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Mental Health Insight: Organic Disorders

What is an organic mental disorder

Mental Health Insight: Organic Disorders

Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



Neurocognitive dysfunctions lead to impaired mental functioning. These impairments are grouped under the umbrella term “Organic Disorders,” which has now been replaced by “neurocognitive disorders.” Moreover, this term is sometimes used interchangeably with organic brain syndrome (OBS).

Such conditions can be short-term, permanent, hereditary, or caused by an injury, illness, or fluctuations in body hormones. Organic mental illnesses do not include disorders caused by substance abuse or psychiatric disorders. To know the symptoms, types, and other features of organic mental disorders, dive into the details of this article by MEDvidi.

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What Is an Organic Mental Disorder?

Any mental disorder caused by a pathological or organic disease is called an organic mental disorder. For example, delirium is caused by physical dysfunction of the brain. The symptoms of these organic mental disorders vary according to the type; however, the general symptoms may include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Loss of brain function
  • Mood changes

Organic diseases can lead to several mental and behavioral problems termed organic mental disorders. They can affect a specific part of the body (localized) or multiple organs (systematic). Some broader examples of organic diseases are multiple sclerosis (MS), autoimmune diseases, Lucious, and melanoma.

Causes of Organic Disorders

Brain damage or alterations in the brain’s chemistry are the main causes of organic illnesses. The following is a list of some common causes of organic dysfunction:

  • Infection
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Acute metabolic syndrome
  • Traumatic injury
  • CNS lesion
  • Deficiency of vitamins
  • Acute vascular problems
  • Toxins
  • Heavy metals

Common Examples of Organic Mental Disorders

Organic Depression

Depression caused by organic causes is also known as secondary depression. Endocrine disorders, infections, pancreatic cancer, vitamin B12 insufficiency, and folic acid deficiency are also among the systemic illnesses that are most likely to result in depression. When a patient has a chronic illness, their social circumstances alter, and they react by becoming depressed.

Moreover, some drugs, including methyldopa, interferon, and steroids, may also be the cause of depression due to changes in brain chemistry. For example, neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine normally regulate sensations of happiness and pleasure, but they may be out of balance in patients with depression.

There is no big difference between primary VS. secondary depression symptoms. Here is a list of a few depressive symptoms according to DSM:

  • Sadness
  • Tiredness
  • Anger
  • No or lack of interest in pleasant or fun activities
  • Sleep issues (too much or too little)
  • No energy
  • Dropping out plans
  • An unreasonable feeling of guilt
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Headaches or muscle pain
  • Alcohol or drug abuse


Delirium is a major mental impairment that causes clouded thinking and diminished environmental awareness. Delirium typically develops quickly, perhaps within a few days. It may result from drug overdose or withdrawal, ingestion of a poisonous substance, an infection brought on by other medical disorders, or a combination of these circumstances. The severity of this condition can vary greatly, and a delirious person may experience periods of clarity.

Symptoms of delirium include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Incoherent thinking
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

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Organic Personality Disorder

The international classification of diseases (ICD) describes organic personality disorder as a condition characterized by a substantial personality change with abnormal behavior. It can occur due to a traumatic brain injury or similar pathophysiological medical condition affecting the brain. Apathy, paranoia, and lack of impulse control are a few examples of abnormal conduct in organic personality disorder that are not exhaustive.

Symptoms of organic personality disorder (OPD) include the following:

  • Deficits in cognitive function
  • Dysfunctional/abnormal behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Neurosis
  • Higher irritability
  • Altered emotional expression
Organic mental disorders examples


When thinking, memory, and reasoning skills are lost to the point where they interfere with day-to-day tasks, this condition is known as dementia. Some patients have emotional instability and personality changes. Dementia is not regarded as a disease by medical standards; rather, it is classified as a disorder with several persistent psychiatric symptoms.

Dementia symptoms can vary and may include:

  • Memory loss
  • Having trouble reading and writing
  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Difficulty responsibly managing finances
  • Taking longer to finish routine tasks
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Disregard for the feelings of others
  • Imbalance issues

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Organic Intellectual Disability

If a child’s brain either hasn’t formed properly or has been damaged in some manner, they may have an intellectual disability (ID). Additionally, their brain may not be operating as it should in terms of cognition and adaptive abilities. This disorder was previously referred to as “mental retardation” by medical practitioners in the health sector.

The following are the main reasons for intellectual disability:

  • Genetic disorders. Examples of these are fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome.
  • Challenges that can arise during pregnancy. Alcohol or drug usage, malnutrition, certain illnesses, or hypertension.
  • Difficulties during birthing. If a kid is delivered exceedingly prematurely or without enough oxygen during childbirth, an intellectual impairment may follow.
  • Injury or illness. Meningitis, whooping cough, and measles are just a few of the illnesses that can cause intellectual disabilities.

Such conditions can also be brought on by severe neglect or abuse, a severe head injury, near-drowning, extreme malnutrition, brain infections, exposure to toxic substances like lead, and excessive hunger.

Intellectual disability (ID) symptoms may include any or all of the following:

  • Unmet intellectual potential
  • Developmental delays
  • Memory issues
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Learning challenges
  • Below 70 IQ


Amnesia is a partial or total loss of memory. People with amnesia, often known as those with an amnestic syndrome, typically are aware of their identities. However, they can have problems establishing new memories and learning new information. Damage to brain regions essential for processing memories can result in amnesia. It can last a lifetime, unlike a brief bout of memory loss (transient global amnesia).

Most amnesics have issues with their short-term memory. For example, they struggle to remember new information, and the likelihood of losing recent memories is higher than saving distant or deeply established memories.

A person’s IQ, general knowledge, alertness, attention span, judgment, personality, or sense of self are unaffected by isolated memory loss. Amnesics can typically read and speak, as well as master new abilities like playing the piano or riding a bike.

Organic Mental Disorder: Treatment

The course of treatment will depend on the type of organic mental disorder. Treatment options can include but are not limited to medication, pharmacological modulation of neurotransmitter activity, and physical or occupational rehabilitation treatment. Sometimes doctors prescribe medication to help treat symptoms like depression, agitation, or insomnia.

Different forms of therapy can help the afflicted areas of the brain regain some function. Online therapy has the potential to be equally as effective and intensive as in-person therapy in terms of helping those impacted restore function in their everyday lives.

Before You Leave

Organic disorders can be caused by many things and can have all sorts of effects, and their symptoms vary greatly depending on the illness. Still, overall disorientation, memory problems, and poor judgment are common indicators. Due to the intricate house of cards that is the human brain, the type of condition a person has to be taken into consideration when treating these disorders. For every condition, a different set of steps is required.

To get a professional diagnosis and assistance for your symptoms, connect to MEDvidi, one of the leading online consultation platforms.

Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed


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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.