Organic Mental Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Disability

Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) is also known as chronic organic brain syndrome or organic brain syndrome (OBS). It is a type of disorder where the mental functioning decreases because of a physical disease or medical condition instead of a psychiatric disease. This disorder is different from dementia. When treated early, one may be able to prevent the damages that are caused by organic mental disorder (OMD) as well as retrieve the mental function completely.

The organic cause to brain dysfunction is assumed when there are no signs of psychiatric behavior or other causes like mood disorder. Dementia, delirium and amnesic are the three diagnoses which have been laid down as per the DSM-IV-TR. A detailed diagnosis will only help in making the treatment better and prevent complete brain dysfunction.

Organic Mental Disorder

Organic brain syndrome is divided into two major categories: acute and chronic. Delirium or acute state of confusion falls in acute category and dementia is often seen in the chronic stage. Encephalopathy is a third category and denotes the gray zone between dementia and delirium. The early course may vary but the condition is often progressive and persistent. The damage in the functioning of brain is not only due to some kind of physical injury but also due to damages that can be caused due to inorganic means like psychological trauma, abuse, severe deprivation and neglect.

Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) or Organic brain syndrome (OBS) is a common expression for decreased mental functioning that does not result from a psychiatric disorder. The mental function will be reduced to:

  • Memory problems
  • Troubles in understanding languages
  • Behavioral changes
  • Difficulties in handling daily chores.

Neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease can also cause Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). In such conditions, the neurologic functions are progressively lost. Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) can also result from brain trauma or as a side effect of substance abuse.

It is not easy to speculate the cause that leads to Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). The medical practitioners will do brain examination and inspect the symptoms to know the cause of disorder. The severity and the cause of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) will help a physician to decide the right treatment course that will ease the troubles.

The cure for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) does not depend on the cause. There is no cure for most neurodegenerative disorders and Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) often worsens with time.

Causes of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Following are the Types of Disorders Related with Organic Mental Disorder (OMD):

Causes of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Brain Injury Resulting From Trauma:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage or bleeding inside the brain.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage- Bleeding into the surrounding spaces in brain.
  • Subdural hematoma- pressure on the brain due to formation of blood clots in the skull.
  • Concussion.

Various Breathing Circumstances:

  • Hypoxia- Low content of oxygen in the body
  • Hypercapnia- high level of carbon dioxide in the body.

Cardiovascular Disorders:

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Multi-infarct dementia- caused due to multiple strokes
  • Heart disease (endocarditis, myocarditis)
  • Stroke.

Degenerative Disorders:

Dementia Due To Metabolic Reasons:

  • Liver disease
  • Deficiency in Vitamins B1, B12, or folate.
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism)

Alcohol and Drug-Related Forms:

  • State of withdrawal from alcohol
  • Intoxication caused by using alcohol or drug
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome- caused by oral malnutrition of alcohol
  • Drug withdrawal state.


  • Any acute or chronic illness
  • Septicemia or blood poisoning
  • Encephalitis or infection in brain
  • Meningitis or infection in lining of spinal cord and brain
  • Prion infections like mad-cow disease
  • Late stage syphilis.

Organic mental disorder (OMD) may also be caused due to complexity of cancer. Some other illnesses that can lead to organic mental disorder (OMD) include Psychosis, Neurosis and Depression.

Symptoms of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Depending on the cause of organic mental disorder (OMD), the symptoms may also vary. Confusion is often involved in the symptoms that can cause neurodegenerative disorders. Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) may make a person to be dependent or unable to do any job.

Symptoms that may Result from Neurodegenerative Diseases Consist of:

  • Loss of memory, where the patient may not be able to relate to the present surroundings or situations
  • Trouble in understanding certain concepts
  • Anxiety due to lack of understanding about the present situation.

Symptoms that may be Additionally Associated with Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) Involves:

  • Difficulty in paying attention
  • Headache that may be commonly seen in people with brain injury
  • Temporary amnesia or short term memory loss
  • Hassles in doing routine chores
  • Ataxia or trouble controlling muscle movements that are voluntary
  • Inhibition loss
  • Confused state of mind
  • Disturbances with vision.

Risk Factors for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Lifestyle habits are partially responsible for causing Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). Working in an environment where one is exposed to heavy metals can increase the chances of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). The nervous system can be degenerated due to heavy metals like mercury and lead. When exposed to such metals on a regular basis, the mental function will decrease in a tremendous way. Dependence on heavy drugs can also increase the chances of developing Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). The risk factors that can lead to organic mental disorder (OMD) include:

  • Sport activities where there is risk of head trauma such as concussions.
  • diabetes
  • vascular disorders
  • alcoholism
  • increasing age.

Diagnosis of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Psychiatric disorders do not cause Organic Mental Disorder (OMD). Most disorders can fallaciously seem to cause organic brain syndrome (OBS) as the symptoms are alike. The following psychiatric disorder is similar to organic brain syndrome (OBS):

  • Chronic depression (symptom: Trouble focusing)
  • Psychosis (symptom: difficulties in understanding)
  • Schizophrenia (symptoms: loss or inhibition and mental confusion)

Mental ability tests and diagnostic imaging may be used by doctors to avoid relying on inappropriate treatment options. Some tests are mentioned below:

  • MRI or magnetic resonance imaging which can help in detecting brain damage
  • PET or positron emission tomography scan, which can be used for spotting damaged brain areas
  • Cerebrospinal fluid markers, which can be used for finding infection signs like bacterial meningitis.

Tests that are carried out will hugely depend on the disorder but the following may be carried out to know the exact cause in the initial stages. These include:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Blood tests
  • Head MRI Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Head CT scan.

Treatment of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Depending on the severity or the injury that caused organic mental disorder (OMD), the treatment plan will be determined. Certain illnesses like concussion may only need medication and complete rest. Different types of therapy may be needed for treating neurodegenerative disorders. The following treatments are often sought for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD):

  • Medications for relieving pain like indomethacin that is prescribed to relieve headaches caused by concussions
  • Bed and brain rest- This happens due to avoidance of activities while brain resting
  • Antibiotics to clear out infections
  • Brain surgery in worst cases.

Occupational therapy and physical therapy may be given to improve the independence of a patient.

Long Term Outlook for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

The causes that lead to organic mental disorder (OMD) are responsible for its long-term outlook. Causes that are temporary have the right outlook for long term. Patients who are suffering from concussions may feel better with brain rest for a few weeks.

Sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may lack a poor long-term outlook. Such people may need treatment for a long time as the mental function continues to decline.

Possible Complications for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) sufferers often lose their capability to collaborate with people or carry out normal chores.

When Should you Contact a Professional Doctor for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)?

Rely on the medical professional for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) if:

  • The organic mental disorder (OMD) has been diagnosed in you and you are in doubt about the correct problem.
  • There are certain symptoms that your body is experiencing.
  • You have been detected with organic mental disorder (OMD) and the symptoms are worse.

Disability Benefits for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD)

How Can Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) Form a Basis for Disability Benefits?

Organic mental diseases (OMD) are assessed under section 12.02 that states specific criteria for people who claim for Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) benefits that are offered. There are two ways by which the eligibility can be shown in this section. Initially, you can point the losses that are suffered due to mental disabilities and changes that have resulted from continuous mental issues. Apart from this, you must also show that your ability to handle routine activities and chores has been affected. You have trouble concentrating, unable to perform daily activities and fail to develop coping mechanisms as well.

Simultaneously, you can also state a documented history of Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) that lasted for two years or more and has deprived you from working. It must be presented along with a constant failure of developing various coping mechanisms, being sensitive to changing mental demands and inability to work outside a supportive living environment for the past few years. Whatever might be your way to prove the eligibility to avail the benefits, you must have medical evidence stating that the Organic Mental Disorder (OMD) does not allow you to work. Your disability attorney may help you in getting these evidences by maintaining contact with the doctor.

You should not lose any time in beginning with the process of disability application for organic mental disorder when you know that you are having some kind of disability. These applications can be done over the phone, online or in person but they make some time to process. Social Security Administration (SSA) will go through the materials that you have given and determine if you are eligible for the program. If you are eligible and meet the necessary requirements, the application will be transferred in Disability Determination Services Office of the respective state.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2019

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