The idea that somebody may be deluding themselves as to their own physical and mental condition seems so silly that it almost appears childish, but if you have been in the medical profession long enough, you will understand that self-delusion is possibly one of the most universal symptoms for many of our greatest afflictions. People who are clearly suffering from diabetes-related frustration will claim they do not feel any different, people with personality disorders cannot see any rupture in their logic, and even people who are overtired will claim they feel fine until they get to bed. The “worrying” point is that people who are developing signs of dementia are often the last people to know about it because of a mixture of self-delusion and self-adjustment.
People Adjust So Slowly That They Do Not Know They Are Doing It
Comedians incorrectly state that people who are fat are that way because of sloth and ignorance, and they make fun of people who are surprised when they discover they weigh 15, 18, 21 stone, etc.
What comedians do not realise is that people adjust to gaining weight because they have to get on with their lives, and people adjust so gradually that they do not notice.
Overweight people do not notice that they have become less active, or that their portions have increased because it is a slow and gradual process. Nobody wakes up one morning to find all their trousers do not fit because that is not the way it works.
Dementia is also a very gradual thing, and it happens so slowly that people have time to adjust. It is just the same as how we all adjust to slowly losing visual acuity as we get older. You forget names, so you learn new ways to link names with faces, you forget appointments, so you buy a journal app with reminder notifications. The point is that you adjust over time so that you are almost the last person to recognise the onset of your dementia.
Why Mention Adjustment and Self-Delusion?
Other online articles are so overzealous about listing the symptoms of dementia that they almost always ignore what is actually happening to a person with dementia. Other people may be able to see your difficulty finding the right words, or your changes in mood, but you do not because you still feel like yourself. You still feel like the 15 yearr old who wanted to drive, or the 29 year old who was worried about kids.
What to Do if You Think You’re Developing Signs of Dementia
You have to work around your problems while searching for the reason they exist. You are having trouble remembering appointments, so you buy a journal app with notifications, and you search for reasons why you keep forgetting, such as maybe you do not care about the purpose of the appointments, maybe you are sleep deprived, maybe it is the onset of dementia.
Focus on You and The Specific Problems in Your Life
It can be counterproductive to focus on symptoms. Instead, focus on the problems you are having specifically, and seek medical advice once you have tested the idea that you may be accidentally and unknowingly deluding yourself and adjusting your lifestyle to fit your problem. Concentrating on symptoms only is what doctors do, and here is why you shouldn’t. Below are the most common symptoms of dementia.
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Being repetitive
- Difficulty following story-lines
- Changes in mood
- Subtle short-term memory changes
- Difficulty completing normal tasks
- A failing sense of direction
- Struggling to adapt to change
They look pretty serious, right? Yet, you could present that list to any teenager, and they would probably list at least eight of them as their own symptoms. In fact, according to the work done by the dementia carers at Helping Hands, the symptoms of depression and symptoms of dementia are almost identical in the early stages.
Focus on the specific problems you are having and look for signs that you are adjusting your lifestyle accordingly. If such self-reflection creates troubling concerns, then you should seek medical advice to find out “If” something is wrong and find out what can be done about it.
Final Warning – Family and Friends
Be aware that your family and friends are not therapists or GPs and have very little understanding of what people with dementia are going through. Your family and friends are not good judges when it comes to spotting the early signs. The only sign they will typically spot is a dramatic change in your personality. If your friends and family complain about how you have changed, then consider it a mild warning sign. Still, remember that many of the early symptoms of dementia can be confused with a host of other things. Seeking advice is a good idea because your signs of dementia may simply be personality quirks that have become more pronounced over the years.