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BMC Res Notes. 2014 Jun 21;7:381. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-7-381.

Symptoms mimicking dementia in a 60-year-old woman with bipolar disorder: a case report.

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  • 1University of Groningen, University Medical Centre Groningen, University Centre for Geriatric Medicine, Internal Postcode AA43, P,O, Box 30,001, Groningen 9700 RB, The Netherlands.



Dementia is generally considered an irreversible process of cognitive decline that can be caused by different neurodegenerative diseases. However, in some cases, dementia is caused by a non-neurodegenerative disease, such as an affective disorder. In these cases, the dementia can be reversible. Nevertheless, cognitive symptoms due to an affective disorder are often difficult to distinguish from a depressed mood due to a neurodegenerative disease. Especially in elderly patients with a history of affective disorder, a potentially reversible cause can be missed.


We describe a 60-year-old white woman with bipolar disorder, depressive symptoms, a movement disorder and severe cognitive impairment, in whom a neurodegenerative disease was seriously considered. She was referred to our clinic for further investigation because initial treatment of the depressive episode with antidepressants, mood stabilizers and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) had not been successful. However, despite extensive evaluation, we could not find evidence for a neurodegenerative disease and the patient mostly recovered after discontinuation of different psychotropic medications and treatment with nortriptyline.


Our case shows that improvement of severe cognitive impairment in individual cases is possible. In our opinion, this underlines the necessity of a careful re-evaluation of the patient's symptoms at presentation and the course of the disease as well as a critical review of the prescribed medications.

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