A simple question but one that often goes unanswered.
Is mental impairment or mental retardation a mental disability or is it something that is inherited?
The answer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is that the answer is a bit complicated.
While there are many categories of mental impairment, there are some differences in how they are defined.
The CDC defines mental retardance as being between the ages of three and 12.
For example, if a person is considered intellectually and physically disabled, it would be mental retardence.
While the US does not define mental impairment as a disability, in the UK, mental impairment is defined as a mental impairment of some kind.
The UK has also defined mental retardacy as a physical disability.
The definitions vary between countries.
The US does have a ‘mental retardation’ and ‘mental illness’ definition, for example, but the US has different definitions for physical and mental disabilities.
“There are so many different things that people may be thinking about, but if you look at the mental impairment definition in the US, it is really focused on the impairment itself,” Dr Rishi Chaudhary, a psychologist at the University of Illinois and author of The Mind’s Eye, told The Hindu.
Chaudharies’ book has helped to clear up the differences between the US and UK definitions of mental retardancy.
“In the UK we have a general term for mental retardative disability.
There is no specific disability category for mental impairment.
If you’re disabled and you’re intellectually or physically disabled you’re not considered intellectually or functionally disabled,” he said.
Dr Chaudhamaries book defines mental impairment in terms of intellectual impairment, which he defined as “any impairment that affects a person’s ability to learn, concentrate and think clearly.”
“For people with mental impairment the difference is that intellectual impairment is not an impairment that’s inherited.
It is a disease, and people with intellectual impairment are not mentally impaired,” he explained.”
So, a person with intellectual disability might be mentally retarded and someone with intellectual disabilities might be intellectually impaired.
So it’s an overlap, and the differences are very subtle.”
While intellectual impairment doesn’t always need to be considered a mental disorder, it can be considered when it affects learning and concentration.
Dr Chandran Chaudhin, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the International Mental Health Association, explained that intellectual disability is a mental condition that can cause problems in school and work, and can also have a severe impact on social functioning.
“We’re not suggesting that people with disabilities have no ability to function, but that they should not have to work, because they’re not able to perform tasks at all,” he told The Huffington Post India.
Chadran Choudhary’s book defines intellectual impairment as “physical impairment that is caused by physical impairments, such as spinal or cranial injuries, that cause limitations in physical function, such in learning, concentration and social functioning”.
He further explained that a person who is mentally retarded can be diagnosed as intellectually disabled because they lack the ability to understand or process information and that this does not necessarily mean that they are intellectually disabled.
“When you look in terms, for instance, of people who have autism spectrum disorders, they have a mental health issue that affects their ability to think or process language.
So, they’re a different class of disability,” he added.”
A person who’s intellectually impaired might have some impairment that prevents them from processing information and language but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are mentally impaired.
It just means that they lack a fundamental ability to process information or to communicate effectively.”
Dr Choudhanys book also explains how to distinguish between intellectual disability and mental retardency.
“The distinction is subtle and depends on the person,” he pointed out.
“If you are intellectually and functionally disabled, the distinction is a matter of when you’re diagnosed, and not whether or not you have an intellectual disability,” Dr Chaudhanys said.
“But if you have a physical impairment, the difference would be that you have impairment of one type or the other.
It’s not as if the difference in the two is the same.”
Dr Chandhan-Chaudhy said that mental impairment and mental disability should be considered in tandem.
“These are very distinct and nuanced definitions, and it is very important to understand that the two terms don’t necessarily have to be in conflict,” he noted.
“In terms of what the term mental impairment means, it’s a diagnosis of some sort that describes the impairment,” he concluded.
“It is a diagnosis, and mental impairment has a lot of overlapping aspects that can be helpful in understanding how people with these disabilities function in society. “