Library Of Terms.

Library of Terms culled from the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH.
For a more extensive reading of various Mental Health Topics, please click on the link


  • Definition

    Psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) is a term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Most psychotherapy takes place with a licensed and trained mental health care professional and a patient meeting one on one or with other patients in a group setting. Someone might seek out psychotherapy for different reasons:
    You might be dealing with severe or long-term stress from a job or family situation, the loss of a loved one, or relationship or other family issues. Or you may have symptoms with no physical explanation: changes in sleep or appetite, low energy, a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed, persistent irritability, or a sense of discouragement or hopelessness that won’t go away.
    A health professional may suspect or have diagnosed a condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress or other disorder and recommended psychotherapy as a first treatment or to go along with medication.
    You may be seeking treatment for a family member or child who has been diagnosed with a condition affecting mental health and for whom a health professional has recommended treatment. An exam by your primary care practitioner can ensure there is nothing in your overall health that would explain your or a loved one’s symptoms.

  • What to Consider When Looking for a Therapist

    Therapists have different professional backgrounds and specialties. There are many different types of psychotherapy. For many therapies, however, research involving large numbers of patients has provided evidence that treatment is effective for specific disorders. These “evidence-based therapies” have been shown in research to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders.
    The particular approach a therapist uses depends on the condition being treated and the training and experience of the therapist. Also, therapists may combine and adapt elements of different approaches.
    One goal of establishing an evidence base for psychotherapies is to prevent situations in which a person receives therapy for months or years with no benefit. If you have been in therapy and feel you are not getting better, talk to your therapist, or look into other practitioners or approaches. The object of therapy is to gain relief from symptoms and improve quality of life.
    Once you have identified one or more possible therapists, a preliminary conversation with a therapist can help you get an idea of how treatment will proceed and whether you feel comfortable with the therapist. Rapport and trust are important. Discussions in therapy are deeply personal and it’s important that you feel comfortable and trusting with the therapist and have confidence in his or her expertise. Consider asking the following questions:

    1. What are the credentials and experience of the therapist? Does he or she have a specialty?

    2. What approach will the therapist take to help you? Does he or she practice a particular type of therapy? What can the therapist tell you about the rationale for the therapy and the evidence base?

    3. Does the therapist have experience in diagnosing and treating the age group (for example, a child) and the specific condition for which treatment is being sought? If a child is the patient, how will parents be involved in treatment?

    4. What are the goals of therapy?

    5. Does the therapist recommend a specific time frame or number of sessions? How will progress be assessed and what happens if you (or the therapist) feel you aren't starting to feel better?

    6. Will there be homework?

    7. Are medications an option? How will medications be prescribed if the therapist is not an M.D.?

    8. Are our meetings confidential? How can this be assured?


  • Definition

    Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder: People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include: Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge, Being easily fatigued, Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank, Irritability, Muscle tension, Difficulty controlling the worry, Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep).

    Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom. Panic disorder symptoms include: Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear, Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack, Intense worries about when the next attack will happen, Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Definition

    PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic. A doctor who has experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD. To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month: At least one re-experiencing symptom, At least one avoidance symptom, At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, At least two cognition and mood symptoms


  • Definition

    Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression: Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism, Irritability, Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness, Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, Decreased energy or fatigue, Moving or talking more slowly, Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still, Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping; Appetite and/or weight changes, Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts, Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

    Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms may benefit from treatment of their “subsyndromal” depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.

Eating Disorders

  • Definition

    There is a commonly held view that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Anorexia nervosa People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. While many young women and men with this disorder die from complications associated with starvation, others die of suicide. In women, suicide is much more common in those with anorexia than with most other mental disorders.

    Bulimia nervosa People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively normal weight.

    Binge-eating disorder People with binge-eating disorder lose control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.


  • Definition

    Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

    Positive symptoms: “Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may “lose touch” with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include: Hallucinations, Delusions, Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking), Movement disorders (agitated body movements).

    Negative symptoms: “Negative” symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include: “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone) Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities Reduced speaking

    Cognitive symptoms: For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include: Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions), Trouble focusing or paying attention, Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

Bipolar Disorder

  • Definition

    Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypo-manic episodes.

    1. Bipolar I Disorder defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.

    2. Bipolar II Disorder defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypo-manic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.

    3. Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypo-manic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypo-manic episode and a depressive episode.

    4. Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person. Extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep go along with mood episodes.

    People having a manic episode may: Feel very “up,” “high,” or elated, Have a lot of energy, Have increased activity levels, Feel “jumpy” or “wired”, Have trouble sleeping, Become more active than usual, Talk really fast about a lot of different things, Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”, Feel like their thoughts are going very fast, Think they can do a lot of things at once, Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex.

    People having a depressive episode may: Feel very sad, down, empty, or hopeless, Have very little energy, Have decreased activity levels, Have trouble sleeping, they may sleep too little or too much, Feel like they can’t enjoy anything, Feel worried and empty, Have trouble concentrating, Forget things a lot, Eat too much or too little, Feel tired or “slowed down”, Think about death or suicide

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Definition

    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension. Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with constant activity. Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. Some people with ADHD only have problems with one of the behaviors, while others have both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.Most children have the combined type of ADHD. In preschool, the most common ADHD symptom is hyperactivity. It is normal to have some inattention, unfocused motor activity and impulsivity, but for people with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe occur more often interfere with or reduce the quality of how they functions socially, at school, or in a job

    Inattention People with symptoms of inattention may often: Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading, Not seem to listen when spoken to directly, Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked, Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as what to do in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, having messy work and poor time management, and failing to meet deadlines, Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms or reviewing lengthy papers, Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones, Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli, Be forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments.
    Hyperactivity-Impulsivity People with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may often: Fidget and squirm in their seats Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office, Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or, in teens and adults, often feel restless Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly, Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”, Talk nonstop, Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in conversation, Have trouble waiting his or her turn, Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities

Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Definition

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability. People with ASD often have these characteristics: Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others, Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities, Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life, Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life, Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Families with concerns should talk to their pediatrician about what they’ve observed and the possibility of ASD screening.

  • Some Signs and Symptoms

    Parents or doctors may first identify ASD behaviors in infants and toddlers. School staff may recognize these behaviors in older children. Not all people with ASD will show all of these behaviors, but most will show several. There are two main types of behaviors: “restricted / repetitive behaviors” and “social communication / interaction behaviors.”

    Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include: Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors, Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects, Having a lasting, intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.

    Social communication / interaction behaviors may include: Getting upset by a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new or overly stimulating setting Making little or inconsistent eye contact Having a tendency to look at and listen to other people less often Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or other verbal attempts to gain attention Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversations Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond Repeating words or phrases that they hear, a behavior called echolalia Using words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with that person’s way of communicating Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions. People with ASD may have other difficulties, such as being very sensitive to light, noise, clothing, or temperature. They may also experience sleep problems, digestion problems, and irritability.

    ASD is unique in that it is common for people with ASD to have many strengths and abilities in addition to challenges.

    Strengths and abilities may include: Having above-average intelligence – the CDC reports 46% of ASD children have above average intelligence. Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time, Being strong visual and auditory learners, Excelling in math, science, music, or art.