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mental retardation

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Mental retardation is an emotive term defined as intellectual impairment starting in early childhood.

  • it is proposed that this term will be eliminated in international classifications of diseases and disorders (1)

This condition was classified in the ICD 10 coding system as follows:

317 Mild Mental Retardation IQ 50 - 70 (synonyms include feeble-minded, moron, high grade defect, and mild mental subnormality)

318 Other Specified Mental Retardation

  • 318.0 Moderate mental retardation IQ 35-49 (synonyms: imbecile; moderate mental subnormality)
  • 318.1 Severe mental retardation IQ 20-34 (synonym: severe mental subnormality)
  • 318.2 Profound mental retardation IQ under 20 (synonyms: idiocy; profound mental subnormality)

Note though that the diagnostic term 'mental retardation' is finally being eliminated in the upcoming international classifications of diseases and disorders.

  • the term 'mental retardation' was introduced by the American Association on Mental Retardation in 1961 and soon afterwards was adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
    • mental retardation replaced older terms such as feeblemindedness, idiocy, and mental subnormality that had become pejorative
  • the ICD-11 working group proposes replacing mental retardation with intellectual developmental disorders (IDDs), a term it defines as 'a group of developmental conditions characterized by significant impairment of cognitive functions, which are associated with limitations of learning, adaptive behavior and skills'
  • the new term proposed for DSM-5 is intellectual disability (ID)/IDD. The new DSM-5 category is synonymous with the proposed ICD-11 diagnosis of IDDs, in that it refers to a health condition or disorder


  • Salvador-Carulla L, Reed GM, Vaez-Azizi LM, et al. Intellectual developmental disorders: towards a new name, definition and framework for 'mental retardation/intellectual disability' in ICD-11. World Psychiatry 2011; 10:175-180.


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