Quote from Mariposa88
Just a quick question. How would you define the difference between a DISORDER, DISEASE, and SYNDROME? I know there's a difference, I just can't seem to find a simple way to define it. Any help would be appreciated!
I know this is a few years too late, but you should read, but here is a short letter that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1962:
"On the Distinction Between
Disease and Disorder
Ashley Montagu, Ph.D., Princeton, N.J.
The concepts and the terms "disease" and "disorder"
have long been used synonymously and interchangeably
both in medicine and in common
parlance. It seems that it would constitute a contribution
to greater clarity of thought and practice
were these two concepts recognized for what they
are, as referring to 2 quite different colligations of
conditions. To begin with the definition of these
two orders of conditions: Disease is an acquired
morbid change in any tissue or tissue of an organism,
or in an organism as a whole, of specific microorganismal
causation with characteristic symptoms.
Disorder is a disturbance of structure or function
or both due to a genetic or embryological failure in
development or as the result of exogenous factors,
such as certain chemical substances, injury, or disease.
It may be inborn or acquired.
The difference between the concept of disease
and that of disorder implied in these definitions lies
in the fact that disease is conceived as being limited
to malfunctioning of the organism initiated and
maintained by an infectious process. A disorder may
or may not be initiated by an infectious process,
but, however initiated, the malfunctioning is not
maintained by an infectious process. A disorder
may be the result of an infectious process, remain¬
ing long after the infection has ceased. A disorder
may also be the result of a noninfectious process,
such as an inborn error of metabolism due to some
enzymatic deficiency, or to a chromosomal abnor¬
mality. In this class of conditions the disorder' is
maintained by a noninfectious derangement of
chemical conditions. Diabetes mellitus is a disorder,
not a disease, because it is neither initiated nor
maintained by an infectious process but by a physio¬
logical failure of the pancreas. What is the disorder
in diabetes? Is it the failure of the pancreas to secrête
a sufficient amount of insulin or is it the dis¬
tressing syndrome of symptoms to which it gives
rise? The answer, surely, is that it is each and both.
A prediabetic may show no symptoms whatever,
but in most cases the proper tests will show that the
disorder is present. Overt symptoms may not devel¬
op for several years. The pancreatic deficiency rep¬
resents the physiological disorder, which may or
may not have a genetic basis; the overt, visible, ex¬
pression of the physiological disorder, resulting in
the typical symptoms of diabetes, is the phenotypic
disorder. Since the term phenotype is generally
taken to mean the visible expression of the geno¬
type, it may be preferable to speak simply of overt
disorder, in order to distinguish it from the physio¬
logical or covert disorder.
As we enter upon the second half of the 20th
century it will become necessary to distinguish
sharply and clearly between malfunction and maldevelopment
due to hereditary conditions, chromo¬
somal abnormalities, infections, and environmental
conditions. Each of these distinctions should be
clearly recognized in describing any condition of
the organism in which they are involved. Down's
syndrome (mongolism) is not a disease; it is a dis¬
order or a syndrome, just as are Klinefelter's or
Turner's syndromes. All malfunctioning and maldevelopment
due to genetic factors and chromo¬
somal abnormalities are disorders or syndromes,
not diseases. The malfunctioning resulting from an
infarct of the myocardium is a disorder, not a dis¬
ease, even though the changes leading to the infarct
may have had an infectious origin. Active tubercu¬
losis is a disease, but long after the disease has be¬
come inactive a disorder may remain."
The only thing I might add to this is that a disease, being something infectious, is something that can be cured while a disorder cannot be cured. You might be able to minimize the negative consequences of a disorder but the condition itself will always remain. The interchangeable use of disease and disorder is not only inaccurate but harmful. For example, the entire organization of Autism Speaks is based on finding a "cure" for autism. However, since autism is not a disease, finding a "cure" is an impossibility. Instead of researching into the best ways to understand and accommodate people with autism, we are telling them that there is something wrong with them, that they need to be more "normal," and we are trying to force them to function in environments that they are not suited for.