Diogenes Syndrome is a behavioral disorder that primarily occurs in people over age 60 that live alone. It is characterized by extreme social isolation, home neglect, and lack of self-care. This disorder accounts for 10% of hoarding cases, but is difficult to treat because patients do not feel as though they have a problem. Symptoms develop and increase with time. Here are 3 warning signs of Diogenes Syndrome as described by the National Institutes of Health that you should be on the lookout for.
Warning Sign #1- Social Isolation
This condition is characterized by isolation, in which the senior completely withdraws from life and society. The senior will avoid social situations and other people, which brings them great anxiety. Seniors with this condition can be wary of strangers and show extreme aggression and hostility when confronted. They are very distrusting of medical professionals and establishments, and are likely to refuse medical assistance.
Warning Sign #2- Home Neglect
Diogenes Syndrome is often referred to as “senile squalor syndrome”. Seniors with this condition will neglect their home, and will be living in extreme filth. Hoarding is a primary characteristic, but usually the items collected have no value, mostly garbage. Trash will surround not just the outside, but inside as well, making safety a concern. The unsanitary condition of the home often leads to complaints from neighbors and rodent infestation. A senior with Diogenes Syndrome is often oblivious to the state of their home and will not ask for help.
Warning Sign #3- Lack of Self-Care
Seniors with this syndrome are unaware they are lacking in the area of self-care and show no shame for their personal appearance. Their personal hygiene is completed neglected. They will have body odor, matted hair, and skin rashes from lack of bathing. Often seniors with this condition will have a very poor diet as well, maybe even suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. According to an article in Psychology Today, 50% of patients will die within 5 years of when symptoms first began, mostly due to neglecting their health.
What Causes Diogenes Syndrome?
Researchers have found that Diogenes Syndrome for some can be linked to another medical condition and for others it can be the result of a stressful event that triggers the symptoms. Other mental illnesses such as dementia, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and depression have been associated with Diogenes. A stressful event later in life such as a death of spouse or caregiver can also bring on the onset. Other risk factors include brain damage (particularly in the frontal lobe), a history of mental illness, physical impairments with loss of mobility, stroke, congestive heart failure, and substance abuse.
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