Reversible or Apparent Dementias: Examples & Causes

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Defining and Understanding Mood Disorders

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is Dementia?
  • 1:47 Nutrition
  • 3:04 Mental Health
  • 4:28 Drugs
  • 5:44 Illness
  • 6:46 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore the idea and possible causes of pseudodementias, which appear to be true dementias but are in fact treatable and often reversible.

What Is Dementia?

It's not very often that you learn something that challenges what you thought you knew. An example is when you tell a kid that the sun isn't actually on fire or that the moon isn't the back of the sun. These are kind of silly examples, but when you don't know then they can make intuitive sense.

I bring this up because there is a lot of assumed knowledge about dementia and Alzheimer's that isn't true. People assume that everyone will have Alzheimer's when they get older, or that all memory problems are a sign of dementia or 'old-timers disease'. Dementia is a decline or cognitive impairment with memory, verbal skills, recognition, and executive functioning. It is a scary thing, because sometimes dementia has different aspects that move more quickly than other parts. Sometimes executive functioning, or the ability to plan and think, will decay much faster than memory. This means a person can remember and see how their cognitive abilities are slipping. This gives us, in the advanced cases, those moments of clarity where the person with dementia remembers and is extremely depressed.

While true dementia, like Alzheimer's disease, is incurable, there are other types of dementia, known as pseudodementia, that are reversible. These pseudodementia, which we can define as a set of symptoms similar to true dementia, but impermanent, like the name suggests with pseudo, it isn't real dementia. What this means is that pseudodementia is often curable, or at least partially reversible. Let's take a look at some of the common causes and treatments of pseudodementia.


One of the easiest and most likely to cause pseudodementia is nutrition. Nutrition, particularly certain B vitamins, has been linked to several disorders that mimic true dementia. One that gets some attention every so often is Korsakoff's syndrome, which is when a B1 (or thiamine) deficiency results in dementia symptoms.

Korsakoff's syndrome is most commonly associated with alcoholics, because of their tendency to drink their calories and not eat healthy meals. Alcohol can actually cause your body to release certain nutrients, resulting in malnutrition that affects the brain. When the brain is running on few nutrients, it can develop pseudodementia. There can be other causes for Korsakoff's, but alcohol tends to be the most common.

Treatment, if you hadn't guessed it already, is simply replacing the missing and necessary nutrition. If it is caught early enough, then the effects can be reduced and permanent damage can be staved off. However, if it gets to the point of Korsakoff's, then there is likely going to be permanent damage to the brain. Basically, lack of nutrition can cause pseudodementia, but the longer you go without nutrients, the more severe the Korsakoff's will be, and the higher probability it will turn into true dementia.

Mental Health

One of the most frightening ways a person can develop pseudodementia, in my opinion, is by mental health problems. Typically the most common cause is depression; however, other disorders such as bipolar disorder, acute stress disorder, PTSD, and severe anxiety disorders can also cause pseudodementia.

What is happening here is the mental health problem is interfering with the normal functioning of the brain. This can occur in either a psychogenic way or a neurogenic way. A psychogenic, meaning caused by thoughts and beliefs, is when thought patterns interfere with normal functioning. A person with severe anxiety or PTSD has a thought process that is interfering with their mind. It's like trying to sit and read quietly while you're being pumped full of caffeine and sugar.

Neurogenic means that it is caused by a neurological problems. Things like bipolar disorder and depression can be caused by neurotransmitter fluctuations. This is sort of like having the wrong amount of electricity in your computer, either it's going to explode, or it's going to shut down. Either way, you have a pseudodementia.

The best way to fix this type of pseudodementia is to see a psychologist and possibly a psychiatrist. The two of them can help correct the psychological and neurological issues that are the root of this pseudodementia.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account