Glossary of mental health terms
Acute: Refers to a disease or condition that develops rapidly and is intense and of short duration.
Affect: Feeling or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language.
Alternative Therapy: Mental health care that emphasizes the interrelationship between mind, body, and spirit. Although some alternative approaches have a long history, many remain controversial.
Antianxiety medications: Used to treat anxiety disorders. Antianxiety medications include the benzodiazepines and buspirone (BuSpar).
Anticonvulsant: Alternative therapy for bipolar disorder. It is as effective in non-rapid-cycling bipolar disorder as lithium and appears to be superior to lithium in rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.
Antidepressant medications: Antidepressants take away or reduce the symptoms of depression and help depressed people feel the way they did before they became depressed.
Antimanic medications: Used to treat symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder.
Antipsychotic (neuroleptic) medications: Used to treat symptoms of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia or certain stages of bipolar disorder.
Anxiety: An abnormal sense of fear, nervousness, and apprehension about something that might happen in the future.
Anxiety disorders: Any of a group of chronic disorders ranging from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing bouts of terror. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Asthenia: Weakness; lack of energy and strength.
Behavioral healthcare: Continuum of services for individuals at risk of, or suffering from, mental, addictive, or other behavioral health disorders.
Behavioral Therapy: Therapy focusing on changing unwanted behaviors through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization. Desensitization, or Exposure Therapy, is a process of confronting something that arouses anxiety, discomfort, or fear and overcoming the unwanted responses.
Biomedical Treatment: Treatment involving medication. The kind of medication a psychiatrist prescribes varies with the disorder and the individual being treated.
Bipolar Disorder: A depressive disorder in which a person alternates between episodes of major depression and mania (periods of abnormally and persistently elevated mood). Also referred to as manic-depression.
Caregiver: A person who has special training to help people with mental health problems, such as social workers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentors.
Case manager: An individual who organizes and coordinates services and supports for persons with mental health problems and their families. (Also: service coordinator, advocate, and facilitator.)
Chronic: Refers to a disease or condition that persists over a long period of time.
Cognitive Therapy: Aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns that can lead to feelings and behaviors that may be troublesome, self-defeating, or self-destructive. The goal is to replace such thinking with a more balanced view that, in turn, leads to more fulfilling and productive behavior.
Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy: A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies that helps people change negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors so they can manage symptoms and enjoy more productive, less stressful lives.
COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): An act that allows workers and their families to continue their employer-sponsored health insurance for a certain amount of time after terminating employment.
Consumer: Any individual who does or could receive health care or services. Also, beneficiary, client, customer, eligible member, recipient, or patient.
Cyclothymia: A mood disorder characterized by periods of mild depression followed by periods of normal or slightly elevated mood.
DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition): A book published by the American Psychiatric Association that gives general descriptions and characteristic symptoms of different mental illnesses. Physicians and other mental health professionals use the DSM-V to confirm diagnoses for mental illnesses.
Day treatment: Treatment including special education, counseling, parent training, vocational training, skill building, crisis intervention, and recreational therapy for at least 4 hours a day.
Deductible: The amount an individual must pay for health care expenses before insurance (or a self-insured company) begins to pay its contract share. Often insurance plans are based on yearly deductible amounts.
Delusions: A false belief that persists even when a person has evidence that the belief is not true.
Depression/MDD (major depressive disorder): A mood disorder characterized by intense feelings of sadness that persist beyond a few weeks. A group of diseases that includes major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder (manic-depression).
Diagnostic Evaluation: The aims of a general psychiatric evaluation are 1) to establish a psychiatric diagnosis, 2) to collect data sufficient to permit a case formulation, and 3) to develop an initial treatment plan, with particular consideration of any immediate interventions that may be needed to ensure the patient’s safety, or, if the evaluation is a reassessment of a patient in long-term treatment, to revise the plan of treatment in accord with new perspectives gained from the evaluation.
Disease: An impairment of health or a condition of abnormal functioning often characterized by typical patient problems (symptoms) and physical findings (signs).
Disorder: A disturburbance or interruption of the normal structure or function of the body or mind that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs.
Dose: A quantity to be administered at one time, such as a specified amount of medication.
Dually Diagnosed: A person who has both an alcohol or drug problem and an emotional/psychiatric problem is said to have a dual diagnosis.
Dysphoria, dysphoric: A negative mood state characterized by agitation, anger, impatience, anxiety or uneasiness.
Dysthymic disorder: A mood disorder characterized by depressed feeling, loss of interest or pleasure in one’s usual activities, and some of the following: altered appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, lack of energy, poor concentration, and feelings of hopelessness. Symptoms are less severe than those of major depression.
ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy): A controversial technique using low voltage electrical stimulation of the brain to treat some forms of major depression, acute mania, and some forms of schizophrenia. This potentially life-saving technique is generally considered only when other therapies have failed, when a person is seriously medically ill and/or unable to take medication, or when a person is very likely to commit suicide.
Employee Assistance Plan (EAP): Resources provided by employers either as part of, or separate from, employer-sponsored health plans. EAPs typically provide preventive care measures, various health care screenings, and/or wellness activities.
Euphoria: A feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being sometimes exaggerated in mood disorders as mania.
Euthymia: Mood in the “normal” range, without manic or depressive symptoms.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Among its many responsibilities, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration protects the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The FDA also helps speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable; and provides accurate, science-based information to the public.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): An anxiety disorder characterized by consistent feelings of anxiety for a period of at least six months and accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance.
Generic: Standard practice and most state laws require that a generic drug be generically equivalent to its brand-name counterpart, with the same active ingredients, strength, and dosage form and have the same medical effect. Some drugs are protected by patents and supplied by only one company. When the patent expires, other manufacturers can produce its generic version.
Genetic: Inherited; passed from parents to offspring through genes.
Group-model Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A health care model involving contracts with physicians organized as a partnership, professional corporation, or other association. The health plan compensates the medical group for contracted services at a negotiated rate, and that group is responsible for compensating its physicians and contracting with hospitals for care of their patients.
Group Therapy: Therapy involving groups of usually 4 to 12 people who have similar problems and who meet regularly with a therapist. The therapist uses the emotional interactions of the group’s members to help them get relief from distress and possibly modify their behavior.
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization): A type of managed care plan that acts as both insurer and provider of a comprehensive set of health care services to an enrolled population. Services are furnished through a network of providers.
Hallucination: The perception of something, such as a sound or visual image, that is not actually present other than in the mind.
Hypersomnia: Excessive sleepiness; prolonged nighttime sleep, difficulty staying awake during the day.
Hypomanic: A mild, nonpsychotic form of mania, characterized by increased levels of energy, physical activity, and talkativeness.
MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) were the first type of antidepressant in use.. Researchers believe MAOIs relieve depression by preventing the enzyme monoamine oxidase from metabolizing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine in the brain. As a result, these levels remain high in the brain, boosting mood.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): An imaging technique that uses magnetic fields to take pictures of the structure of the brain.
Mania: Feelings of intense mental and physical hyperactivity, elevated mood, and agitation.
Manic-depression: See bipolar disorder.
Managed Care: An organized system for delivering comprehensive mental health services that allows the managed care entity to determine what services will be provided to an individual in return for a prearranged financial payment. Generally, managed care controls health care costs and discourages unnecessary hospitalization and overuse of specialists, and the health plan operates under contract to a payer.
Medicaid: A health insurance assistance program funded by Federal, State, and local monies. It is run by State guidelines and assists low-income persons by paying for most medical expenses.
Medicare: A Federal insurance program serving the disabled and persons over the age of 65. Most costs are paid via trust funds that beneficiaries have paid into throughout the courses of their lives; small deductibles and some co-payments are required.
Medication Therapy: Prescription, administration, assessment of drug effectiveness, and monitoring of potential side effects of psycho-tropic medications.
Mental health professionals: See Alphabet Soup
Mental illness: A health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning.
Mixed states: The occurrence of symptoms of mania and depression together. A person may feel sad and hopeless while at the same time feeling extremely energized. Also called dysphoric mania, mixed mania, or agitated depression
Mood disorders: Mental disorders whose essential feature is a disturbance of mood manifested as one or more episodes of mania, hypomania, depression, or some combination: Bipolar I and bipolar II disorders, cyclothymic disorder; major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.
Mood stabilizer: Lithium and/or an anticonvulsant for treatment of bipolar disorder, often combined with an antidepressant. Research has shown that treatment with an antidepressant alone increases the risk that the patient will switch to mania or hypomania, or develop rapid cycling.
Neurotransmitters: Chemical substance that transmits information from one neuron to another by crossing the space between two adjacent neurons
(OCD) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent thoughts, feelings, ideas or sensations (obsessions) or behaviors that make a person feel driven to perform (compulsions).
Off-label use: Medications used for a different condition, different dosage, or other use not mentioned in the FDA-approved labeling. Off-label use is not prohibited by the FDA.
PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): A health plan in which consumers may use any health care provider on a fee-for-service basis. Consumers will be charged more for visiting providers outside of the PPO network than for visiting providers in the network
Panic disorder: An anxiety disorder in which people have feelings of terror, rapid heart beat, and rapid breathing that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. A person who has panic disorder cannot predict when an attack will occur and may develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike.
Phobia: An intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Examples of phobias include fear of closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood.
Primary care physician (PCP): Physicians with the following specialties: group practice, family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics. The PCP is usually responsible for monitoring an individual’s overall medical care and referring the individual to more specialized physicians for additional care.
Psychiatric/Psychotherapeutic/Psychotropic medications: Drugs which are used to treat the symptoms of mental illness.
Psychosis: A serious mental disorder in which a person loses contact with reality and experiences hallucinations or delusions.
Psychotherapy: A treatment method for mental illness in which a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor) and a patient discuss problems and feelings to find solutions. Psychotherapy can help individuals change their thought or behavior patterns or understand how past experiences affect current behaviors.
Rapid cycling: Experiencing changes in mood from mania to major depression, or mixed states, within hours, days or months.
Receptor: A molecule that recognizes specific chemicals, including neurotransmitters and hormones, and transmits the message into the cell on which the receptor resides.
Relapse: The reoccurrence of symptoms of a disease.
Serotonin: A neurotransmitter that most likely contributes to the regulation of sleep, appetite, and mood. People experiencing depression or anxiety often have a serotonin deficiency.
Signs: Indications of illness which are observed by the examiner rather than reported by the patient.
Somnolence: Sleepiness, drowsiness.
SSRIs- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: A class of antidepressants that act within the brain to increase the amount of the neurotransmitter, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT), in the synaptic gap by inhibiting its reuptake.
Stigma: A negative stereotype about a group of people.
Symptom: Something that indicates the presence of a disease.
Syndrome: A collection of physical signs and symptoms that, when occurring together, are characteristic of a specific condition.
TCA (Tricyclic) antidepressants: A class of antidepressant drugs first used in the 1950s. They are named after the drugs’ molecular structure, which contains three rings of atoms Tricylic antidepressants are generally thought to work by inhibiting the re-uptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, or serotonin by nerve cells.
Third party payer: A public or private organization that is responsible for the health care expenses of another entity.
Titrate: To gradually increase or decrease the dose of a drug; to raise drug dose over time to target dose.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Services that include job finding/development, assessment and enhancement of work-related skills, as well as provision of job experience to clients/patients.