Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) often have personality features that mimic those found in depression, anxiety, and even obsessive compulsion (OC). Behaviors such as extreme punctuality, perfectionism, rigidity, harm avoidance, and unwillingness to seek out novel experiences are common in all of these illnesses. New research has begun to explore whether or not any of these personality types are common in people with PD and, if so, whether any of these traits act as predictors of PD, or merely comorbid symptoms. To look at the relationships between PD and personality traits further, Alessandra Nicoletti of the Department of Hygiene, Public Health, and Neuroscience at the University of Catania in Italy recently conducted a study involving 100 clients with PD and 100 without. She evaluated the personality traits of all of the participants and found that OC was present in 40% of the PD participants and 10% of the non-PD participants.
Nicoletti noted that OC personality and Parkinsonian personality both present with similar cognitive and behavioral traits. She believes that even though there is an overlap in symptoms, it has not been shown that OC personality predicts later Parkinson’s. However, some research has suggested a predictive quality in OC personality for future OC. Nicoletti believes the shared traits present in both personality types are the result of similar neurological circuitry, rather than genetic predisposition to Parkinson’s.
The second most common personality type was depressive, accounting for 14 PD participants and four control participants. This personality is characterized by avoidant behaviors and negative affect, which can also be present in individuals with PD alone. Nicoletti added, “Considering the well known high prevalence of depression among the PD patients, we are aware that in some case distinguishing between these two conditions can be difficult.” She hopes that future work will examine this personality type and others more thoroughly in order to establish whether they provide an early indication of Parkinson’s risk or they merely exist as comorbid conditions.
- Nicoletti, A., Luca, A., Raciti, L., Contrafatto, D., Bruno, E., et al. (2013). Obsessive compulsive personality disorder and Parkinson’s disease. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54822. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054822
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