Difference between mental disorder and disability

If you google mental disabilities mental health disorders comes up. These are commonly mixed up, and not separated as they should.

Individuals who have mental disabilities, also known as intellectual disabilities, cannot be treated. It is not an illness , but rather a development deficit meaning that their intellectual abilities are impaired compared to their age. In the DSM- 5 criteria for intellectual disabilities are impairment in reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning and experiential learning.

A mental disorder however affect mood, thought processes or behaviors and anyone are prone to experience one, and it can be treated with different medication, therapies etc. A person with mental disabilities can also suffer from a mental health disorder. For example, a person who have low intellectual abilities might also be diagnosed with depression.

Even though mental illness is not considered a disability there is a class of mental health disabilities known as psychiatric disabilities. These are related to mental illnesses that make it difficult to live a normal life and execute major life activities. One important difference i s also that disorder is a medical term while disability is a legal term.

Munir KM (2016). The co-occurrence of mental disorders in children and adolescents with intellectual disability / intellectual developmental disorder. Current opinion in psychiatry29 (2), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0000000000000236

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