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J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2019 Winter;31(1):57-64. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.18050099. Epub 2018 Oct 11.

Why We Still Use "Organic Causes": Results From a Survey of Psychiatrists and Residents.

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From the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University Health Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (DB, VJP, SD); the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal (JB); the Research Centre, Montreal Heart Institute and Université de Montréal (JB); the Department of Psychiatry, Université Laval, Quebec (SP); the Department of Nursing, University of Sherbrooke, Longueuil, Quebec (AD); the Department of Psychiatry, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec (J-RM); and the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute (SD).


The diagnostic category of "organic disorders" was officially removed from the psychiatric nosology in DSM-IV, published in 1994. Despite this change, physicians continue to use the term "organic causes" to refer to medical and neurological causes of psychiatric symptoms, and it remains part of the ICD-10 classification. In the context of increasing integration of psychiatric disorders within a medical and neuroscientific framework, the reasons behind the ongoing use of this term (reminiscent of mind-body dualism) have to be clarified. The authors conducted a survey of 391 Canadian psychiatrists and psychiatric residents to understand attitudes and beliefs related to this terminology and then applied qualitative and quantitative analyses. Results showed that the terminology is used by the majority (55.9%) of psychiatrists and residents for two main reasons: out of a habit that begins in residency training and because of the belief that other specialties do not fully understand alternative terminology. The authors found that some psychiatrists are concerned that their patients will not receive adequate investigation unless it is made clear through use of the "organic cause" term that other medical causes of psychiatric symptoms are suspected. Use of the "organic cause" term was predicted by being of younger age, performing emergency department calls, and finding alternative terminology difficult to use. These findings highlight the importance of reflecting on and discussing the effect of this terminology used in psychiatry.


Diagnosis and Classification in Neuropsychiatry; Organic Mental Disorders

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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