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Original Research

Treating Psychotic Symptoms in Elderly Patients

Steven D. Targum, MD

Published: August 1, 2001

Article Abstract

Research has shown that elderly patients are especially at risk for the development of psychotic symptoms. A combination of factors contributes to the increased risk for psychosis in this patient population. Various DSM-IV diagnostic categories including delirium, schizophrenia, delusional disorder, mood disorders, dementia, substance abuse, and medical-neurologic conditions can be associated with psychotic symptoms. In general, medications are prescribed for specific target symptoms, started at low doses, and titrated gradually. Although buspirone, trazodone, valproic acid, and carbamazepine have been used with some success, antipsychotic medications have been the primary treatment of psychosis in the elderly. Because the atypical antipsychotics offer effective management of psychotic symptoms combined with low liability of extrapyramidal symptoms, these agents may be the current treatment of choice for psychotic symptoms in the elderly when used cautiously.

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