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Different Types of Handicaps

By Carolyn Scheidies ; Updated July 27, 2017

Many tend to think of handicaps as physical, partly because physical disabilities may be obvious with wheelchair, crutches or braces. Many handicaps or disabilities may not be physical in nature, but are still very real. All types of handicaps affect not only the person with the handicap, but also family, friends and all those in their circle of contact.

Physical Handicaps

Physical disabilities or handicaps are revealed in many different ways. A person with arthritis might have trouble moving due to stiffness or crippling. Gnarled fingers reveal the ravages of an arthritic condition. Those who've had accidents may have any number of physical problems from neck injuries to paralysis. Different diseases wear down the body. Physical handicaps may require braces or the use of crutches, other walking aids or a wheelchair.

More minor physical disabilities may mean an arm or a leg that won't bend or straighten, making certain movements awkward or impossible. Age may bring on stooped shoulders and frailty.

Physical handicaps also include the inability to hear (deafness) or see (blindness).

Mental Handicaps

Mental handicaps or disabilities are not as easy to discern as many physical limitations. Mental disabilities may be a problem with the eye and mind working together--as with dyslexia, when letters don't stay where they belong on the page. Mental handicaps may range from very mild to severe with those who are developmentally disabled.

The term developmentally disabled refers to those not maturing at the level of their peers due to some type of impairment. This might be a problem interacting with others, as with the autism spectrum, or a problem with mental functions and cognitive understanding that hinders learning, thought processes and mental as well as physical responses.

Some individuals take time to think things through. Others can be taught how to interact. Still others have difficultly functioning in society at all, and need both supervision and constant care.

Mental handicaps may stem from injury, inadequate nutrition, abuse, drug use or genetics.

Emotional Handicaps

Emotional handicaps may stem from life choices such as drug use, drug interactions, injuries from an accident, genetics, or physical and/or emotional abuse. Improper use of drugs confuses a person temporarily or permanently, causing emotional damage. An individual may not be able to process reality. Drug use may cause black outs, rages or irrational choices, or cause the individual to be abnormally passive.

Genetics play a part in emotional handicaps. A genetic abnormally may cause the brain not to function at full capacity or cause unusual emotional responses to stimuli. If ears are very acute, loud music or other sounds can cause pain and bring on tears or anger as responses.

Injuries from accidents or abuse may induce any number of emotional responses due to brain injury. Abuse induces emotional handicaps such as fear, withdrawal and/or rebellion. Abuse may cause such damage that the abused victim, in order to escape the fear and victimization, might in turn abuse others.

Whatever the cause, emotional handicaps range from depression, inappropriate behaviors and choices to heightened fears and withdrawal, all of which interfere with everyday activities and interactions.

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