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Symptoms of Organic Mental Disorders

Organic mental disorders refer to one of a number of mental disturbances of the brain due to temporary or permanent causes such as aging, metabolic irregularities, cardiovascular disturbances, drug or alcohol abuse, degenerative diseases or infection. Symptoms for organic mental disorder then are dependent on the reason for the illness. Common symptoms can include dementia, confusion, agitation and impaired memory, logic or judgment. Therefore, an organic mental disorder, also known as organic brain syndrome or OBS, often results from a disturbance to the central nervous system or from a pathological cause such as dementia.

Delirium is an organic mental disorder that results in symptoms that include abnormal perceptions and irregularities in mood with an impaired attention span. Also known as toxic confusional state, delirium is the most common kind of psychosis seen in the hospital. The sufferer experiences interim periods where he is coherent or lucid between episodes where speech isn’t understandable, perceptions are blurred and memory is impaired. In some instances, an individual will experience persecutory delusions or hallucinations. As a result, the sufferer is often suspicious, scared, uncooperative and agitated. Where dementia is an organic mental disorder that results in long-term loss of brain functioning, delirium is classified as a short-term but severe loss of brain functioning. Typically, when determining whether or not an individual is suffering from an organic mental disorder, a number of tests are indicated. Such tests may include, electroencephalogram (EEG), CT scan, MRI and blood screening.

Generally, an organic mental disorder is diagnosed when it’s determined that an individual’s cognitive ability is impaired along with one or more of the following: disorientation; thinking disturbances with regards to perception such as delusions or hallucinations; impaired memory, such as not being able to remember past incidences (long-term) or being unable to learn new material (short-term); personality change; fluctuations in mood; emotional instability; or loss of intellect.

An organic mental disorder isn’t considered a psychiatric disturbance. Instead, it’s defined as a physical disorder that results in the loss of mental functioning. Therefore, organic mental disorders are typically diagnosed in older individuals as well as people suffering from degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or senile dementia. Organic mental disorders can also be attributed to cardiovascular illnesses as well, including arrhythmias, cardiac infections such as myocarditis, stroke and trauma to the brain such as hematoma, concussion, or cerebral hemorrhage.

Respiratory causes can result in organic mental disorders too such as hypercapnia (increased carbon dioxide levels) or hypoxia (decreased oxygen levels). Infections such as meningitis and encephalitis contribute to organic mental disorders as well as alcohol or drug problems, such as withdrawal or long-term use. Parkinson’s disease is also known to cause organic mental disorders too. Therefore, the symptoms of the disorder are different depending on the physical cause. Usually, though, organic mental disorders are associated with symptoms of confusion, delirium, dementia, or agitation. Treatment is different too depending on the specific reason for the disorder; however, in most cases supportive care is given and prescription medications are administered in order to lessen aggressiveness or ameliorate depression. In most cases, the ability to function independently or relate to others is severely reduced.