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Introduction to Medical Disorders

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Welcome to our Medical Disorders topic area. In this family of topic centers you will find information concerning common medical disorders. We've attempted to provide, in simple language, an explanation of what each illness is, how it occurs, what its symptom profile looks like, and ways that it can be treated. We have also looked at these illnesses with an eye to prevention, highlighting ways that people can avoid or minimize the impact of these dieseases on their lives.

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    A Note on Disorder Classification

    Most all disorders impact people at all levels: biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. The task of classifying a disorder as 'medical' as opposed to 'psychological' or 'mental' is thus sometimes a difficult one.

    In this website, we've used three primary categories to describe disorders: 'medical', 'mental' and 'wellness'. We don't pretend however, that our placing a disorder into one of these categories means that the impact of that disorder is limited to that realm. In fact, a good many disorders belong in more than one of these categories. Cancer, for example is about as medical a disorder as you will find. However, it is clear that there are many psychological, social and spiritual sides to cancer. Another good example is Pain. All pain sensations are physical and thus medical in their origin. However, when a physician cannot easily locate and treat pain in a wound or physical trauma, she tends to describe it as being 'psychological' in nature. Perhaps for this reason, Chronic Pain is listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, this doesn't mean that there doesn't continue to be a physical component to the pain experience. The line between mental and medical is sometimes thin indeed.