Read below about personality change, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your personality change from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Personality Change Symptoms

It is possible for a person to undergo a change in personality due to psychological events, such as suffering extreme shock or fear; but most cases of personality change are the direct result of physical damage to the brain from injury or some form of illness.

A change that is caused only by psychological reasons can usually be helped with appropriate medication and counseling. A change that is caused only by damage to the brain cannot be cured, but can be managed with medication, counseling, supportive care, and assistance with activities of daily living. Some changes in personality are a combination of both physical damage and the emotional reaction to it. Again, both psychological and medical help will be used to ease the symptoms and improve quality of life for the patient and for the caregivers.

Emotional personality change symptoms:

  • Apathy, which is disinterest in life.
  • Depression and withdrawal from social situations.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability, sometimes leading to aggression.
  • Rapid mood swings or emotional lability.
  • Suicidal ideation.

Memory and perception difficulties:

  • Confusion.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Loss of organizing ability.
  • Difficulty recognizing certain emotions, in self or in others.
  • Hallucinations, which may be visual (seeing things) or auditory (hearing things, such as voices.)

Behavioral problems:

  • Loss of inhibition or doing things that are not socially acceptable: approaching strangers, going into the wrong house, etc.
  • Altered sexuality, which means an increased or decreased sex drive with behavior that may be inappropriate.

Medications, including chemotherapy, may cause:

Are personality change symptoms serious?

  • A certain amount of forgetfulness is not unusual in an older person, especially after a long day or when very tired.
  • Struggling to cope with traumatic brain injury or other personality-changing illness can cause severe and ongoing depression. If not treated, this can lead to substance abuse or suicide attempts.
  • A personality change that arises quite suddenly can be a sign of stroke or other serious illness.

Personality Change Causes Overview

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) with physical damage to the brain

  • Bleeding into the brain from spontaneous rupture of a blood vessel.
  • Loss of oxygen in the brain due to drowning, heart attack, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other form of suffocation. Damage occurs after just minutes and will be evident once the person is conscious again.
  • Insufficient blood glucose, often in diabetics, which starves the brain of energy.
  • Viral and bacterial infections of the brain and spinal cord can cause serious damage to those tissues.
  • Behavior and personality sometimes change following a hard blow to the head, especially if the person was unconscious.

Progressive disease affecting the brain.

  • Neurologic diseases, most of which are genetic. These are known for producing profound changes in personality due to their powerful effect on the brain.
  • Gradual loss of brain function due to aging combined with unknown factors, sometimes leading to severe disability.

Psychiatric illnesses

  • can cause disturbing or inexplicable behavior.

Normal aging can cause irritability, anger and frustration due to:

  • Hearing loss.
  • Vision loss.
  • Loss of mobility.
  • Chronic pain.

Rare and unusual causes:

  • A brain tumor can cause loss of certain functions due to crowding and displacement of tissue, but personality change does not always happen.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Personality Change

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced personality change. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Depression

    Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with depression:
    depressed mood
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Mild Bipolar Disorder i

    Bipolar disorder, which is sometimes called bipolar affective disorder, is a mental condition where a person's mood swings between two extremes. One extreme is called depression, where people feel low, sad, and blue. The other extreme is called mania, where people feel high, elated, overjoyed, and are full of energy.

    Bipolar disorder I is a chronic (lifelong) mental illness.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with mild bipolar disorder i:
    periods of feeling very energetic and needing little sleep
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Borderline Personality Disorder

    Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by troubled interpersonal relationships and unstable moods.

    While this is historically a difficult disease to treat, modern advancements provide symptom relief and improved quality of life.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    frequent mood swings, impaired social or occupational functioning, aggression, history of deliberate self-harm, anger or irritability between temper outbursts
    Symptoms that always occur with borderline personality disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Alzheimer's Disease

    Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that slowly destroys memory and the ability to think clearly. As symptoms worsen, patients are often unable to perform basic tasks.

    Lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with alzheimer's disease:
    forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  5. 5.Brain Tumor or Mass

    A brain lesion can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Nonetheless, they are a potentially serious issue and should be discussed with a physician.

    Uncertain. Prognosis is very dependent on what is found

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with brain tumor or mass:
    focal neurological symptoms
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  6. 6.Low Calcium Level

    Hypocalcemia is a condition where there is not enough calcium in the blood. Calcium is a mineral contained in the blood, which helps the heart and other muscles function properly, and is needed to maintain strong teeth and bones.

    Problem should go away with home care within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, general numbness, tingling foot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Viral Encephalitis

    Encephalitis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain, most often due to viral infections. Encephalitis caused by the herpes simplex virus is the leading cause. Several other causes of encephalitis (St. Louis, California, Japanese and Eastern Equine encephalitis infections) are transmitted by bites from an infected mosquito.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, being severely ill, loss of appetite, new headache, vomiting
    Symptoms that always occur with viral encephalitis:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Cerebral Paragonimiasis

    Paragonimiasis, or lung fluke disease, is caused by infection with a number of species of trematodes (flat worms) belonging to the genus Paragonimus. These organisms mostly inhabit areas in East Asia, and travel to those areas can increase the risk of contracting this disease. The larva (early life stage of the worm) enters the body through the intestine and travels up to the brain, where it develops into an adult form.

    3 day course of medication.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, new headache, nausea or vomiting, fever, vision changes
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Tertiary Phase of Syphilis Infection

    Syphilis is a common sexually trasmitted infection (STI). Late phase, or tertiary, syphilis is uncommon, as it occurs years to decades after initial exposure to the infection. It is the most progressed and serious stage of the disease. Late phase syphilis infection can lead to loss of function of multiple organ systems, especially the nervous system, the heart and blood vessels, and the liver.

    Prognosis is variable and highly dependent on the individual. Late phase syphilis, unfortunately, often leads to the poorest outcomes due to damage of multiple organs.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, fatigue, irritability, numbness or tingling sensations in skin, dizziness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Personality Change Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate personality change treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • The person has symptoms of bleeding into the brain (stroke) with severe headache, confusion, and loss of function on one side of the body.
  • The person has sudden symptoms of extreme confusion and disorientation, especially if suffering from visual or audial hallucinations.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Any ongoing behavior that seems unusual for this person, or is inappropriate, baffling, or dangerous.
  • Ask your medical provider about advice and support for caregivers, so that the caregivers do not become exhausted and overstressed while helping a partner or parent with personality change.
  • Ask your medical provider about a referral to a psychologist, particularly one who can help both the patient and the caregiver cope with the symptoms of personality change and with the difficulties of the illness that may be causing it.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Personality Change

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Q.Are you feeling less alert than normal?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our personality change symptom checker to find out more.

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Personality Change Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced personality change have also experienced:

    • 4% Abrupt Change in Behavior / Identity
    • 3% Feeling Confused and Not Making Sense While Talking
    • 3% Amnesia
  • People who have experienced personality change were most often matched with:

    • 40% Depression
    • 30% Mild Bipolar Disorder i
    • 30% Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having personality change

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