What Is Genetic Mental Retardation?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2019
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Genetic mental retardation refers to a deficiency of mental capacity that is at the mercy of a genetic predisposition. Like many other conditions, mental retardation and other mental problems can be brought about for many reasons. Sometimes, substance abuse or trauma can cause conditions like this; other times, it may be inherited. In the case of genetic mental retardation, a genetic malfunction results in a limited mental capacity that tends to cause less-than-average abilities.

During conception and development, chromosomes from both the sperm and the egg combine to create the unique genetic material that makes people who they are. This process is a biological miracle, and the complex processes that allow such an amazing event to occur sometimes go wrong. Many diseases are unfortunately caused by genetic errors like this, and genetic mental retardation is due to an improper chromosomal merger.

In genetic mental retardation, there may be too many chromosomes or a mutated gene on a properly aligned chromosome. While the reasons may vary, the result usually is relatively obvious, typically being noted in early childhood. Mental retardation is classified by an individual having two or more of a standardized set of symptoms. Among these symptoms are having an intelligence quotient of under 70, a delay in oral language development, deficits in memory related functions, and social disorders. Additionally, problem-solving skills and social inhibitions may not be present as exhibited by other children of a like age.


Like any disease or condition, there are varying degrees of severity. Severity is determined by how many symptoms are present and how extreme each of the symptoms tends to be. An IQ of 69, for example, is borderline mental retardation, while an IQ of 30 or 40 is more extreme. The inability to hold a conversation completely is also more extreme than a sufferer who perhaps is somewhat socially awkward.

Modern medicine has provided a number of therapies, medicines, and other treatments that have helped those suffering from medical conditions to live very productive and successful lives. In the case of genetic mental retardation, support systems and treatments have enabled these individuals to maximize their potential as important people in society. What was once unfortunately viewed as a severely debilitating state is now more of a characteristic of everyday members of society. Those who are mentally challenged have held wonderful jobs and established meaningful relationships that make their lives fulfilling and enjoyable.


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