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Physicians Guide to the Management of Huntington's Disease

The Psychiatric Disorder (CHAPTER 5)
Psychiatric Symptoms
Not Belonging to a Specific Diagnostic Category

Irritability, Apathy, Anxiety & Panic Disorder

Patients with Huntington's disease may suffer from a variety of emotional symptoms which do not fit any specific psychiatric diagnosis, but may nevertheless be a source of distress and a focus of treatment including irritability, anxiety and apathy.

Some of these symptoms are related to the disease itself, and others can be seen as a response to changing circumstances, such as a patient who becomes anxious about going to the market because her involuntary movements attract attention.

Patients with HD may undergo personality changes, becoming irritable, disinhibited, or obsessional. In some cases these changes represent an accentuation, or coarsening of personality characteristics the person already had.

Other times they will be a radical departure from the patient's usual state, which can be very distressing to families. Families should be reassured, as patients can usually be helped by better communication, environmental interventions, and judicious use of medications.