Cognitive Problem Symptoms, Causes and Effects
Cognitive disorders often begin subtly but progress until they significantly hinder the impacted individual's quality of life. It is important to recognize 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 kind of 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, impacts approximately 5.1 million Americans.
What Causes a Cognitive Disorder?
Like most mental disorders, cognitive disorders are caused by a variety of factors. Some are due to hormone imbalances in the womb, others to genetic predisposition and still others to environmental factors. Typical environmental causes of cognitive disorders include a lack of proper 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 determines cognitive function is damaged, either by the excessive use of drugs, by alcohol or from physical trauma, those neurophysiological changes can result in cognitive dysfunction.
What Are the Symptoms of Cognitive Disorder?
Cognitive disorder symptoms vary according to the particular disorder, however some common signs and symptoms overlap in many disorders. Some of the most common symptoms of cognitive disorder include:
- 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 further the disease progresses. Alzheimer's disease, for instance, begins with the patient showing very small signs of forgetfulness. Sufferers may forget names they know well, or they might have trouble remembering what they did recently. The first symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer's disease are often indistinguishable from normal memory errors. However, as the disease advances, the impacted 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 materialize in a range of ways, with emotional imbalance being among the most common symptoms. Cognitive impairment is frustrating, and those suffering from it often react with emotional outbursts, making it difficult for friends and family to help. Others may push people away in an effort to isolate themselves, only making the problem worse. Other cognitive disorders have the opposite effect, causing the person to have dulled or nonexistent emotions.
Physical Symptoms of Cognitive Problems
Cognition problems often materialize in the form of visible outward symptoms. The impacted person might seem dazed and confused, and their eyes might have a glazed appearance. Motor coordination is commonly impacted in both neurological and psychological cognitive disorders, and the person might have strange mannerisms or just a lack of balance and normal posture.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Cognitive Instability
Cognitive instability includes both short- and long-term effects. Some common 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, and a general lack of emotional stability and control over one's actions.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
Various memory and cognitive function tests are offered online, but it is vital to understand that these tests can only provide you a general idea concerning some of the symptoms that an individual with a cognitive disorder might experience. A full medical exam is required to impart an official diagnosis, and you should consult a medical professional before you start any form of treatment plan.