Organic and functional

Psychiatric conditions are sometimes divided into organic brain disorders and functional mental illnesses.

Organic conditions are caused by identifiable physical pathology affecting the brain, directly or indirectly, and include, for example, learning disabilities (formerly known as mental handicap) and the dementias.

Functional conditions have usually been attributed to some kind of psychological stress, although in many cases it would be more honest to say that their cause is not known. As knowledge advances, some 'functional' conditions are likely to be reclassified as 'organic' (as currently may be happening for schizophrenia), and for this reason the term 'organic' is not used in DSM-IV.

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