Lewy Body Dementia: What Signs to Watch For

The Americans who grew up watching “Mork and Mindy” might be surprised to learn that it has been nearly a decade since comedian Robin Williams was found unresponsive, hanging in his Marin County, California, home.

The direct cause of death was the belt around his neck, but the Oscar winner was also struggling with his diagnosed Lewy body dementia.

Williams’s widow Susan told People magazine 14 months after his death the LBD was the real culprit:

“I’ve spent this last year trying to find out what killed Robin. To understand what we were fighting, what we were in the trenches fighting, and one of the doctors said, ‘Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it,’” she says.

According to the National Institute on Aging, LBD is one of the most common forms of dementia, and it is a physical condition brought on by chemical changes in the brain:

Lewy body dementia is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits, called Lewy bodies, affect chemicals in the brain, whose changes can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. Lewy body dementia is one of the most common causes of dementia.

There are seven specific symptoms: visual hallucinations, movement disorders, poor regulation of body functions, cognitive problems, trouble with sleep, varying attention, depression, and apathy.

Individuals with Lewy body dementia, like those diagnosed with other neurological diseases, may exhibit sexual disinhibition or Inappropriate Sexual Behavior.

This behavior can be broken down into five domains: inability to inhibit, oversharing, inappropriate comments, inappropriate exposure, and overly flirtatious [5]. Three commonly cited types of sexually inappropriate behavior include 1) sexual language that is different from the patient’s premorbid personality; 2) implied sexual acts including reading pornographic material or requesting genital care in the absence of need; and 3) overt sexual acts including groping, grabbing, public masturbating or exposing oneself to caretakers or family members. 

According to the LBDA, another function of the changes in behavior is the onset of delusions, which are strongly held beliefs that cannot be proven.