Neurocognitive Disorders

Neurocognitive disorders are a group of conditions that affect mental functions such as memory, thinking and the ability to reason. In some cases decreased mental function may only be temporary while in others the condition may be due to a neurodegenerative disease and may get worse over time. Because mental functioning is paramount to us, if you believe your own mental functioning or that of someone you love may be declining enough to cause worry, you should seek treatment from a medical professional.

What are the related symptoms?

There are nine recognised neurocognitive disorders, ranging from mild to major depending on the severity of the symptoms. Neurocognitive disorders are categorised by a decline in mental functions.
The symptoms may include:

  • Decline in the ability to plan
  • Decline in ability to make decisions
  • Decline in focus
  • Difficulty understanding and using language
  • Trouble remembering the names of objects and people
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Decline in speaking and behaving in socially accepted ways
  • Decline in showing empathy
  • Decline in hand-eye coordination

What can cause a neurocognitive disorder to develop?

Neurodegenerative diseases which cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time can lead to the development of neurocognitive disorders.
The following neurodegenerative diseases are the most common cause of neurocognitive disorders:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Dementia
  • Prion disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

These neurodegenerative diseases are more common among people over the age of 60 but can affect younger people as well. Neurocognitive disorders may also be caused by a concussion, traumatic brain injury, blood clots, meningitis, encephalitis, septicaemia, vitamin deficiency, or substance abuse. Because neurocognitive disorders interfere with daily tasks and may compromise one's ability to be independent, it is important to seek help from a health professional like Dr Chawane to diagnose and treat.

What are the possible treatment options?

Since the signs of a neurocognitive disorder look similar to those of schizophrenia, depression, and psychosis, to ensure accurate diagnosis, Dr Chawane may need to run a few tests such as a CT scan, PET scan or EEG. As a psychiatrist, she will be able to make a diagnosis once she has had seen the tests results and had a consultation with you. She may then also determine the underlying cause of the neurocognitive disorder, and together with the severity of your current condition, your psychiatrist will be able to determine the best course of treatment.

Treatment will depend on the cause. In some cases decreased mental function may only be temporary and once you recover, the neurocognitive disorder will subside. When a neurodegenerative disease is the cause; however, your mental decline may get worse over time. Medications can be taken to treat memory loss and other symptoms while psychotherapy may support patients and their families with the decline in mental functioning. Dr Chawane and her multidisciplinary team consisting of a clinical and counselling psychologist, occupational therapist and social workers can help you and your family manage the disease and maintain the quality of life for everyone involved.