Difference between Disorder and Disease?

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    Hi Everyone-

    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!

    Thanks!
    diane dizon likes this.
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  3. 7 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    Disorder and disease are used interchangeably in clinical settings, but as what i have observed, disease is used more on the physical while disorder is very frequent in psychiatric/psychologic. Syndrome- characterized by the consortium of a group of signs and symptoms that occur together in a disease. You may also check out med dictionaries so you can confirm.
  5. 0
    A Disorder is any abnormality of function.

    A Disease is an illness with a recognizable set of signs and symptoms.

    Hope this helps!!
  6. 0
    :heartbeatA great question!

    The reason for the vague replies and even the dictionary ambivalence about the difference between disorder and disease is that one (disease) is a definition of a concrete clinically verifiable pathology (i.e., liver disease, etc.), whereas the other (disorder) is a taxonomic classification (primary psychiatric disorder ala DSM4-5) that might be "not even wrong" (as Wolfgang Pauli might say). We can say the world is "flat" and ships sail off its edge and disappear and point out as a symptom, reports of the Bermuda Triangle. The latter would suggest a disorder of the paranormal. Liver disease can be verified by autopsy, laboratory tests, physical assessment, etc.

    Just because something is at the edge of understanding and knowledge doesn't mean that it isn't useful. We just need to learn more so that we can speak with better precision. The fact that people use words like disorder and disease interchangably should not lull us into believing we have the answers when we don't.
  7. 1
    Don't know why I didn't respond to this question before (this thread is several months old). These terms ae all defined in a medical dictionary. Disorder and disease are interchangeable and pretty much synonymous.
    Blu rose likes this.
  8. 0
    Quote from justaCUB003
    :heartbeatA great question!

    The reason for the vague replies and even the dictionary ambivalence about the difference between disorder and disease is that one (disease) is a definition of a concrete clinically verifiable pathology (i.e., liver disease, etc.), whereas the other (disorder) is a taxonomic classification (primary psychiatric disorder ala DSM4-5) that might be "not even wrong" (as Wolfgang Pauli might say). We can say the world is "flat" and ships sail off its edge and disappear and point out as a symptom, reports of the Bermuda Triangle. The latter would suggest a disorder of the paranormal. Liver disease can be verified by autopsy, laboratory tests, physical assessment, etc.

    Just because something is at the edge of understanding and knowledge doesn't mean that it isn't useful. We just need to learn more so that we can speak with better precision. The fact that people use words like disorder and disease interchangably should not lull us into believing we have the answers when we don't.:yeah:
    I signed up for this page just to tell you "Great answer!" It is so hard to get a straight answer on this in light of social and legal influences today. I am a Graduate student, and trying to explain why I don't think addiction should be called a disease but can't find the definition I am looking for to explain myself. Your post, above all the dictionary, and encyclopedias I have looked up, gave it to me. "you can't find alcoholism under a microscope!" I adjusted the words for my needs but THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
  9. 0
    Yes......great question!
  10. 2
    Quote from Mariposa88
    Hi Everyone-

    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!

    Thanks!
    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.
    AnneJohnson and Esme12 like this.


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