Losing inhibitions

Sometimes a person with dementia can lose their inhibitions and may behave in ways that others find embarrassing.

Losing inhibitions can include being rude, saying things that aren’t appropriate (for example that someone is overweight), talking to strangers, undressing in public, and apparent sexual disinhibition (for example touching themselves inappropriately in public).

This can be embarrassing and distressing for both the person with dementia and those around them. They may not understand that what they are doing is inappropriate. It is unlikely that they are being inappropriate on purpose. Always respect the person and their dignity, and try not to cause them any distress.

Some common causes of a person losing their inhibitions include:

  • certain causes of dementia and the area of the brain that is affected. For example, some people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lose inhibitions because of damage to the frontal lobes in the brain
  • needing the toilet (which may explain why they’re touching themselves) or being too hot (which may explain why they’re undressing)
  • boredom or wanting to talk to someone
  • sexual frustration.
Want to know more about frontotemporal dementia?

Read more about frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

More information

Embarrassing situations – tips for carers

  • Try to stay calm and remember the person is not behaving like this on purpose.
  • In some situations it may help to think about whether the behaviour really matters. For example, in some situations talking to strangers may not be a problem. The person may be meeting a need to be social and the stranger may be happy to talk to them.
  • Try gently distracting the person.
  • Be aware of possible triggers for certain behaviours. If you know what these are you may be able to prevent the behaviour from happening in the first place. For example, if someone behaves in a sexually inappropriate way when you help them to get changed, they might be misinterpreting your actions. Try to change how you approach the situation and see if this helps.
  • If the person is undressing, take them somewhere private, and check whether they are too hot, uncomfortable, or want to use the toilet.
  • If the person behaves rudely, don’t attempt to argue or correct the behaviour. Try to distract their attention.
  • It may help to explain to other people why the person is behaving in that way. They may be more understanding if they know why something happens and they may have some suggestions to help find solutions.
Helpcards

The person may find it useful to carry one of our Helpcards to show people.

More information

Changes in behaviour are common in people with dementia. However, by looking at the meaning behind the behaviour and considering what may be causing it, you may find ways of providing support for them that can help you both to manage difficult situations.

Carers – looking after yourself

Make sure that you look after your own wellbeing and get support for your needs.

Advice and support
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