The term ‘organic’ suggests a physical/biological cause. There are many different kinds of causes: inborn brain defects; brain infections; intoxication; head injuries; circulatory disorders; seizures; tumours or cancers; bodily changes of growing or ageing. The three main organic psychoses are:
i) General Paresis
This is very rare these days and is a condition caused by syphilitic damage to the brain.
ii) Alcoholic Reactions
Prolonged alcohol abuse can produce:
- Korsakoff’s Syndrome A psychotic reaction, caused by the severe vitamin deficiencies which result from drinking alcohol and not eating.
- Pathological Intoxication The individual reacts violently to even small amounts of alcohol with an amnesia for the violent behaviour when recovered.
- Delirium Tremens A psychotic reaction to alcohol, producing vivid and terrifying hallucinations, where there is a real risk of dying from heart failure.
- Acute Alcoholic Hallucinosis This condition does not usually last for more than two weeks, during which time the individual hears accusing voices which cause intense fear.
iii) Senile Dementia
This is the result of the degeneration and disappearance of nerve cells in the brain, due to normal ageing.
- Acute confusion in the elderly is a very common condition and does not necessarily mean that a person is demented; it is simply that person’s way of presenting with an illness that could well be treatable and reversible.
- Chronic confusion is where an individual may display symptoms over a protracted period, i.e., lasting more than three months, but it is only after screening for many treatable conditions that ‘dementia’ should be diagnosed.