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Differentiation

Those with dementia, depression and acute confusion share similar memory problems. Yet these are different disorders. Acute confusion is a fairly urgent medical condition that must be treated immediately to prevent serious consequences. Depression, on the other hand, does not involve such temporal urgency but can be effectively treated by medication. It is therefore important to distinguish between the conditions. The table below outlines the key differences between these conditions. One needs to be aware that these conditions can co-exist. Therefore, you need to consult your doctor immediately if you have any queries.

 
 
Dementia
Depression
Acute Confusion
Onset
Gradual
Variable
A few days or weeks
Presentation
Depressive symptoms occur later
Usually not present
Anxious rather than depressed
Hallucination & paranoia
May or may not be present
May or may not be present
Prominent
Affect/Feelings
Apathy
Depressed
Anxious & fearful
Complaints
Person often denies having any memory problems
Person may complain more than the family about his/her memory problem
Variable awareness of memory problems
Conscious level
Conscious
Conscious
Marked contrast in levels of awareness from time to time
Cognitive impairment
Consistent
Inconsistent
Variable even within a day
Responses to tests of memory
May provide vague or general answer; poor awareness of memory impairments
Would be able to say “I don’t know or I can’t remember”
Intellect is preserved if consciousness is not clouded.
Treatment by antidepressant
No response
Respond to drug therapy
No response

If you would like to know how to differentiate dementia from normal forgetfulness, and the process involved in verifying dementia, please visit the section entitled "Are you concerned?"


 

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