What Are Organic Disorders? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Organic Disorders
  • 0:49 Brain Trauma
  • 2:48 Disease
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What happens when changes in your brain cause changes in your mental state? In this lesson, we'll examine organic mental disorders, including common symptoms and two of the major causes of them, brain trauma and disease.

Organic Disorders

Jamie is having issues. Last month, she fell while skiing and hit her head. She was able to get up and walk around, and she never lost consciousness. In fact, at first it seemed like the only side effects were a bruise and a headache.

But lately, things have gotten worse. She keeps forgetting things and sometimes gets confused. She's also much more impatient and short-tempered than she used to be.

Organic disorders are psychological issues caused by issues in the brain. Changes in a person's brain can have a huge effect on how they function day-to-day. They can lead to changes in the way a person thinks or behaves. Let's look closer at organic disorders caused by two major things: brain trauma and disease.

Brain Trauma

Remember that Jamie fell while skiing and bumped her head. Now, she's having some issues with her memory and personality. What's going on?

Organic disorders can be caused by many things. One of the more common causes of an organic disorder is brain trauma, or damage to brain structures. Usually, when people talk about brain trauma, they are discussing a traumatic brain injury caused by an accident. Jamie's fall while skiing was an accident that led to brain trauma. But other things, too, can lead to damage of brain structures. For example, a heart attack that leads to a loss of blood to the brain could cause part of the brain to die. That would definitely be a brain trauma!

Disorders caused by brain trauma can have all sorts of effects. Like Jamie, people with brain trauma might find that they are confused or have memory loss. The trauma could even cause differences in personality, like when Jamie became suddenly more impatient and short-tempered.

Believe it or not, brain trauma can even cause people to act in strange ways. Take the famous case of Phineas Gage, who was a railroad worker in the 19th century. When a railroad accident caused a spike to go through his brain, Gage survived, but his personality was completely altered: he went from a mild-mannered, popular guy to a mean, rough man whom no one wanted to be around.

And not only that, he seemed to be unable to control his behavior. He would say and do things that were inappropriate, like cursing in the middle of church or laughing at a funeral.

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