Bipolar & Dementia

I fear dementia. Both of my parents have dementia and live in a memory care community. They love one another and seem happy where they are now, but it took a while to make that happen. They wanted to maintain their independence. Understandable.

I fear dementia. Though I hope by avoiding alcohol and taking my bipolar medications, I can stave it off. (Alcohol is a neurotoxin, and I have a family history of alcoholism.)

Still, I fear a downward spiral. That fear I want to overcome. Face it. Stand up to bipolar disorder and dementia. Take care of my brain.

Even if my bipolar disorder progresses, even if I get dementia, I can still love and be loved, just as my parents still love and are loved.

Bipolar Disorder & Dementia Research

Analyzing six studies, researchers concluded  in “History of Bipolar Disorder and the Risk of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis“:

History of BD [bipolar disorder] is associated with significantly higher risk of dementia in older adults. Future studies are necessary to evaluate the potential mediators of this association and to evaluate interventions that may reduce the risk of dementia in this population.

Diniz BS, Teixeira AL, Cao F, Gildengers A, Soares JC, Butters MA, Reynolds CF 3rd
The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2017 Apr;25(4):357-362. DOI:

56 thoughts on “Bipolar & Dementia

  1. dawnwairimu September 18, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    This is so relevant to me and people that i know. My husband’s mom had early onset dementia and i see his sisters consumed by fear of the same fate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley September 19, 2017 / 11:54 am

      I know that fear. So sorry that your mother in law had early onset dementia.


  2. annieb1969 September 10, 2017 / 5:09 am

    I’m glad I read this blog, I have been on meds since 2006 for bipolar and my memory is shot, I find it hard to remember how to spell the simplest words and my short term memory is really bad. Getting to where I can’t keep up with conversations sometimes cause I forget what we are talking about. I will look more into this now that I know. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley September 10, 2017 / 11:13 am

      Ask your doctor about your meds’ side effects. My body has adjusted (or I’ve adjusted my expectations). Don’t go off meds. Safer to stay on. They protect your brain from damage of episodes. More episodes, more damage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 19, 2017 / 3:29 pm

      Don’t. Just let your body adjust to Dope-a-Max. Mood stabilizers protect our brains from permanent damage, even as they seem to cause it. My brain has adjusted to Depakote over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. NikNakNoNo August 15, 2017 / 11:32 am

    Thanks Kitt for connecting the dots. I read (twice and even took summary notes) John Arden’s book “The Brain Bible” which is on how to live now to prevent dementia. And it could be written for anyone with Bipolar and trying to stay stable chemically. A bit scientific at times, but digestible and impactful. Highly recommended if you are looking for a practical course on prevention. (ouch, not that this has stopped me drinking though).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. daybydaybipolar August 13, 2017 / 7:10 am

    This scares me to death as well. I’m only 37 and I’ve had problems with my memory for a few years now. I even had to leave a job because I couldn’t memorize a required script.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 14, 2017 / 10:38 am

      Talk to your psychiatrist about your inability to memorize the script. To some extent, it could be an episodic symptom. To some extent, medication side effect. Medications, by and large, protect our brains from the devastating impact of acute episodes of mania or depression, which can damage the brain structurally. Take care of your brain. My memory has been better at certain times. Worse, at other times. Better for us not to live in fear, but to live as best we can with our illness, taking care of our bodies and brains as best as we can.


    • Kitt O'Malley August 14, 2017 / 10:42 am

      By the way, when I was 30, recovering from a week of mania, I couldn’t even read a sentence. Couldn’t hold together the letters of a word. Couldn’t piece together the words in a sentence. I was highly educated. I still sounded intelligent, but I couldn’t read because my brain was recovering from an episode. That was temporary, episodic, and due to improper medication (remember, medication is trial and error, and we can still experience symptoms even if well-medicated). I’ve gone on to read and write.


  5. dyane August 11, 2017 / 10:44 am

    I’m scared my mom has it. I’m scared I’ll get it. I’m actually glad my father is gone so I don’t have to see him go through such agony.

    Linked to this post in my blog (as I often do) because you write some of the tip-top best posts around!

    Love you, Special K,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 12, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      I agree with Katie Dale of’s comment: “what does worrying about it do to my life now, only to stress myself out and waste energy over worrying about it.” Of course, when our parents exhibit symptoms, that affects us. I wish you the best. has great resources.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lonelykeyboards August 9, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing the research and your story.

    Recently wrote about my Mother’s dementia and death, and was amazed at the number of comments from people who have been touched by this painful decline.

    Wish you well in your wellness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 11, 2017 / 1:27 pm

      Thank you. Wish you well as you mourn the loss of your mother. Your post Goodbye Piper is a moving tribute to your mother. You write beautifully.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley August 12, 2017 / 12:16 pm

          You can follow up however you want. Your blog. Your choice. No need to always bare your soul.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 11, 2017 / 1:14 pm

      More research is necessary. I believe that taking medication prevents long-term damage, for severe episodes of bipolar result in brain damage and progression of the illness. To what extent the illness itself or medications we take can cause some memory loss, I am no expert. Best to ask your psychiatrist. I have noticed, though, that my memory is better at times, and worse at times.


      • AmberSnaps87 August 12, 2017 / 6:51 am

        My memory sucks a lot. I’m too young to have bad memory. I’ll have to ask her when I see her again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley August 12, 2017 / 12:23 pm

          Hope her medical advice helps. Both symptoms and medications can affect your memory short-term. The symptoms, for me, are episodic. Medication side effects vary, and my body and brain adjusted to medication side effects over time. Good brain health (proper medication) protects your brain from long-term damage of untreated mental illness.


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