Mental Health

Neurocognitive disorders: symptoms, causes, and diagnosis

neurocognitive disorders Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Neurocognitive Disorders: Introduction

Patients with neurocognitive disorders, have an increased risk for comorbity. These conditions include major depression and related mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and other conditions such as substance abuse. The following information will help you understand how to cope with patients who suffer from these medical illnesses.

What is the difference between mild cognitive impairment, dementia and a neurocognitive disorder?

neurocognitive disorders

Mild cognitive impairment and dementia are divided by a thin line. Once the cognitive impairment is severe enough to interfere with daily life, we call it dementia. Around 15% of people suffering from mild cognitive impairment will develop dementia during their lifetime.

The difference between dementia and neurocognitive disorder is that the former loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases, while the latter involves damage to nerve cells in your central nervous system.

Dementia becomes apparent when people lose their ability to perform daily activities such as shopping, cooking and managing finances. This can happen gradually due to aging or suddenly. It may cause problems with memory loss, confusion and speech.

Neurocognitive disorders tend to be more severe than normal aging but are often mild at first compared with dementia symptoms like memory loss.

Does NCD have a cure?

  • You can cope with NCD, but it is not curable.
  • There are treatments that can slow down or stop the progression of your condition.
  • The earlier you start, the better chance you have at managing and improving NCD.
  • For some people, prevention is better than cure.

What are the symptoms of neurocognitive disorder?

neurocognitive disorders

Neurocognitive disorder is a group of symptoms that affect your ability to learn, think and behave. These problems may occur in an individual or group of people.

Neurocognitive Disorder Symptoms:

  • Memory loss (forgetting things)
  • Problems with reasoning or problem-solving
  • Problems with planning and organization
  • Trouble focusing on one thing for an extended period of time or having difficulty getting started in the first place (inability to concentrate) or having difficulty staying focused on one task over time because it’s boring, repetitive or difficult

What are the causes of neurocognitive disorder?

There are many possible causes of neurocognitive disorder, ranging from the relatively simple (age) to the complex.

  • Degenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease;
  • Cardiovascular disorders, like dementia: People with dementia may also experience changes in their thinking abilities due to memory loss and other cognitive impairments that occur over time as they age. Sometimes people with dementia exhibit unusual behaviour patterns such as acting out aggressively or acting withdrawn sometimes despite having no clear reason why they would act this way at all times.
  • Traumatic brain injury;
  • Dementia due to metabolic causes;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Other factors that can increase your risk include nutritional deficiencies and infections such HIV, as Lyme disease or syphilis.

There is a higher chance of co-occurring disorders in people with neurocognitive diseases including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Less known is that major depressive disorder, associated mood disorders like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and other illnesses like substance misuse are among them.

How is neurocognitive disorder diagnosed?

The doctor will ask you questions and perform a physical examination. They may also ask you to do some tests at home, such as getting up and walking around the room while they watch.

The doctor may also want to talk with your loved one about his or her symptoms, which can help them determine whether there’s more than just memory loss going on. If so, they’ll order an MRI or CT scan to get an idea of what’s causing these symptoms in the first place.

When you have a mental health issue in general, it can be difficult to know where to start. There are many different kinds of conditions that can affect your mental health.

For instance:

  • Depression: A feeling of sadness or hopelessness that lasts for at least two weeks. It may happen often or infrequently; sometimes depression can happen in spurts if something stressful happens like losing a loved one or breaking up with someone.*
  • Anxiety disorder: A persistent worry about things such as schoolwork or work deadlines; these fears lead to worry attacks which include physical reactions like sweating and heart palpitations.
  • Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression): A condition characterized by extreme shifts between periods of high energy followed by periods where people feel very sad & unmotivated.
  • Schizophrenia: A chronic illness affecting more than 2 million Americans today with symptoms such as hallucinations & delusions significantly impairing daily activities.

If you experience any of these symptoms please contact a healthcare professional.

Neurocognitive Disorder: Conclusion

neurocognitive disorders

Neurocognitive disorder is a serious neurodegenerative disease. If you have been diagnosed with it, you are not alone. You can get help and support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). With their resources and guidance, you can learn more about your condition, find a community of others who understand what you’re going through, and start living life again.

Guest post by Sankeerthana, Blogger at American Center for Neuropsychiatry


McDonald W.M. (2017). Overview of Neurocognitive Disorders. Focus The Journal of Lifelong Psychiatry, 15, 1, 4-12.

Tariq S. (2006). Examination for Detecting Dementia and Mild Neurocognitive Disorder, A Pilot Study. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,14, 11, 900-910.

Hugo, J. & Ganguli, M. (2014). Dementia and cognitive impairment: epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 30, 3, 421-42.

Livingston, G. et al. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report. The Lancet Commission, 396, 10248, 413-446.

Ross S. & Hofbauer L. M. & Rodriguez F. S. (2022).Coping strategies for memory problems in everyday life of people with cognitive impairment and older adults: A systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 37, 5.

Mild and Major Neurocognitive Disorders

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