Personality changes are fairly common among aging adults. As you enter a new stage of life, it’s normal for some of your beliefs, values, or habits to change. Your lifestyle may look different now than it did 10 years ago, and you may express yourself differently as a result.
However, personality changes can sometimes be concerning. If you don’t know why you’re experiencing behavior changes or you feel like you don’t recognize yourself, you might worry that something is wrong. Similarly, if your aging friend or relative is showing dramatic personality changes, you may feel confused or alarmed.
Understanding why personality changes occur with age can help you determine whether or not you should be concerned about your or your loved one’s behavior. Here’s everything you need to know about personality changes with age:
Common Behavior and Personality Changes in Older Adults
No two people are exactly the same, so personality changes may vary widely from senior to senior. There are some common trends that you may notice in your aging loved ones, though. For example, agitation and anxiety both commonly increase with age and can cause noticeable personality changes. You or your loved one might feel more nervous or on-edge than you used to, or you may get frustrated more easily.
Impulsive and reckless behavior are also common personality changes that occur in seniors. These behavior changes usually result from neurological disorders or other physical health problems, but they can have a dramatic impact on your personality and behavior. You might notice your aging loved one making inappropriate comments, refusing to take their medication, or engaging in other reckless or self-destructive behaviors.
Others may become quieter or more reserved with age. Sometimes, previously loud and outspoken individuals become more socially withdrawn because of cognitive decline or physical fatigue. You may notice that they’re not engaging as much in conversation as they once did or that they don’t reach out to socialize frequently anymore.
What Causes Personality Changes in the Elderly?
Personality changes sometimes happen as a natural result of aging. However, a sudden change in personality may be a sign of something more serious. If you’re concerned that you or a relative is acting completely differently than usual, there may be a physical, mental, or cognitive health issue. The following are some of the most common causes of personality changes in seniors:
Depression and other mental health disorders can significantly impact the way you view yourself and the world around you. When you’re struggling with your mental health, you may become quiet, withdrawn, angry, or agitated. This affects how you feel internally, but it can also affect your behavior toward others. It’s incredibly difficult to engage with your friends and family when you feel so low.
Minor cognitive decline shouldn’t cause a sudden or intense change in personality. Dementia and other cognitive disorders may affect your behavior, though. Unfortunately, most people with dementia experience serious personality changes over the course of the illness, which can be challenging for loved ones to witness. Anxiety, agitation, mood swings, aggression, and lack of energy are all common personality changes in adults with dementia, but the condition can result in other changes as well.
Medication Side Effects
Elderly adults may take more medications than younger adults, and certain medications can cause personality changes. If the change in personality occurred shortly after beginning a medical treatment, the two events could be connected. Your or your loved one’s doctor may be able to offer insight and guidance into managing personality changes that occur as a result of medications. Sometimes, adjusting the dosage or altering the treatment regimen may help to get the individual back to normal.
Hearing or Vision Problems
Hearing and vision problems are common but often overlooked causes of behavior changes. In this case, you or your loved one may not actually experience a personality change, but the decline in hearing or vision makes it difficult to engage with the world. If you’ve noticed that an aging relative seems more quiet or withdrawn with no explanation, it may be time for them to get a hearing or vision exam. Fortunately, these problems are often treatable with hearing aids, glasses, and other adaptive devices.
A stroke is one of the most serious medical events you can go through, and it can have lasting effects on your behavior and personality. Your neurology plays a major role in your personality, and strokes sometimes impair the areas of the brain responsible for decision-making, cognition, and communication. If there is any possibility that you or an aging loved one has experienced a stroke, you should seek medical attention right away.
Urinary Tract Infections
A UTI is a surprising but fairly common cause of personality changes, especially in older women. If you have an untreated UTI, you may experience confusion, forgetfulness, mood swings, or agitation. In some cases, the symptoms of a UTI mimic the symptoms of dementia. This health concern is treatable, though, so the symptoms should resolve after you receive medical care.
When to Be Concerned
Slight changes in personality may be a typical part of the aging process. If you still feel happy and healthy, you probably don’t need to worry. Personality changes become alarming when they lead to dangerous or harmful behavior or when they interfere with your quality of life. You should also be concerned if you’ve noticed a sudden, dramatic change in personality or behavior without any explanation as this can be a sign of a serious health problem.
If you feel at all worried or uncomfortable about a personality change, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. You could schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your concerns and rule out any physical health issues that may be contributing. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you could arrange for senior counseling to better understand your personality and why you’re experiencing changes.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy for older adults experiencing mental health concerns or any of the challenges of aging. If you’re worried about personality changes in yourself or a loved one, you can reach out to us today to schedule a meeting with a therapist in your area.