7 Signs of Parkinson's Disease Psychosis

  • Despondent man
    Beyond Tremors: Psychosis Can Also Affect People With Parkinson’s Disease
    When you think of Parkinson’s disease, you may think first of the tremors and other motor effects that affect people, like stiff muscles or a tendency to shuffle when walking. A non-motor symptom known as psychosis, or Parkinson’s disease-associated psychosis, also affects many–but not all–people living for years with Parkinson’s disease. Psychosis symptoms affect as many as 50% of people who’ve had Parkinson’s disease for at least 10 years. The psychosis can be mild, severe, or somewhere in between. Sometimes the symptoms are triggered by medications taken to manage the symptoms, so it’s important to alert a doctor if you notice any of these occurring.

  • Senior woman sleeping
    1. Sleep Disturbances
    Before a person with Parkinson’s disease begins experiencing any other signs of psychosis, they may begin to have trouble sleeping. Sleep disturbances, especially the ones that interrupt or disturb REM sleep, can be an early harbinger of hallucinations or other problems to come. You may only recognize this sign, though, in retrospect or when other signs develop.

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    2. Vivid Dreams
    Unusually vivid dreams may be another early sign of a developing case of Parkinson’s disease psychosis. Some people experience these dreams along with other sleep disturbances.

  • serious senior african american man sitting on couch
    3. Visual Hallucinations
    Sometimes people with Parkinson’s disease will experience hallucinations, either as a result of the changes in their brains from their disorder or from the medications they’re taking to control their symptoms. Visual hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease, with up to 40% of people with Parkinson’s disease experiencing them at some point. They believe they are seeing something that isn’t actually there, like a person or an animal. Flashes of light or color are also possibilities. The hallucinations may start out fairly simple and grow more complex and even begin to include hallucinations involving the other senses.

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    4. Belief That Hallucinations Are Real
    If you experience hallucinations as part of Parkinson’s disease psychosis, you may recognize that what you’re seeing or experiencing isn’t real… for a while. You have what the experts call “insight” about your hallucinations that keeps you from acting upon them. When you lose that insight and lose the ability to understand that the hallucinations aren’t real, you may become much more distressed. You’re also opening yourself up to potential harm if you act in response to your hallucinations.

  • son consoling emotional elderly father
    5. Delusions
    Delusions are another common manifestation of Parkinson’s disease-associated psychosis. A delusion is different from a hallucination in that a person experiencing a delusion has a false belief in something. A person with delusions may even become very paranoid, convinced that someone is trying to steal their belongings or hurt them. A very common focus of delusions is perceived spousal infidelity. People can become increasingly agitated in the face of these delusions.

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    6. “Sundowning”
    Parkinson’s disease psychosis tends to show up more frequently–or get worse–in the evening. Experts call this phenomenon “sundowning,” as it may happen around the time the sun sets or shortly thereafter. In some people with Parkinson’s disease, their episodes may be initially confined to the evening hours, but eventually they may spread out and affect them during other parts of the day.

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    7. Other Possible Signs
    Visual hallucinations and delusions are the most common experiences that most people with Parkinson’s disease psychosis will experience. But it is possible, albeit much less likely, that they could experience other signs, too. That list could include auditory hallucinations, which can occur but much less frequently than visual hallucinations. They might also experience panic attacks and paranoia.

Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis | Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 3
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