Disability and Psychological Disability

What is Disability?

A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities, such as physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic disease.

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The Disability Services Act (1993) defines 'disability' as meaning a disability:

i) Which is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments;
ii) Which is permanent or likely to be permanent;
iii) Which may or may not be of a chronic or episodic nature; and 
iv) Which results in substantially reduced capacity of the person for communication, social interaction, learning or mobility and a need for continuing support services.

Disability and Psychological Disability

A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them (socially or materially). These conditions, or impairments, may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or multiple factors. Impairments causing disability may be present from birth or can be acquired during a person's lifetime. Often, disabled people are "unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society." (Marta and Malhotra, 2019). As a result of impairments, people with disabilities can experience disability from birth or be labelled as disabled during their lifetime. (Wikipedia).


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines disability as long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder [a person's] complete and adequate participation in society on an equal basis with others.

The American Psychiatric Association defines a psychological disability as "any persistent psychological or psychiatric disorder or emotional or mental illness that impairs educational, social, or vocational functioning as reported by a mental health professional based on a DSM-IV diagnosis" (1987, 3rd ed., revised). Manic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, delusory disorders, and eating disorders are all examples of psychological disabilities.


Psychological Disabilities

a) Depression: hopelessness, insomnia or hypersomnia, decreased or increased appetite, lethargy, bouts of crying, irritability, feelings of guilt

b) Bipolar Disorder: (formerly known as Manic Depression) mood swings from overly high/manic and sometimes irritable to sad and hopeless

c) Generalized Anxiety & Panic Disorder: excessive anxiety and worry, recurrent panic attacks.

d) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): uncontrollable thoughts and repetitive behaviours.

e) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep, irritability.

f) Schizophrenia: distorted perception of reality, hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts and speech, lack of emotional expression.

g) Eating disorders (Anorexia or Bulimia): unhealthy preoccupation with food and weight, purging, binging, reducing caloric intake often leading to physical health problems.


Causes of Disability

There are numerous causes of disability that frequently impair basic daily living activities such as eating, dressing, transferring, maintaining personal hygiene, and advanced daily living activities such as shopping, food preparation, driving, or working. However, it is critical to remember that the primary causes of disability are typically determined by a person's ability to perform daily activities. As Marta Russell and Ravi Malhotra argue, "the medicalization of disability and the tools of classification undoubtedly contributed significantly to the establishment of divisions between the "disabled" and the "able-bodied." This framing of disability as a medical problem limits our understanding of what disability can mean.


For the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's regulations define the following conditions as disabilities: deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, wholly or partially missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and major depressive disorder.

This is not a comprehensive list, as numerous injuries and medical conditions result in disability. Specific disabilities, such as injuries, may resolve over time and are classified as temporary disabilities. A disability is acquired when caused by impairments that occur suddenly or chronically throughout a person's life instead of being born with the impairment. Invisible disabilities may go unnoticed.


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