Cognitive disorders typically begin subtly but progress until they significantly impede the affected individual's quality of life. It is important to understand the different cognitive disorders, their symptoms and relevant treatment options.
What Are the Types of Cognitive Disorders?
Cognitive disorders are a part of the neurocognitive disorder classification in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Cognitive disorders are defined as any disorder that drastically impairs the cognitive function of an individual to the point where normal functioning in society is impossible without treatment. Some common cognitive disorders include:
- Developmental disorders
- Motor skill disorders
- Substance-induced cognitive impairment
- Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common cognitive disorders, affects roughly 5.1 million Americans.
What Causes a Cognitive Disorder?
Like many mental disorders, cognitive disorders are caused by a variety of factors. Some are due to hormonal imbalances in the womb, others to genetic predisposition and still others to environmental factors. Common environmental causes of cognitive disorders include a lack of adequate nutrients and interaction during vulnerable stages of cognitive development, especially during infancy.
Other common causes of cognitive disorder include substance abuse and physical injury. When an area of the brain that controls cognitive function is damaged, either by the excessive use of drugs, by alcohol or from physical trauma, those neurophysiological changes can lead to cognitive dysfunction.
What are the Signs of Cognitive Disorder?
Cognitive disorder signs differ according to the particular disorder, however some common signs and symptoms overlap in many disorders. Some of the most common symptoms of cognitive disorder consist of:
- Poor motor coordination
- Loss of short-term or long-term memory
- Identity confusion
- Impaired judgment
Some cognitive disorders develop in phases and symptoms increase in severity the more the disease progresses. Alzheimer's disease, for instance, begins with the patient showing very minor signs of forgetfulness. Individuals may forget names they know well, or they may have trouble remembering what they did recently. The first symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer's disease are usually indistinguishable from regular memory mistakes. However, as the disease progresses, the affected individual's memory becomes persistently impaired. They might have rare moments of clarity, but life is usually lived in a state of confusion.
Emotional Symptoms of Cognitive Problems
Cognitive problems manifest in a number of ways, with emotional imbalance being among the most common symptoms. Cognitive impairment is frustrating, and those suffering from it commonly react with emotional outbursts, making it hard for family and friends to help. Others might push people away in an attempt to isolate themselves, only making the problem worse. Other cognitive disorders have the opposite effect, causing the individual to have dulled or nonexistent emotions.
Physical Symptoms of Cognitive Problems
Cognition problems commonly materialize in the form of visible external symptoms. The impacted person might appear dazed and confused, and their eyes may have a glazed appearance. Motor coordination is commonly affected in both neurological and psychological cognitive disorders, and the individual may have strange mannerisms or just a lack of balance and normal posture.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Cognitive Instability
Cognitive instability comes with both short- and long-term effects. Some typical short-term effects include memory loss, a state of confusion and a lack of coordination. Long-term effects include the increasing loss of declarative memory, such as forgetting names and significant faces, as well as a general lack of emotional stability and control over one's actions.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
Different memory and cognitive function assessments are offered online, but it is important to understand that these tests can only provide you a general idea concerning some of the symptoms that an individual with a cognitive disorder may experience. A full medical exam is needed to present an official diagnosis, and you need to consult a doctor before you begin any kind of treatment plan.
For more information about Dr. Linette's practice and Cognitive Problems in La Mesa, California, contact us at 760-875-2627 or visit our website at LinetteWilliamson.com and schedule your appointment today!