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Obsessive Behaviour | Common Signs

  • Constantly rearranges and sorts items (e.g. clothing)
  • Habitually hides items (e.g. money, keys, credit cards)
  • Hoards and hides food
  • Paces
  • Constantly checks the doors and windows
  • Constantly picks at their skin
  • Continuously wants to go to the same place (e.g. "I have to go to the bathroom")
  • Constant fear of germs or dirt (e.g. constantly washing their hands)
  • Repeats tasks a certain number of times
Obsessive Behaviour | General Description

After a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease , many aspects of a person's life are forced to change and will continue to change. These changes can cause fear and anxiety, and a desire for consistency as things become increasingly unfamiliar. This can result in obsessive behaviours. Sometimes, these behaviours can be understood, even if they are not entirely reasonable. For example, as the person you care for has just been diagnosed with an illness, they might feel that germs somehow are involved, and thus can be afraid of getting sicker. This can lead them to continuously wash their hands, or clean the house. The person you care for also may be afraid of losing their independence. As well, because their access to items has been limited due to the progression of the disease, they may start to hide or hoard items they still have access to. For example, the person you care for may be annoyed that they are no longer able to cook or prepare their own meals. As a result they may hide or hoard food so that they can eat at a time of their choosing in order to gain a sense of control. As Alzheimer's disease progresses, they are less likely to be able to do the things they once did and they have fewer activities to occupy their time. The person you care for may engage in obsessive behaviours because of boredom or excess energy. For example, they may fold and refold the laundry in order to occupy their time. Similarly, they may perform an obsessive behaviour that is related to a past activity or occupation. For example, they may always want or ask to go to the hospital if they used to be a nurse and felt comfortable in that setting.

In Frontotemporal dementia , people will often show signs of obsessive compulsive behaviour such as hand washing or walking back and forth from one area to another. They have the need to carry out repeated actions that are inappropriate or not relevant to the situation at hand. Breaking this cycle is difficult and the caregiver must decide if this behaviour is simply annoying or unsafe for the person and decide if they need to intervene.

The first step in managing symptoms is understanding how a symptom is affecting everyday life; the next step is communicating this knowledge to those involved - such as doctors, other professionals and family members. SymptomGuideTM has been designed with these goals in mind.

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See Also:
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Wandering
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Repetitive Behaviour
Symptom Library > Personality Changes > Anxiety and Worry
Symptom Library > Personality Changes > Independence
Symptom Library > Personality Changes > Restlessness
About Dementia > Treatments for Dementia > Counselling
About Dementia > Working with your Doctor > Getting a Diagnosis
Symptom Library > Thinking & Judgment > Attention/Concentration (lack of)
About Dementia > Treatments for Dementia > Exercise
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Last updated January 13, 2019
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