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Mental Health Terms

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  • Abreaction

  • An emotional release or discharge after recalling a painful experience that has been repressed because it was not consciously tolerable. Often the release is surprising to the individual experiencing it because of it's intensity and the circumstances surrounding its onset. A therapeutic effect sometimes occurs through partial or repeated discharge of the painful affect.

  • Abstract attitude

  • (categorical attitude) This is a type of thinking that includes voluntarily shifting one's mind set from a specific aspect of a situation to the general aspect; It involves keeping in mind different simultaneous aspects of a situation while grasping the essentials of the situation. It can involve breaking a situation down into its parts and isolating them voluntarily; planning ahead ideationally; and/or thinking or performing symbolically. A characteristic of many psychiatric disorders is the person's inability to assume the abstract attitude or to shift readily from the concrete to the abstract and back again as demanded by circumstances.

  • Acalculia

  • The loss of a previously possessed ability to engage in arithmetic calculation.

  • Acculturation difficulty

  • A problem stemming from an inability to appropriately adapt to a different culture or environment. The problem is not based on any coexisting mental disorder.

  • Acetylcholine

  • A neurotransmitter in the brain, which helps to regulate memory, and in the peripheral nervous system, where it affects the actions of skeletal and smooth muscle.

  • Acting out

  • This is the process of expressing unconscious emotional conflicts or feelings via actions rather than words. The person is not consciously aware of the meaning or etiology of such acts. Acting out may be harmful or, in controlled situations, therapeutic (e.g., children's play therapy).

  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

  • An index or scale which measures a patient's degree of independence in bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating, and moving from one place to another.

  • Activity Therapy

  • Includes art, dance, music, recreational and occupational therapies, and psychodrama.

  • Actualization

  • The realization of one's full potential - intellectual, psychological, physical, etc.

  • Addiction

  • Physical or emotional dependence, or both, on a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, usually resulting in the need for increasing amounts of the substance to achieve the same desired effect or continued use despite adverse consequences.

  • Adjustment disorder

  • A psychological response to an identifiable stressor that results in the development of emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, depression or certain conduct, that are greater than would be expected by the stressor or that cause significant impairment in functioning.

  • Adrenaline

  • A naturally occurring hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure and affects other body functions. Also called epinephrine.

  • Age-associated memory impairment

  • (AAMI) The mild disturbance in memory function that occurs normally with aging; benign senescent forgetfulness. Such lapses in memory are lately humorously referred to as representing 'a senior moment'.

  • Agnosia

  • Failure to recognize or identify objects despite intact sensory function; This may be seen in dementia of various types. An example would be the failure of someone to recognize a paper clip placed in their hand while keeping their eyes closed.

  • Agonist/antagonist medication

  • A chemical entity that is not naturally occuring within the body which acts on a family of receptors (such as mu, delta, and kappa opiate receptors) in such a fashion that it is an agonist or partial agonist on one type of receptor while at the same time it is also an antagonist on another different receptor.

  • Akathisia

  • Complaints of restlessness accompanied by movements such as fidgeting of the legs, rocking from foot to foot, pacing, or inability to sit or stand. Symptoms can develop within a few weeks of starting or raising the dose of traditional neuroleptic medications or of reducing the dose of medication used to treat extrapyramidal symptoms. akathisia is a state of motor restlessness ranging from a feeling of inner disquiet to inability to sit still or lie quietly.

  • Akinesia

  • A state of motor inhibition or reduced voluntary movement.

  • Alexithymia

  • A disturbance in affective and cognitive function that can be present in an assortment of diagnostic entities. Is common in psychosomatic disorders, addictive disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The chief manifestations are difficulty in describing or recognizing one's own emotions, a limited fantasy life, and general constriction in affective life.

  • Alienation

  • The estrangement felt in a setting one views as foreign, unpredictable, or unacceptable. For example, in depersonalization phenomena, feelings of unreality or strangeness produce a sense of alienation from one's self or environment.

  • Alloplastic

  • Referring to adaptation by means of altering the external environment. This can be contrasted to autoplastic, which refers to the alteration of one's own behavior and responses.

  • Amnesia

  • Loss of memory. Types of amnesia include: anterograde Loss of memory of events that occur after the onset of the etiological condition or agent. retrograde Loss of memory of events that occurred before the onset of the etiological condition or agent.

  • Amnestic Disorder

  • A brain disorder marked by memory impairment.

  • Anal stage

  • The period of pregenital psychosexual development, usually from 1 to 3 years, in which the child has particular interest and concern with the process of defecation and the sensations connected with the anus. The pleasurable part of the experience is termed anal eroticism.

  • Androgyny

  • A combination of male and female characteristics in one person.

  • Anger

  • The experience of intense annoyance that inspires hostile and aggressive thoughts and actions.

  • Anhedonia

  • Reduced or complete inability to feel pleasure from activities that usually produce happiness.

  • Anhedonia

  • Reduced or complete inability to feel pleasure from activities that usually produce happiness.

  • Anomic or amnestic aphasia

  • Loss of the ability to name objects.

  • Anorexia nervosa

  • Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by unusual eating habits such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating them in small amounts, weighing food, and counting the calories of all foods. Individuals with anorexia nervosa may also exercise excessively.

  • Antagonist medication

  • A chemical entity that is not naturally occuring within the body which occupies a receptor, produces no physiologic effects, and prevents endogenous and exogenous chemicals from producing an effect on that receptor.

  • Anticonvulsants

  • Medications used to prevent seizures; sometimes prescribed as mood stabilizers to treat depression or other mood disorders, or for other conditions, such as pain.

  • Anti-depressants

  • Medications that are used in the treatment of depression, as well as other psychiatric disorders.

  • Antipsychotics

  • Medications used to treat psychotic illnesses. Also known as neuroleptic medications.

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder

  • A disorder characterized by a disregard for the feelings, property, authority and respect of others, for an individual's own personal gain. This may include violent or aggressive destructive actions towards other individuals, without a sense or remorse or guilt.

  • Anxiety Disorders

  • Conditions characterized by high levels of anxiety, such as agoraphobia or obsessive compulsive disorder.

  • Apathy

  • Lack of feeling or emotion or lack of interest in things normally considered important.

  • Area Agency on Aging (AAA)

  • Area Agency on Aging is the local agency that receives funds to care for the needs of older adults. Pennsylvania has 52 sub-state area agencies on aging. See PCA.

  • Ataxia

  • Partial or complete loss of coordination of voluntary muscular movement.

  • Attention

  • The ability to focus in a sustained manner on a particular stimulus or activity. A disturbance in attention may be manifested by easy distractibility or difficulty in finishing tasks or in concentrating on work

  • Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • A behavior disorder, usually first diagnosed in childhood, that is characterized by inattention, impulsivity and, in some cases, hyperactivity.

  • Auditory hallucination

  • A hallucination involving the perception of sound, most commonly of voices. Some clinicians and investigators would not include those experiences perceived as coming from inside the head and would instead limit the concept of true auditory hallucinations to those sounds whose source is perceived as being external.

  • Aura

  • A premonitory, subjective brief sensation (e.g., a flash of light) that warns of an impending headache or convulsion. The nature of the sensation depends on the brain area in which the attack begins. Seen in migraine and epilepsy.

  • Autism

  • Autism, also called autistic disorder, is a complex developmental disability that appears in early childhood, usually before age 3. Autism prevents children and adolescents from interacting normally with other people and affects almost every aspect of their social and psychological development.

  • Autistic Disorder (ALSO CALLED AUTISM)

  • A neurological and developmental disorder that usually appears during the first three years of life. A child with autism appears to live in his/her own world, demonstrating little interest in others, and a lack of social awareness. The focus of an autistic child is a consistent routine and includes an interest in repeating odd and peculiar behaviors. Autistic children often have problems in communication, avoid eye contact and show limited attachment to others.

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder

  • People with avoidant personality disorder avoid situations with any potential for conflict or rejection and are disturbed by their own social isolation, withdrawal and inability to form close, interpersonal relationships.

  • Avolition

  • An inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed activities. When severe enough to be considered pathological, avolition is pervasive and prevents the person from completing many different types of activities (e.g., work, intellectual pursuits, self-care).

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