Organic Brain Syndrome

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D.

The definition of organic brain syndrome (OBS) is described as a deficiency in mental function that is due to medical disease that is not a psychiatric illness. The disorder is usually inherited; however, it can be caused from diseases or changes to the body that affects the brain.

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Someone with a diagnosis of organic brain syndrome will typically have a rapid onset of delirium. Delirium is always due to an organic cause such as an interruption to the nervous system that is triggered by medications, medical conditions or severe trauma. Symptoms of the disorder may induce a disturbance in sleep patterns, hallucinations, anxiety and may have other medical conditions that increase the symptoms. There is a difficulty in remembering tasks and events. The person will have difficulties concentrating, be fatigued, have hypersensitivity to noise and light, experience restlessness and may have disturbing dreams.

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Possible Causes

There is a vast array of disorders that are associated with OBS including:

Ÿ Brain injury as the result of trauma which results in bleeding in or around the brain or causes a blood clot inside the skull that puts pressure on the brain

Ÿ Cardiovascular disorder such as abnormal heart rhythm, Dementia due to stroke, Stroke, Heart infections or transient ischemic attack (TIA)

Ÿ Drug and alcohol related conditions such as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol and intoxication

Ÿ Degenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Picks disease and dementia due to a metabolic cause

Ÿ Infections such as blood poisoning, meningitis, encephalitis (brain infection) and a long term or sudden onset of an infection

Ÿ Breathing conditions such as hypercapnia (high carbon levels) and hypoxia (low oxygen levels)

Ÿ Other possible medical disorders that may cause this disorder include cancer, thyroid disease, liver disease, kidney disease and a deficiency of vitamins B1, B12 or folate.

The management of OBS is typically done as an inpatient through a medical facility. The primary goal is to find the possible cause for the person to be experiencing the symptoms of the disorder. It is important that the person have the correct nutrition, fluids and rest in attempts to help them feel safe should they experience hallucinations or have difficulties in mobility. There are a variety of disorders and conditions that mimic the symptoms of the syndrome such as psychosis, depression and neurosis, therefore it is important to see a physician and have the correct testing done to determine the most appropriate treatment.


University of Maryland Medical Center: Organic Brain Syndrome

Drexel University College of Medicine: Organic Brain Syndrome

For more information on this topic also visit:

Dementia Treatment

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Brain Injury

Alcohol Dementia

Brain Injury An Alcohol Abuse

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