Introduction: Neuropsychiatric Disorders of Aging

January 29, 2018
Helen Lavretsky, MD, MS

Volume 35, Issue 1

This Special Report on Geriatric Psychiatry addresses a variety of clinical issues in the rapidly growing diverse population of older adults.

Dr. Lavretsky is Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.

This Special Report on Geriatric Psychiatry addresses a variety of clinical issues in the rapidly growing diverse population of older adults. With the increase in the population of adults over age 65 years expected to reach 22% of the general population by 2040, neuropsychiatric disorders of aging will become a challenge for many practicing health care providers. This demographic trend has led to an intensive search for effective strategies to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental, cognitive, and physical disorders of aging.

The stigma of mental illness still overshadows proper diagnosis and management of neuropsychiatric symptoms and disorders in the elderly. The boundaries between neuropsychiatric and physical illnesses are often blurred, especially in the acute medical and in long-term care settings, because of frequently comorbid mood, anxiety, cognitive, and physical disorders in older adults. Aging-related physiological changes lead to the increased risk of adverse events such as falls and drug toxicity with pharmacological management.

The growing population of aging baby boomers brings to light new challenges characteristic of this cohort, such as increasing rates of drug abuse and higher rates of depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, and PTSD compared with previous generations. The issue of gender identity and the aging LGBTQ community is coming to the forefront of public and professional awareness of the unique health care needs of its members. It is also becoming more obvious that multiple diseases of aging share common risk factors and may benefit from shared treatment and preventive strategies, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer disease.

The 7 articles in this section highlight common clinical dilemmas and outline the nuances of diagnosis, management, and outcomes-and provide helpful practical tips for clinicians. We hope that readers will find the information in this Special Report clinically relevant and helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions in older adults.

Dr. Lavretsky reports that she has received research grants from Forest/Allergan.

Acknowledgment-This work was supported by the NIH grants MH97892, AT009198, and AT008383.