Difference Between Disorder and Disability

Key Difference – Disorder vs Disability
 

The words disorder and disability can often be very confusing although there is a key difference between these two words. In day to day conversation, you may have heard people speak of various disabilities and disorders such as eating disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, learning disability, intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, etc. What exactly is the difference between these two and how does a disorder differ from a disability? The key difference is that while a disorder refers to an illness that disrupts the individual functioning, disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, and activities. This is the basic difference between the two terms. Through this article let us examine this difference in detail.

What is a Disorder?

A disorder refers to an illness that disrupts the individual functioning. This can clearly affect the performance of the individual as it slows down his usual performance. At the initial stages, disorders can be difficult to identify as they affect the individual in a mild state. It is after some time that clear symptoms can be observed. This is why a specific time period is stated before diagnosis. For example, a person is diagnosed with PTSD or else Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, if the symptoms are visible for a month.

The term disorder is mostly associated with psychological disorders.  A psychological disorder is a mental illness that affects the functioning of an individual where he or she has difficulty in completing tasks of the day to day life. Mental disorders can be caused due to various reasons ranging from accidents to genetics. These can be treated using therapeutic methods as well as medication. Some examples of disorders are the panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, hypomania, delusional disorder, schizophrenia, sleeping disorder, etc.

Difference Between Disorder and Disability

What is a Disability?

A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, and activities. This denotes that the individual loses the functioning of a particular part of the body completely or partially. A disability can even include a disfigurement of the body as well. Disabilities can occur from illnesses, accidents, or even genetics. It can restrict a person’s ability to speak, learn, communicate and even affect mobility. Some disabilities are visible to others while some are not. Simultaneously, some disabilities are only for a short time while others are permanent. Although most people believe that people are generally born with disabilities, this is not always accurate. In some cases, disabilities appear when a person ages or even as a result of contextual factors such as the environment in which a person lives and works.

There are various types of disabilities such as physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, physical disfigurement, sensory disabilities, mental illnesses, neurological disabilities, etc. In the world, in every society, there are people with disabilities. This, however, should not be viewed with negativity but embraced as a form of diversity.

Key Difference - Disorder vs Disability

What is the difference between Disorder and Disability?

Definitions of Disorder and Disability:

Disorder: A disorder refers to an illness that disrupts the individual functioning.

Disability: A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, and activities.

Characteristics of Disorder and Disability:

Treatment:

Disorder: Most disorders can be treated with medication and therapy and can be cured.

Disability: While some disabilities can be cured some cannot be cured although they can be reduced through various medication.

Examples:

Disorder: Panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, hypomania, delusional disorder, schizophrenia and sleeping disorder are some examples of disorders.

Disability: Physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, physical disfigurement, sensory disabilities, mental illnesses and neurological disabilities are some types of disabilities.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Tension-headache” by Shanghai killer whale – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons

2. “Norwood adult services” by Norwood (Charity) – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons