Psychosis and physical aggression in probable Alzheimer's disease

Lynn H. Deutsch, Frederick W. Bylsma, Barry W. Rovner, Cynthia Steele, Marshal F. Folstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency and type of psychotic symptoms in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease and to test whether there is a relationship between specific psychotic symptoms and episodes of physical aggression. Method: From 209 patients with possible or probable Alzheimer's disease who had been assessed in a research clinic every 6 months for up to 4.5 years, 181 subjects with probable Alzheimer's disease were selected for study. On the basis of the summary note for each visit in the patients' charts, the presence of delusions, hallucinations, misidentifications, and episodes of physical aggression was determined. Data regarding psychotic symptoms and aggression were available for 170 and 169 subjects, respectively. Results: Delusions had been reported for 74 (43.5%) of the patients and were the most frequent psychotic symptom; persecutory delusions were the most common type. Physical aggression had been noted for 50 (29.6%) of the patients. Delusions and misidentifications frequently preceded and were significantly associated with episodes of physical aggression. The presence of delusions was a significant predictor of physical aggression but accounted for only 3.5% of the variance. Conclusions: This study suggests that delusions are a risk factor for physical aggression in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease who have moderate to severe cognitive impairment. As delusions accounted for only a small percentage of the variance, further research is needed to identify other variables that may be significant predictors of physical aggression in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1163
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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