Difference between a Disorder & a Disability

Disorder vs Disability
source : alstrang.blogspot.in

Do you know what the difference is between a disorder and a disability? For those of you who don’t, let us make it easier for you to understand as well as remember it.

We only look at issues when they affect our daily lives because of our fast-paced worlds. As long as they don’t affect how we function, we don’t really seem to pay any attention. As a result, we are ignorant about various issues. The first step to solving any problem is awareness. Therefore, being aware of every aspect that constitutes the problem, brings us one step closer towards understanding the problem and solving it.

The Problem

Often people usually use the term ‘disorder’ or ‘disability’ interchangeably. So, the needed clarification here is that yes, they might be similar to an extent but no, they do not mean the same thing.  Therefore, they are not interchangeable.


The term disorder means that there exists some form of deviation from the normal functioning of a person. Any form of disturbance to a person’s functioning hinders them to perform their daily activities.


The term disability refers to any condition that not only limits an individual’s physical performance but can also restrict them from functioning normally. This may occur right from birth or at any given point in life.

Their Usage

Now we can move on to understanding the difference in their usage. For the most, the word ‘disorder’ is used to describe a mental condition or a condition that affects the brain. Attention disorder, eating disorder, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, psychological disorder are some examples of it.

The term ‘disability’ is used to describe an impairment in form of functioning. Physical disability, mental disability, olfactory inability, complete disability are some of its examples.

It is not yet possible to diagnose a disorder immediately. They become evident over time through various signs and symptoms. While the disorders are recoverable, the same can’t be said for a disability.


On diagnosing a disorder, the underlining issue or cause can itself become the disability. This is the root cause of this whole confusion. Even after having similar meanings, the terms describe vastly unique and different concepts. In order to take the next step towards inclusion, we should start by understanding the struggle of the special needs community.

Understanding their problem makes it easier for us to take that next step of their inclusion in society. We must strive to become a society where every kind of person, special or not, feels included. By just being aware of certain simple facts, we give hope to those that feel ignored. As a result, we give them the confidence that they are more or less, an included and equal member of society.

Nikitha Menon

With the pursuit of knowledge and love for the written word, Nikhita Menon tries to explore the world of disabilities, disorders, diseases and all stigma associated. She is a fresh college graduate from Christ University, Banglore majored in English, Psychology and Media Communication.

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