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Difference between Mental Illness and Mental Disorder

 

The difference between mental illness and mental disorder is slight. Read about the difference here and see a list of mental illnesses, disorders."Mental Illness" and "mental disorder" are typically used interchangeably. However, there has, historically, been a difference between mental illness and mental disorders.

What Are Mental Disorders?

According to The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary, the following is the definition of "disorder" in medicine:

disorder dis·or·der (dĭs-ôr'dər) n. - A disturbance or derangement that affects the function of mind or body, such as an eating disorder or the abuse of a drug.

dis·or·dered , dis·or·der·ing , dis·or·ders v. - To disturb the normal physical or mental health of; derange.

Because the definition of "disorder" includes, specifically, a disturbance of the mind (such as a mental disorder) it better fits what we now call mental illnesses, particularly before we understood that mental disorders are truly disorders of the brain (and not simply the "mind").

What Are Mental Illnesses?

According to The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary, the following is the definition of "illness" in medicine:

disease dis·ease (dĭ-zēz') n. - A pathological condition of a body part, an organ, or a system resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.

Because "disease" specifies that the pathological condition be of a body part, people were less likely to use the term "mental illness" before it was understood that mental illness are diseases of the body.

The difference between "mental disorder" and "mental illness," then is one of considering the origin of the condition.

List of Mental Illnesses, Disorders

The major types of mental illnesses, disorders are the following:


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next: Brain Disorders: Mental Disorders vs. Behavioral Disorders
~ all mental health information articles

Last Updated: 30 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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