Cognitive Disorders

What are Cognitive Disorders?

Cognitive disorders are a category of disorders whose primary disturbance is of one or more aspects of thinking, such as attention, learning or problem solving.  A Cognitive Disorder is a deficit in thinking that is a change from a prior, higher level of functioning.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) (the book that is used in behavioral health to categorize disorders) uses the term Neurocognitive Disorders (NCD) to describe Cognitive Disorders.  According to the DSM-5, “The NCD category encompasses the group of disorders in which the primary clinical deficit is in cognitive function, and that are acquired rather than developmental.  Although cognitive deficits are present in many if not all mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorders), only disorders whose core features are cognitive are included in the NCD category.  The NCDs are those in which impaired cognition has not been present since birth or very early life, and thus represents a decline from a previously attained level of functioning.”

Categories of Neurocognitive Disorders

Delirium- Delirium refers to a disturbance in attention, awareness and cognition that develops over a short period of time, represents a change from baseline, tends to fluctuate in severity throughout the day and is not better explained by another pre-existing disorder or an evolving neurocognitive disorder.

Minor/Major Neurocognitive Disorders– These types of disorders are defined by the presence of a significant decline from a higher level of functioning in at least one cognitive domain (attention, executive function, learning and memory, language, perceptual-motor, or social cognition).  Evidence of decline comes from two sources: (1) an informant who knows the individual well and (2) standardized neuropsychological testing (or in its absence another qualified clinical assessment). The cognitive deficits cannot be better explained by another mental disorder (such as depression or delirium).