Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability is a condition characterised by significant impairments of both intellectual and adaptive functioning and an onset before 18 years of age. In the UK the term ‘learning disability’ is used for this condition. Intellectual Disability affects almost 1–2% of the general population. The degree of intellectual disability is classified as mild, moderate, severe or profound, with over 90% of those affected falling within the mild range.

People with a learning disability have a high rate of mental health comorbidity. They develop psychiatric conditions at rates similar to or higher than the general population. They also have high rates of physical health comorbidity and premature mortality. As described above caring for patient with learning disabilities can be quite challenging, requiring a multi-disciplinary approach.

As a Psychiatrist, we are the responsible clinician for patients under our care. Other teams such as Psychology, Occupational therapy, Speech and language therapy and Nursing are also heavily involved in their care. This unique position gives us valuable exposure to the aforementioned disciplines. Patients are often referred for communication difficulties or behavioural problems; These are not always directly related to psychiatry but are guided by us.

There is close working with mainstream mental health and primary care services. This is because a significant number of patients have conditions that are treated by both services.