What Is Cognitive Disorder, NOS, And Do I Have It?

Updated October 26, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a new diagnosis added to the DSM-V-TR, the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental health disorders (Pujol Domenech, Artigas, & De, 2015). There are no specific criteria at present regarding the causes of MCI, and in most cases the symptoms can be cured with proper treatment and reorientation.

Cognitive disorders are related to some form of impairment to thought and memory and are the general precursor to forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's (Pujol Domenech et al., 2015). Milder forms of cognitive disorders may be related to amnesia, physiological conditions, or short term psychological. Cognitive impairment for which there is no plausible explanation or placed under the Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) ("Cognitive Disorder NOS Symptoms and DSM-IV Diagnosis," n.d.) category.

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Signs and Symptoms

Cognitive disorders are a diagnostic criterion for Alzheimer's and other dementia related illnesses (Holmes & Amin, 2016), therefore, it is quite frightening to individuals who experience symptoms of memory loss or other impairments to thought processing (Pujol Domenech et al., 2015). When medical doctors receive a patient exhibiting signs and symptoms of cognitive impairment, they generally refer them to a neurologist, who may in turn refer the patient to a neuropsychiatrist for treatment.

If the symptoms are sudden in onset they could be due to many factors such as low blood sugar, dehydration, high blood pressure,cerebrovascular disease (Perneczky et al., 2016), or high cholesterol levels (Lingler et al., 2006). All of which can cause individuals to suffer minor, temporary impairments to memory, thought processing, and judgment. Symptoms that cannot be alleviated by taking the proper medication and reorientation to time and place, or if the symptoms return may have a more serious cognitive impairment.

The symptoms associated with cognitive impairment are frightening for oneself or when observed in a family member or friend. Everyone loses keys, grapples for the correct name or word at various times; however, persistent forgetfulness could be a sign of dementia onset. Often the individual suffering from cognitive impairment will mask the symptoms by making light of the forgetfulness, or will learn to compensate by writing notes and placing them around the house.

Precautions and Recommendations

Individuals who live alone and do not work are the most vulnerable because there is no one around to witness the signs of digressing memory. Often when asked about memory issues individuals will become defensive and agitated, not wishing to be thought weak, old, or senile. With new medical advances if the cognitive impairment is due to early onset of Alzheimer's or other dementia, early medical and pharmacological intervention(Anonymous, 2015) can help.

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If you or someone you know has been experiencing increased forgetfulness, or trouble thinking, make an appointment with your medical doctor as soon as possible. For those who have been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment or early onset of Alzheimer's, or who know of someone who has, talking with a licensed mental health practitioner can be a source of help, as well as comfort.

For those who live alone, online therapy from a source such as BetterHelp is a good option. Therapy takes place in the safety and comfort of home, therapy occurs via email, chat, or video conferencing. With online therapy, a qualified therapist with experience with cognitive disorders can provide a course of treatment that includes strategies that can help to improve cognitive functioning.


Anonymous. (2015). Alzheimer's treatment discovery by 2025 could save the US $billions. PharmacoEconomics & Outcomes News; Auckland, (722), 31.

Cognitive Disorder NOS Symptoms and DSM-IV Diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2017, fromhttp://www.psychtreatment.com/mental_health_cognitive_disorders_nos.htm

Holmes, C., & Amin, J. (2016). Dementia. Medicine, 44(11), 687-690. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mpmed.2016.08.006

Lingler, J. H., Nightingale, M. C., Erlen, J. A., Kane, A. L., Reynolds, C. F., Schulz, R., & DeKosky, S. T. (2006). Making Sense of Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Qualitative Exploration of the Patient's Experience. The Gerontologist, 46(6), 791-800.https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/46.6.791

Perneczky, R., Tene, O., Attems, J., Giannakopoulos, P., Ikram, M. A., Federico, A., … Middleton, L. T. (2016). Is the time ripe for new diagnostic criteria of cognitive impairment due to cerebrovascular disease? Consensus report of the International Congress on Vascular Dementia working group. BMC Medicine, 14, 162. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0719-y

Pujol Domenech, J., Artigas, A., & De, P. (2015). Dementia DSM-IV/ICD-10 or neurocognitive disorder DSM-5? The European Journal of Psychiatry, 29(1), 45-50. https://doi.org/10.4321/S0213-61632015000100004

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