Published in Psychology Today, 30th March 2016:
“Consider the commonly used medical expressions “organic depression”, “rule out organic causes” and “non-organic psychosis”. What do these terms mean? Organic is defined as “relating to or derived from living matter” and, when used in relation to an illness, implies there is a physical cause. In turn, the term non-organic suggests there is no physical cause; an illness not related to living matter. This strange terminology is unique to psychiatry when compared to other fields of medicine.
To see the vast difference in attitude we can look at how we categorise hypertension (high blood pressure). Like mood and psychotic disorders, most cases of hypertension have no known cause, only known risk factors. However, rather than organic and non-organic, we define high blood pressure as “primary” or “secondary” – primary where a cause is not known, and secondary where a cause is known (e.g. renal artery disease). Notice the vocabulary never suggests some cases have no physical cause – they are simply primary. Jargon used in other areas of medicine include “idiopathic” (private/peculiar disease) and “cryptogenic” (concealed/hidden production). Unfortunately, in psychiatry we refer to organic and non-organic, biological and non-biological; some cases have causes, others don’t.”
– Steve Stankevicius
Title image credit: Evan/Flickr