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What is an intellectual disability?

An intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, and problem-solving) and in adaptive behavior (conceptual, social, and practical skills) that emerges before the age of 18. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities views intellectual disability as a functional interaction between an individual and the environment, rather than a static designation of a person’s limitations.

Degrees of intellectual disability are diagnosed as mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Approximately 85 percent of individuals with an intellectual disability fall into the mild category.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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