What Are Cognitive Disorders? – Symptoms, Causes, Types And Treatments.

The cognitive disorders also known as neurocognitive disorders are a category of mental health disorders that primarily affect key domains of cognitive function: executive function, learning and memory , perceptual-motor function, language , attention and complex social cognition.

They are defined by deficits in cognitive ability that are acquired (as opposed to developmental), typically represent decline, and may have underlying brain pathology.

Cognitive disorders are those that focus on the brain’s ability to remember and process information.

The four main categories are:

Delirium (a change in consciousness that develops in a short period of time in which people have reduced awareness of their surroundings); dementia (a progressive decline in brain function characterized by impaired memory , confusion, and inability to concentrate; amnesia (a significant loss of memory, despite the fact that other cognitive functions such as those in the brain are not lost) dementia and cognitive disorders not otherwise specified (cognitive impairment presumed to be due to a general medical condition or substance use and that do not fit into the other categories).

Symptoms of cognitive disorders

Symptoms will vary depending on the specific type, but generally include problems with the brain’s ability to process or remember information. Problems with short-term memory, disorganized thinking, and other physical and psychological problems are some of the symptoms of cognitive disorders.

The mental problems that are caused by these disorders can have a serious negative effect on other areas of a person’s life if they are not treated.

  • Rapid changes in mental states.
  • Poor short-term memory.
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Mental problems – language , memory, perception.
  • Inability to recognize language.
  • Difficulties learning .
  • Memory problems.
  • Problems with critical thinking.
  • Trust in notes and calendars.

Types of cognitive disorders

These are the main types of cognitive disorders, as well as the subcategories related to them:


A disturbance in the state of consciousness for a generally short period of time results in a rapid change between mental states.

  • Substance intoxication
  • Substance withdrawal
  • Delirium, unspecified: Diagnosed when there are symptoms of different types of cognitive disorders or when the cause is unknown.


Loss of brain functions that mainly cause memory problems, as well as other cognitive deficiencies.

  • Dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia due to HIV disease
  • Dementia due to head trauma
  • Dementia due to Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease dementia
  • Dementia due to Pick’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease dementia
  • Persistent substance-induced dementia
  • Dementia due to multiple etiologies
  • Unspecified dementia: Diagnosed when there are symptoms of two or more types of dementia, making it difficult to identify an exact type of dementia.

Amnesic disorders

A mild memory impairment without symptoms of other cognitive disorders.

  • Organic amnesic syndrome: When amnesia is not induced by alcohol or other psychoactive substances
  • Unspecified amnestic disorder: When there are symptoms other than those associated with organic amnestic syndrome and its causes are unknown, it is called unspecified amnestic disorder.

Mild and severe cognitive disorders

Mild and severe cognitive disorders are generally associated with the elderly, but are not limited to them. Unlike delirium, conditions under these disorders develop slowly and are characterized by memory loss. In addition to memory loss and cognitive impairment, other symptoms include aphasia, apraxia, agnosia, loss of abstract thinking, behavior / personality changes, and impaired judgment. There may also be behavioral disorders, such as psychosis, mood, and agitation.

Disorders differ based on the severity of your symptoms. Formerly known as dementia, Major Cognitive Disorder is characterized by significant cognitive decline and interference with independence, while Mild Cognitive Disorder is characterized by moderate cognitive decline and does not interfere with independence.

To be diagnosed, it must not be due to delirium or other mental disorder, for non-reversible causes of dementia such as age, slow decline in memory and cognition is life-long and can be diagnosed by screening tests.

Other cognitive disorders

Mild cognitive disorder and unspecified cognitive disorder are two other types of cognitive disorders that can be diagnosed when symptoms are milder or when there are problems specifying a particular type of disorder due to multiple symptoms.

Causes of cognitive disorders

Cognitive disorders can be caused by all kinds of brain problems, including tumors, strokes, closed head injuries, infections, exposure to neurotoxins (that is, substances that are toxic to the brain), genetic factors, and diseases.

The specific type of cognitive disorder someone develops depends on the part of the brain that is affected. For example, a tumor growing in the speech centers of the brain will cause communication problems, similarly, an infection in the motor centers of the brain will cause problems with movement.

Tumors are masses of cells that grow and infiltrate the body, these masses of cells can be benign (that is, they will stop growing once they are removed by surgery) or malignant (that is, they are difficult to remove and will continue to grow and spreading). Both benign and malignant tumors in the brain can cause impaired cognitive functioning, depending on their size and location.

Even the most skilled surgeon cannot remove a benign tumor without causing some damage to the surrounding brain areas. As a result, someone who has had a benign tumor removed may experience residual weakness or numbness, for example. Individuals with malignant tumors will experience cognitive problems as the cell mass presses on and destroys healthy tissue in the brain and spinal cord, blocks fluid flowing around and through the brain, and / or causes inflammation due to fluid build-up. . Malignant tumors are often fatal.


Genetic influences appear to play a role in many different cognitive disorders. For example, Huntington’s disease is a serious movement disorder that often includes significant changes in thinking.

The dementia that accompanies the disorder is believed to be due to genetic causes, and Alzheimer’s disease is even believed to have possible genetic causes in some people who develop the disorder.

Developmental disorders like Down syndrome often cause significant cognitive dysfunction and are the result of genetic factors.


One of the most common causes of brain damage, strokes are caused by blockages in the blood vessels or when a blood vessel breaks. Risk factors include age, family history, heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking.

Common cognitive effects of stroke include memory impairment, language difficulties, and paralysis, but they depend on the part of the brain that is affected.

Closed head injuries

They are blows to the head that do not penetrate the skull (for example, when someone hits their head during a car accident). Concussions (when the brain bounces off the skull), bruises, and traumatic brain injuries all kinds of closed brain injuries.

Again, the severity and type of cognitive impairment caused by closed head injuries depends on the portion of the brain that is injured.


They can also cause cognitive disorders, both bacteria and viruses (for example, the virus that causes rabies) can disrupt the functioning of the brain. One of the most common forms of brain infection is meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges, the protective covering that surrounds the brain and central nervous system. Meningitis can cause deafness, other forms of cognitive decline, and, in severe cases, death.


Diseases that cause cognitive disorders can be the result of any of the factors mentioned above (or a combination of them). For example, Huntington’s disease (a disorder that affects thinking , emotions, and movement) and multiple sclerosis (a movement disorder created when the body attacks the lining of brain cells, called myelin, which decreases the ability of brain to transmit messages quickly and efficiently) have a strong genetic component.

In contrast, Parkinson’s disease (a movement disorder described below) and epilepsy (a disorder in which clumps of brain cells send abnormal signals and cause seizures – see our related topic center) can have a large number of causes, including faulty genes, brain infections, tumors, among others.

Exposure to toxic substances

There are many substances that can affect the functioning of the brain and cause cognitive disorders or cognitive dysfunction, these substances are called neurotoxins. People exposed to lead or other heavy metals can develop problems with their memory and other cognitive functions.

Being exposed to paint fumes, fumes from certain types of glue, cement, gasoline or aerosol cans, etc., can also result in significant brain damage, this damage can lead to cognitive dysfunction. The use of alcohol or drugs such as cocaine or heroin can lead to significant cognitive dysfunction or the development of a cognitive disorder. For example, some people who abuse alcohol can develop a form of dementia over time due to brain damage.

Malnutrition or other lifestyle factors

Not eating properly, getting enough exercise, or other factors associated with a person’s lifestyle can lead to the development of a cognitive disorder. For example, a condition known as Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome that is often diagnosed in people with severe alcoholism, this happens due to a very poor diet and not due to their alcohol abuse.

People who develop this condition lack vitamin B1 due to a poor diet, this can affect the functioning of the brain and lead to serious problems with memory and other problems. If the person does not fix their diet and does not receive adequate nutrition, the changes can be permanent.

Obese people are also vulnerable to many different types of cognitive disorders such as stroke and even dementia. Severe malnutrition can lead to delirium problems.

Can cognitive disorder be treated?

The prognosis of cognitive decline depends largely on what caused it, for many individuals who develop cognitive disorder as a result of a neurodegenerative disease, the symptoms will eventually progress enough to be classified as major neurocognitive disorder or dementia. However, in some cases, the effects can be reversed.

One study found that certain factors are associated with a reversal of cognitive decline. According to the study, individuals whose disorder was severe and affected multiple domains were more likely to have irreversible symptoms, those who had higher levels of mental acuity, mild symptoms, and better visual acuity were more likely to experience a reversal.

Treatment can include a variety of interventions and the participation of healthcare professionals from several different disciplines, including medicine, neuroscience, and psychology. Although there are currently no approved drugs for treatment, researchers are actively working on the development of such drugs.

Some people find the use of supplements, such as vitamins, helpful, although clinical trials have not yet proven the efficacy of any particular supplement. When a person’s main symptom is memory loss, the doctor may prescribe medications that are typically used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but these medications are not typically used to treat mild cognitive impairment. Treating other medical and mental health problems, such as depression, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea , can increase overall mental alertness.

Early detection of cognitive decline is essential for treatment, as interventions are likely to be most effective in the early stages. Prevention may also be possible, it is believed that staying active in old age and maintaining a rich social network can help prevent some cognitive problems.

The benefits of residential treatment for cognitive disorders

The main benefit of residential treatment centers for cognitive disorders has to be the increased security that comes from leaving a difficult and potentially dangerous living situation and entering a controlled environment that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of people with cognitive problems.

In such a setting, it can be confidently expected that appropriate medications will be delivered on time every day, and that threats to the physical well-being of residents will not be allowed. A supportive environment will be established around the patient to reduce the stress of living with limited function.

How to address the different types of cognitive disorders?

Therapists who observe symptoms of cognitive impairment in people participating in therapy can take steps to help them identify and treat any underlying medical problems that may be present, this may involve a referral for neuropsychological testing or medical evaluation.

Medical evaluation and treatment will not only help treat the cause of the cognitive decline, but can also rule out any other medical problems that may be contributing to the symptoms, such as a stroke or brain tumor.

Therapists can also help people cope with cognitive decline by teaching compensatory strategies, providing support, and helping them deal with feelings about their cognitive problems, including the person’s family especially family members who spend a lot Spending time with the individual in at least a few therapy sessions and involving them in treatment can be beneficial, as it can help family members prepare for the changes that cognitive decline can cause in the person and the effects these changes they may have in daily life.

In addition, comorbid mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and agitation, can be experienced, and therapy can be helpful in treating these problems and improving general well-being.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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