What Is an Intellectual Disability?

Ad Disclosure: Some of our recommendations, including BetterHelp, are also affiliates, and as such we may receive compensation from them if you choose to purchase products or services through the links provided

There are many different types of disabilities. A disability is an impairment that limits functioning. Therefore, an intellectual disability (ID, formerly mental retardation) is a type of disability that results from limited mental capacity. As mentioned, IDs have many causes. These include genetics, brain injury, and certain medical conditions. People with an ID are typically provided with additional supports. These supports help people to enjoy a satisfying life despite their disability.

People with limited mental abilities struggle to develop the skills needed for independent living. Without these skills, it is hard to live in a safe and socially responsible manner. Children with IDs usually develop more slowly than their peers. They usually sit, walk, and talk much later than other children. This delayed development means they do not act their age.


Limited mental capacity makes learning very difficult. Therefore, learning new information and skills is challenging. As such, learning proceeds more slowly. It is also difficult to apply information in a practical and functional manner. People with ID have trouble grasping complex and abstract concepts. This affects their ability to develop important social skills. This is because social skills are complex and abstract.

IDs can coexist with psychiatric disorders. Some psychiatric conditions, such as autism, can cause ID. There are many other causes of ID. There are many genetic causes. Brain injuries can cause ID. Therefore, no single set of symptoms can completely describe an ID. Nonetheless, it may be useful to discuss some common characteristics.

Additional Resources

As advocates of mental health and wellness, we take great pride in educating our readers on the various online therapy providers available. MentalHelp has partnered with several thought leaders in the mental health and wellness space, so we can help you make informed decisions on your wellness journey. MentalHelp may receive marketing compensation from these companies should you choose to use their services.

MentalHelp may receive marketing compensation from the above-listed companies should you choose to use their services.