To help you understand the differences, let's take a look at
definitions and examples of each of these terms.
A medical disease is a
condition in which part of the body is not working normally.
A medical disease can affect any body part, organ, or system.
Medical diseases, such as diabetes or cancer, can be diagnosed with
To identify a medical disease, doctors look for symptoms and then
find a cause.
At this point, they can treat the disease.
To help you understand, let's look at diabetes.
Diabetes is a real medical
disease. People who have diabetes have too much glucose
Diabetes symptoms may include:
unexplained weight loss
With these symptoms, a doctor may run actual tests to determine if the
has a type of diabetes (such as testing blood sugar levels and
These blood tests can
determine if a patient suffers from diabetes, a real
medical disease. After the diagnosis, doctors can recommend treatment,
which may include prescription drugs.
or mental illnesses, cannot
be diagnosed with any type of medical test.
disorders are diagnosed by a psychiatrist or doctor who:
person's behaviors, actions, and moods (sometimes the examination only
takes a few minutes)
compares their observations with a checklist
for determining specific
psychiatric disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD) or depression
decides on the most appropriate disorder
prescribes drugs to "treat" it
To illustrate this idea, let's look at a typical child you might find
in a grade
Teachers and parents complain that this child:
does not pay attention in class
moves around a lot in his seat
is easily distracted
talks too much
fails to finish homework and chores
Does it mean that this child is ill?
It actually sounds like this child is simply highly energetic
and/or bored with school activities.
Maybe he does not
understand the lessons. What do YOU do when you are bored,
or do not understand the discussion?
After listening to these "symptoms" and checking them against a series
of checklists, a psychiatrist or doctor can label this child with
ADHD. This child will probably be prescribed highly
dangerous drugs to "treat" the
Psychiatrists and doctors make these diagnoses without any blood tests,
lab tests, or x-rays to confirm the presence of a physical "disease."
Psychiatrists generally claim that psychiatric disorders are caused by
chemical imbalance in the brain and that drugs will fight or correct
Unlike a medical disease, there is no test to prove
(This does not stop it from being extremely popular, though.
Unfortunately, "popular" does not equal "proven" or "true.")
Psychiatrists use the
term "chemical imbalance" to justify treating patients with drugs.
diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and allergies
"disorders" such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and
A condition in which a body part, organ, or system is not functioning
and emotions blamed on a "chemical imbalance" in the brain
use blood tests, x-rays, and lab tests to isolate causes
are no medical tests
to determine causes
treat the disease by taking care of the causes