How the personality changes of Parkinson’s can affect relationships

For some, the disease leads to more anger; for others, more sentimentality

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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I’ve heard many stories about Parkinson’s disease changing relationships. Some community members observe personality changes that make their partner feel like a stranger again. Others notice inconsistencies in their loved one’s behavior, such as mood swings and ambivalence. Sometimes the affected relationship survives the changes. Other times, it doesn’t.

For many people with Parkinson’s, personality changes involve depression, apathy, and withdrawal. In fact, according to UCI Health, anxiety and depression affect 40% to 50% of those with the disease.

It seems natural that a patient might experience some mood changes, as their life is being shaken up by Parkinson’s. But more extreme changes can also take place, due to the neurological effects of the disease. Someone who used to be easygoing might become rigid in temperament. Or an extrovert could become an introvert for no apparent reason.

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I’ve noticed changes in my dad since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013. But his are subtle. He’s grown quieter over the years, choosing to participate in silence or with less commentary than he once offered. He’s also grown to be pretty sentimental. During earlier chapters of his life, Dad was busy. Though I’m sure he still appreciated the softer moments in life back then, he wasn’t necessarily quick to acknowledge what they meant to him.

But now, I see the tears glimmer in his eyes when a song or a conversation strikes him in the heart. He turns up the record player when his favorite songs come on and just listens to them in the dark, unbothered by other things happening on the planet. And he hugs me for a little bit longer before I go.

I can’t speak for my parents, but as an outsider, it seems like Parkinson’s has brought them closer together. My mom is a natural caregiver, pouring her heart and soul into those she loves. And my dad needs care, which seems to work for them. I know we’re lucky to get the chance to view life through a lens of gratitude instead of anger.

That’s not to say that there aren’t tough moments. Sometimes Dad makes requests that are difficult to grant. In some ways, he can be more withdrawn than he was before the diagnosis. But I’m grateful that we’ve been able to adapt as a unit to some of the changes Dad is facing. I only hope that others are able to adapt, too.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


sunil ahuja avatar

sunil ahuja

I feel the same thing about my Wife once a spirited soul has now moved into the shadows she is 62 years old lost about Twenty percent of weight .She is suffering since last 15 years.

Henrik Palme avatar

Henrik Palme

Parkinson’s changes you, you loose the ability to do critical thinking, and every task you do is more complicated and harder to complete. Words tent to desaparecer when you need them, so you become more reserved in a social environment. It is not necessarily a change of personality, you view yourself as you always did before Parkinson’s. However you are very aware of your limitations.

CeeCee avatar


And the limitations put upon you by well meaning and not so welling people (who prefer you just be out of sight out of mind).

JB avatar


Great post as always Mary Beth. Definitely an issue my husband / we both are dealing with in changes in personality with medications.

Mark Henderson avatar

Mark Henderson

Thank you. I see myself in your column..


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