Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (BvFTD) can drastically affect a person’s personality, behavior, and social interactions.
Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (BvFTD) is a type of frontotemporal dementia involving nerve damage in the frontal or temporal lobes of your brain, resulting in significant changes to your behavior and personality.
It’s estimated that 50,000–60,000 people have frontotemporal dementia in the United States.
Several different neurodegenerative disorders can cause dementia. All types of dementia affect thinking and behavior, but the effects of each condition and the way they affect individuals aren’t identical. For example, some types of dementia affect movement, while others do not.
BvFTD is a neurodegenerative disorder that often causes drastic changes to your personality, daily habits, and behavior.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a type of dementia characterized by damage to the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes. It may also be called frontal lobe dementia or Pick disease.
The brain’s frontal and temporal lobes control your behavior, personality, and speech, as well as your emotions. When the nerve cells in these regions of the brain begin to degenerate, it affects how you behave, speak, and interact with others.
There are many kinds of FTD. BvFTD is the most common form of FTD. It’s characterized by progressive changes in personality, behavior, and social conduct.
Someone with BvFTD might seem to have a sudden change in personality and behavior. Their behavior might come across as rude or alienating.
The symptoms of BvFTD include:
- apathy or a noticeable lack of interest in activities, relationships, and work that were once important to them
- appearing to lack empathy or compassion for others
- changes in their eating habits (especially binge eating, compulsive eating, or noticeable changes in food preferences)
- compulsive, ritualistic, or repetitive behaviors (like hoarding, repeating phrases, or doing the same movements repeatedly)
- difficulty with decisions, problem-solving, and planning
- emotional instability or mood swings
- impulsive behavior
- inappropriate behavior (for example, making uncharacteristically offensive comments or ignoring people’s boundaries)
- lack of hygiene
- lack of insight or self-awareness (for example, blaming others or getting angry for the consequences of their actions)
- tendency to put inedible objects in their mouth (often called hyperorality)
Usually, memory issues are not the most significant or noticeable symptom of people with early-stage BvFTD.
In the later stages of BvFTD, the person might experience issues like muscle weakness, spasms, and rigidity. This can make movement difficult, and they may need physical assistance with day-to-day tasks.
In order to receive a BvFTD diagnosis, a person will have to display at least three of the following features:
- apathy (loss of interest)
- compulsive behaviors
- disinhibition (a lack of restraint or impulse control)
- hyperorality (compulsion to examine objects by mouth, including both food and inedible objects)
- loss of empathy
- loss of executive function (for example, difficulty with judgment, planning, and problem-solving)
Diagnosing BvFTD can be challenging, according to the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, and it may be misdiagnosed. The symptoms of the symptoms BvFTD can overlap with psychiatric disorders, stroke, or other neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.
As part of the process for diagnosis, healthcare professionals may need to test for other conditions in order to rule them out.
Another issue is that most people with BvFTD aren’t fully aware of their symptoms. They may not realize that they need help. Some people with BvFTD may refuse to speak with a professional. This can make it harder to get an early diagnosis.
In order to diagnose someone with BvFTD, a healthcare professional will usually conduct a full physical exam and take down your medical history. They may speak with loved ones and caregivers, who may be able to describe changes in behavior.
A healthcare professional may use the following tests to diagnose BvFTD:
Specialists often use neuropsychological testing to test your judgment and memory skills. This form of testing can help them figure out what kind of dementia you have.
There are no official staging criteria for BvFTD. But BvFTD is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms become worse with time.
In the early stages, symptoms may be mild and difficult to notice.
In the intermediate stages, symptoms will noticeably affect daily life and relationships.
In the later stages, someone with BvFTD may not be able to function properly on their own. They may also experience issues like muscle spasms and rigidity, making it harder for them to move around and take care of themselves. Problems with speech are common in the later stages, too.
It’s not entirely clear why some people develop BvFTD while others don’t. However, researchers have identified that genes seem to play a role.
If you have a close blood relation with FTD, you may be more susceptible to developing the condition. Consider speaking with a genetic counselor if you think you’re at risk.
There is no cure for BvFTD, but there are a number of treatments that can help with symptoms.
Therapy, including family therapy and individual counseling, can also be beneficial. You might also consider trying occupational therapy for dementia, which can help you practice useful day-to-day skills.
Sometimes, family members and caregivers need one-on-one mental health support to help them cope with their loved one’s change in personality. Caregiver support groups can also be helpful.
What is the life expectancy of BvFTD?
According to the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, a person with BvFTD lives an average of 6 years after diagnosis. But this can vary from person to person.
When diagnosed in the early stages, it’s possible to manage symptoms well and maintain a decent quality of life for the person with BvFTD and their loved ones.
If you suspect you or a loved one has BvFTD, consider making an appointment with a specialist.
BvFTD is a type of dementia where the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain are damaged, affecting your personality and behavior.
With the right treatment, someone with BvFTD can have a good quality of life for a number of years.
The following resources may help:
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- Frontotemporal Dementia Caregiver Support Center
- The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration
- The Frontotemporal Dementia Support Group
Taking care of someone with dementia can take a toll on you. If you’re caring for a loved one with BvFTD, be sure to take care of yourself, too. Counseling and support groups can benefit your overall well-being.