Different Types of Mental Disabilities: Definitions & Examples

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  • 0:07 Mental Disability Definition
  • 1:00 Potential Causes and Outcomes
  • 1:50 Psychological Disabilities
  • 2:46 Cognitive Disabilities
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of and differentiate between two types of mental disabilities: psychological disabilities and cognitive disabilities. Explore potential outcomes and examples, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What is a Mental Disability?

Meet Sue. She keeps her house clean, cooks healthy meals for her family and maintains a beautiful garden. When people meet Sue, their first impression is that of a friendly, smart, attractive woman. You might be surprised to learn that Sue has a mental disability. A mental disability is a cognitive or psychological condition that limits a major life activity in some way or requires special services.

In Sue's case, her functioning is impaired because she has extreme social phobia. Sue rarely leaves the comfort zone of her own home. She cannot attend her children's sporting events or even leave the house to do grocery shopping because of the anxiety she feels. On rare occasions when she must go out in public, Sue takes hours to prepare herself and may even become physically sick.

Potential Causes & Outcomes

There are many different types of mental disabilities. There are also many different causes. Mental disabilities can be the result of brain trauma, substance abuse, biological factors or environmental factors. Some mental disabilities can be effectively treated, while others are more severe.

Sue is lucky. She has a supportive family, and her anxiety disorder is treatable. With medication, counseling and time, it is possible that Sue can overcome her mental disability and lead an ordinary life. A person who suffers from a more severe mental disability, such as schizophrenia, may have a less favorable chance of leading an ordinary life. Mental disabilities can be placed in two categories: psychological disabilities and cognitive disabilities.

Psychological Disabilities

Psychological disabilities are a type of mental health impairment where daily functioning is limited because of a psychiatric problem. Most psychological disabilities are labeled as mental illnesses. There are many different mental illnesses. Mental illnesses can be present from birth. They may also develop due to environmental causes or disease. Many mental illnesses have mild symptoms and can be treated. Examples are depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.

More severe psychological disabilities are called psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders are mental illnesses that severely affect rational thinking. People with psychotic disorders suffer from impaired judgment, and living their daily lives can be very difficult. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder. A person with schizophrenia may see or hear things that are not real and develop false beliefs.

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