Cognitive disorders (CDs), also known as neurocognitive disorders (NCDs), are a category of mental health disorders that primarily affect cognitive abilities including learning, memory, perception, and problem solving. Neurocognitive disorders include delirium and mild and major neurocognitive disorder (previously known as dementia). They are defined by deficits in cognitive ability that are acquired (as opposed to developmental), typically represent decline, and may have an underlying brain pathology. The DSM-5 defines six key domains of cognitive function: executive function, learning and memory, perceptual-motor function, language, complex attention, and social cognition.
Although Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the majority of cases of neurocognitive disorders, there are various medical conditions that affect mental functions such as memory, thinking, and the ability to reason, including frontotemporal degeneration, Huntington’s disease, Lewy body disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Parkinson’s disease, prion disease, and dementia/neurocognitive issues due to HIV infection. Neurocognitive disorders are diagnosed as mild and major based on the severity of their symptoms. While anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychotic disorders can also have an effect on cognitive and memory functions, the DSM-IV-TR does not consider these cognitive disorders, because loss of cognitive function is not the primary (causal) symptom. Additionally, developmental disorders such as Autism spectrum disorder are typically developed at birth or early in life as opposed to the acquired nature of neurocognitive disorders.
Causes vary between the different types of disorders but most include damage to the memory portions of the brain. Treatments depend on how the disorder is caused. Medication and therapies are the most common treatments; however, for some types of disorders such as certain types of amnesia, treatments can suppress the symptoms but there is currently no cure.
Cognitive mental disorder perspective
In abnormal psychology, cognitive disorders are mental disorders that develop on the basis of cognitive mental disorder perspective. The cognitive mental disorder perspective is the theory that psychological disorders originate from an interruption, whether short or long, in our basic cognitive functions, i.e. memory processing, perception, problem solving and language. This perspective takes opposition to the psychodynamic mental disorder perspective, behavioral mental disorder perspective, sociocultural mental disorder perspective, interpersonal mental disorder perspective and neurological/biological mental disorder perspective. One pioneer of cognitive disorder perspective is Albert Ellis. In 1962, Ellis proposed that humans develop irrational beliefs/goals about the world; and therefore, create disorders in cognitive abilities. Another pioneer of the cognitive disorder perspective is Aaron Beck. In 1967, Beck designed what is known as the “cognitive model” for emotional disorders, mainly depression. His model showed that a blending of negative cognitive functions about the self, the world, and possible selves lead to cognitive mental disorders.
Neurocongnitive disorder may also be caused by brain trauma, including concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress and alcoholism. This is referred to as amnesia, and is characterized by damage to major memory encoding parts of the brain such as the hippocampus. Difficulty creating recent term memories is called anterograde amnesia and is caused by damage to the hippocampus part of the brain, which is a major part of the memory process. Retrograde amnesia is also caused by damage to the hippocampus, but the memories that were encoded or in the process of being encoded in long term memory are erased
Before delirium treatment, the cause must be established. Medication such as antipsychotics or benzodiazepines can help reduce the symptoms for some cases. For alcohol or malnourished cases, vitamin B supplements are recommended and for extreme cases, life-support can be used.
Mild and Major Neurocognitive Disorder
There is no cure for neurocognitive disorder or the diseases that cause it. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other medications that treat memory loss and behavioral symptoms are available and may help to treat the diseases. Ongoing psychotherapy and psychosocial support for patients and families are usually necessary for clear understanding and proper management of the disorder and to maintain a better quality of life for everyone involved. Speech therapy has been shown to help with language impairment.
Studies suggest that diets with high Omega 3 content, low in saturated fats and sugars, along with regular exercise can increase the level of brain plasticity. Other studies have shown that mental exercise such a newly developed “computerized brain training programs” can also help build and maintain targeted specific areas of the brain. These studies have been very successful for those diagnosed with schizophrenia and can improve fluid intelligence, the ability to adapt and deal with new problems or challenges the first time encountered, and in young people, it can still be effective in later life.
A person with amnesia may slowly be able to recall their memories or work with an occupational therapist to learn new information to replace what was lost, or to use intact memories as a basis for taking in new information. If it is caused by an underlying cause such as Alzheimer’s disease or infections, the cause may be treated but the amnesia may not be.