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Personality Problems Among Senior Adults

Personality characteristics or traits, whether positive or negative, are usually set after adolescence and remain stable throughout much of adulthood. However, in older adults, personality problems can suddenly emerge due to a difficult challenge, a life change or a medical or psychological problem.

In the May issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, experts offers ideas that may help when a person’s personality change interferes with work, relationships or the ability to enjoy life.

Family members or friends can often help the senior adult by suggesting various avenues to explore that may surface the issues behind the personality change.

Group therapy is often very helpful for working through the changes although persuading the senior to attend the session is often a challenge.

Additional suggestions that may be helpful for the senior adult include:

    • A medical or psychological exam: A sudden personality change may indicate a medical problem that may improve with treatment. If there is no effective treatment, knowing that someone has a particular disease or condition causing personality change makes it easier to understand the situation.
    • Finding substitutes for what’s lost: Retirement, the death of a spouse or other major life changes can trigger personality changes. Adapting to changes that come with age is a key to maintaining a balanced personality. Finding new ways to use skills that are appropriate for one’s life stage may help fill some of the void of physical or social loss.
    • Changing a behavior: Asking a loved one to work on changing a behavior or two may help the person function better, and make the person more tolerable to be around.
    • Refusing to play along: At some point, family members and friends may need to decide they won’t tolerate negative personality traits. Open and direct communication is a first step toward giving others an idea of how their personality style affects others.
    • Looking inward: Whose personality has changed? When a spouse has tolerated her husband’s personality traits for years and suddenly can’t take it any more, it could be the wife, not the husband who is experiencing personality changes.
    • Therapy: Group therapy is often the treatment of choice for those with personality problems. Group members may gain insight into their behaviors and learn healthier ways to reacting to people or problems. However, many people with troublesome personality styles don’t see themselves as having a problem. Getting them to attend a therapy session may be difficult. It’s unlikely that an uncooperative person will benefit.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Personality Problems Among Senior Adults

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Personality Problems Among Senior Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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