Organic Mental Disorders

  • Ralph E. Tarter
  • Andrea M. Hegedus


The initial classification of organic mental disorders in the first edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-I; APA, 1952) consisted of an acute (reversible) and chronic (unreversible) dichotomy. This classification was improved in DSM-II (APA, 1968) by subdividing the disorders into psychotic and nonpsychotic states, and by substituting the word syndrome for the word disorder. The DSM-II also retained the subdivision of acute and chronic. However, there were several flaws in this classification system. First, the DSM-II classification of organic mental disorders was thought to be too narrow and restricted in definition. It included only those cerebral disorders that featured global cognitive impairment. Second, subdivisions into psychotic versus nonpsychotic and acute versus chronic provided little clinical information or diagnostic assistance. The distinction between psychotic and nonpsychotic was thought to be ill defined and tended to stigmatize the patient with a label. The latter dichotomy was often based on a prognostic judgment that could not be confirmed with-out long-term follow-up and that might result in a failure to detect a treatable condition. Reversibility of cognitive dysfunction must be thought of as a continuum from partial to total recovery, rather than as an all-or-none dichotomy.


Hepatic Encephalopathy Alcohol Withdrawal Transient Global Amnesia Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph E. Tarter
    • 1
  • Andrea M. Hegedus
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWestern Psychiatric Institute and ClinicPittsburghUSA

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