Mental Health Theory

Neurocognitive disorders (ICD-11)

Neurocognitive disorders are characterised by primary clinical deficits in cognitive functioning that are acquired rather than developmental. This means that it is a change in behaviour rather than something that the person has always had or exhibited; it is noticed through a decline from a previously attained level of functioning or ability.

Neurocognitive disorders. Illustration of a book.

Previously, it was common to hear all disorders in this grouping referred to as Dementia, as that’s the term we most often associate with a decline in mental capacity, but Dementia is just one part of the group.

As mentioned, the categorisation does not include any disorders which also include deficits in cognitive function but which are present from birth or that develop during the developmental period of childhood. These are classified separately in the grouping neurodevelopmental disorders.

A further point to note about the grouping system is that although cognitive deficits are present in many mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorders), only disorders whose core features are cognitive are included in the neurocognitive Disorders grouping.

In cases where the underlying pathology and etiology for neurocognitive disorders can be determined, the identified etiology should be classified separately.

List of disorders categorised as Neurocognitive disorders

  • Delirium
  • Mild Neurocognitive Disorder
  • Amnestic Disorder
  • Dementia


It’s important to note that it is a change in behaviour that signifies the potential onset; a decline in cognitive function or a significant slow-down in ability when compared with previously.

  • Finding it difficult to plan tasks and activities
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Finding it difficult to focus on tasks
  • Finding it difficult to remember the names of objects and people
  • Finding it difficult to perform daily tasks
  • Speaking or behaving in ways that are not socially accepted

This is a category of classification of illness taken from the World Health Organisation‘s ICD-11. You can read the official document here.

This article was last updated: 24 November 2020