The key difference between organic and functional mental disorders is that causative factors for organic mental disorders are known while causative factors for functional mental disorders are unknown.
Mental disorders are common in humans due to various diseases and traumatic conditions they experience. Genetics also plays a major role in the development of such mental disorders. In addition, head trauma and underlying disease conditions could lead to mental disorders. These diseases mostly have common symptoms but vary with the condition and the stage of the disease. Disease management is often done through therapeutics. With reference to the diagnosis of disease, mental disorders are of two types: organic mental disorder and functional mental disorder.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Organic Mental Disorders
3. What are Functional Mental Disorders
4. Similarities – Organic and Functional Mental Disorders
5. Organic vs Functional Mental Disorders in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Organic vs Functional Mental Disorders
What are Organic Mental Disorders?
Organic mental disorder is a type of neurocognitive disorder that consists of an observable and measurable disease process, such as inflammation or tissue damage. In other words, an organic mental disorder is defined as an organic brain syndrome, chronic organic brain syndrome, and a neurocognitive disorder.
Organic mental disorders develop due to disturbances that occur by trauma or disease that affect brain tissues through hormonal and chemical abnormalities. These include exposure to toxic chemicals, neurological impairment, and aging. The other factors that lead to organic mental disorders include metabolic disorders such as liver disease, kidney disease, etc., vitamin deficiencies, concussions, blood clots, low blood oxygen levels, high blood carbon dioxide levels, brain infections, and degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The symptoms of organic mental disorders include difficulty in concentrating on certain tasks for longer periods of time, confusion while performing simple tasks, inability to manage relationships and communication with colleagues, friends, and family. Other symptoms include agitation, irritability, impaired brain function, memory, and cognitive ability. Early diagnosis of such organic mental disorders is crucial since they can be treated and prevented during the early stages of development. Diagnostics for organic mental disorders include blood tests, spinal taps, ECG, MRI, CT scan, etc. Therapeutics vary with the stage of the disorder. Medication and rehabilitation therapy are the most effective therapeutics available for organic mental disorders.
What are Functional Mental Disorders?
Functional mental disorder is a type of neurocognitive disorder that does not consist of an observable and measurable disease process. Another term for functional mental disorder is functional neurological disorder. In a functional mental disorder, the symptoms cannot be explained by a known neurological disorder or any other medical abnormality. Signs and symptoms vary with the development of the disease.
Generally, functional mental disorders affect senses and movements. The symptoms of this disorder include seizures, episodes of unresponsiveness, loss of balance, loss of touch sensation, speech, vision, hearing difficulties, and abnormal movements such as tremors. The risk factors for functional mental disorders include neurological disease or disorders such as epilepsy, migraines or a movement disorder, significant stress or emotional or physical trauma, history of physical or sexual abuse or neglect in childhood. Complications related to this mental disorder include substantial disability and poor quality of life (pain, anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, depression, and insomnia).
What are the Similarities Between Organic and Functional Mental Disorders?
- Organic and functional mental disorders belong to the group of mental disorders.
- Both show certain similar symptoms.
- They affect neurological health.
- They cause a loss of quality of life and wellbeing.
- Both can lead to permanent neurological damage if left untreated.
What is the Difference Between Organic and Functional Mental Disorders?
The causative factors for organic mental disorders are known, while the causative factors are unknown in functional mental disorders. Thus, this is the key difference between organic and functional mental disorders. Organic disorders can be explained in relation to neurological disorders, but functional disorders cannot be explained under the category of neurological disorders. Moreover, the symptoms of organic disorders include agitation and irritability, but symptoms of functional mental disorders include seizures and loss of balance.
The below infographic presents the differences between organic and functional mental disorders in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Organic vs Functional Mental Disorders
Mental disorders are common in humans due to various diseases and traumatic conditions they undergo. With reference to the diagnosis of disease, mental disorders are of two types: organic mental disorder and functional mental disorder. The causative factors for organic mental disorders are known, while the causative factors are unknown in functional mental disorders. So, this is the key difference between organic and functional mental disorders. Both types could lead to permanent neurological damage if left untreated.
1. “Functional Neurologic Disorder/Conversion Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 Jan. 2022.
2. Logsdon, Ann. “How an Organic Mental Disorder Is Different from Other Illnesses.” Verywell Mind, 6 May 2020.