The many faces of psychosis in the elderly

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;20(6):551-8. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f0f09d.


Purpose of review: As the population ages, the number of older patients with psychosis will greatly rise. This review focuses on the etiology, biologic and clinical findings, and treatments of common causes of psychosis in the elderly.

Recent findings: Recent studies on psychosis related to Alzheimer's disease indicate that antipsychotic drugs have equivocal efficacy in improving psychotic symptoms and may have side effects or risks that outweigh their benefits. Behavioral interventions for agitation in dementia are showing some promise. In older adults with schizophrenia, intramuscular ziprasidone was found to be effective, and evidence is emerging for the use of hormone replacement therapy. For depression with psychosis, a recent study found that the combination of an antidepressant with an antipsychotic is no more effective than an antidepressant alone.

Summary: There is support for the use of antipsychotic drugs for all types of psychosis in the elderly. While the atypical antipsychotics have a 'black box warning' on risk of death in elderly patients with dementia, the typical antipsychotics carry an even higher risk of death and adverse effects. Weighing the potential risks and benefits of treatment options is essential. Please refer to your country's regulations regarding the use of antipsychotic drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / epidemiology
  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / etiology
  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / therapy
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Delirium / epidemiology
  • Delirium / etiology
  • Delirium / therapy
  • Humans
  • Psychotic Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders* / etiology
  • Psychotic Disorders* / therapy
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / etiology
  • Schizophrenia / therapy


  • Antipsychotic Agents