Compulsive behaviour in Parkinson's

Val BuxtonAn article in the Daily Telegraph this week illustrated the huge impact that compulsive behaviour can have on the lives of some people with Parkinson's.

Compulsions like binge eating, gambling and irresistible sexual urges have been associated with some Parkinson’s medication, particularly dopamine agonists.

For most people who take them, these drugs are very helpful, but research suggests that for around 14% they may be associated with behaviours that can lead to considerable distress, both for those affected and the people close to them.

Earlier this year I came across a man whose wife watched his personality change from within months of taking the drugs. He became violent, angry and bitter, with an increasing libido and interest in 'inappropriate' sex. He eventually moved out, had an affair and was arrested for a violent attack on his new girlfriend.

Eventually, a new consultant nurse adjusted the medication. His personality has now returned to normal - and he's back with his wife.

This man was unaware of changes in his personality, so it's crucial that both people with Parkinson's and their family and friends are alert to what can happen and tell the specialist nurse, GP or consultant as soon as possible. Medication can then be altered professionally.

For anyone affected, confidential advice and support is available from the Parkinson's Disease Society's freephone Helpline 0808 800 0303

It’s really important for us to raise awareness of this issue, so if you have a story you would like to share, please email us at

Val Buxton is Director of Policy, Campaigns and Information at the Parkinson's Disease Society

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