocket to put it in so after a quick glance round, she stuffed it into her bra. Then she burst out laughing. It was quite amusing, but she laughed so much that there were tears in her eyes and she seemed to be unable to stop. A carer interrupted her laughing to tell her that tea was ready and the distraction caused her to stop laughing.

Sometimes people with dementia show signs of extreme sadness or happiness over something which would not normally cause such a reaction. (This is often referred to as emotional lability.) As a result, they may cry or laugh uncontrollably. You may find this strange and perhaps disturbing. You should not worry about this, but merely try to stop them.

You may also have found that the person‘s mood abruptly changes for no apparent reason. Sometimes this change is so dramatic that it is disturbing. However, such brusque changes of mood and extreme emotions are due to the disease. They are not a reaction against something that has happened and you should therefore not take them personally.

How to cope with brusque changes of mood and extreme happiness or sadness

By keeping calm you will reduce the possibility of the mood swing turning into an over-reaction (please refer to the chapter on over-reactions). It may be difficult to remain calm, particularly if the person is behaving in an aggressive way or becomes verbally abusive, and you will probably be inclined to take it personally. It is important to remember that such abrupt and extreme emotion is caused by the disease and is not directed personally against you. By gently and calmly reassuring the person with dementia, it might be possible to defuse the situation. It is important to provide reassurance because they may be bewildered, not knowing why they are behaving in such a way, but nevertheless feeling the emotion. Whereas laughter is not generally considered to be a problem, people with dementia sometimes become tired or even afraid of their own emotions. They may forget what triggered off the emotion and become very confused. For this reason, it is important to provide reassurance and support rather than looking for what caused the behaviour. Moreover, you should not feel responsible for changes of mood or extreme emotions. It is not due to something that you have done or not done.



Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009