Cases That Test Your Skills

Manic after having found a ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s disease

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Mr. A, age 73, has been irritable, impulsive, grandiose, and sleeping very little. He claims to have found a ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s disease. What could be causing his symptoms?



CASE Reckless driving, impulse buying

Mr. A, age 73, is admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit at a community hospital for evaluation of a psychotic episode. His admission to the unit was initiated by his primary care physician, who noted that Mr. A was “not making sense” during a routine visit. Mr. A was speaking rapidly about how he had discovered that high-dose omega-3 fatty acid supplements were a “cure” for Alzheimer’s disease. He also believes that he was recently appointed as CEO of Microsoft and Apple for his discoveries.

Three months earlier, Mr. A had started taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acid supplements (10 to 15 g/d) because he believed they were the cure for memory problems, pain, and depression. At that time, he discontinued taking nortriptyline, 25 mg/d, and citalopram, 40 mg/d, which his outpatient psychiatrist had prescribed for major depressive disorder (MDD). Mr. A also had stopped taking buprenorphine, 2 mg, sublingual, 4 times a day, which he had been prescribed for chronic pain.

Mr. A’s wife reports that during the last 2 months, her husband had become irritable, impulsive, grandiose, and was sleeping very little. She added that although her husband’s ophthalmologist had advised him to not drive due to impaired vision, he had been driving recklessly across the metropolitan area. He had also spent nearly $15,000 buying furniture and other items for their home.

In addition to MDD, Mr. A has a history of chronic kidney disease, Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, and chronic pain. He has been taking vitamin D3, 2,000 U/d, as a nutritional supplement.

The authors’ observations

Mr. A met the DSM-5 criteria for a manic episode (Table 11). His manic and delusional symptoms are new. He has a long-standing diagnosis of MDD, which for many years had been successfully treated with antidepressants without a manic switch. The absence of a manic switch when treated with antidepressants without a mood stabilizer suggested that Mr. A did not have bipolarity in terms of a mood disorder diathesis.2 In addition, it would be unusual for an individual to develop a new-onset or primary bipolar disorder after age 60. Individuals in this age group who present with manic symptoms for the first time are preponderantly found to have a general medical or iatrogenic cause for the emergence of these symptoms.3 Mr. A has a history of chronic kidney disease, Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, and chronic pain.

Mr. A’s symptoms in relation to DSM-5 criteria for a manic episode

Typically a sedentary man, Mr. A had been exhibiting disinhibited behavior, grandiosity, insomnia, and psychosis. These symptoms began 3 months before he was admitted to the psychiatric unit, when he had started taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Continue to: EVALUATION Persistent mania


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