A fear and avoidance of situations where you might feel unsafe or unable to escape if you have a panic attack.
A progressive disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. Individuals with more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease may also experience changes in personality and behavior such as anxiety, suspiciousness or agitation, as well as delusions or hallucinations. The disease usually starts in middle or old age, beginning with memory loss concerning recent events and spreading to memory loss concerning events that are more distant.
Chronic feelings of overwhelming anxiety and fear, unattached to any obvious source, that can grow progressively worse if not treated. The anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, cardiac disturbances, diarrhea or dizziness. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive- compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder are considered anxiety disorders (all defined individually in Glossary).
A Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by normal language and intelligence development, but impaired social and communication skills as well as difficulty with transitions or changes. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with one particular field of interest. Although they may be low functioning in many areas, they often have above-average performance in a narrow field.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
A biologically-based disorder that includes distractibility and impulsiveness. Recent research suggests that ADD can be inherited and may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals used by the brain to control behavior) or abnormal glucose metabolism in the central nervous system.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A form of ADD that includes hyperactivity. Children with ADHD are unable to sit still. They may walk, run or climb around when others are seated, and often talk when others are talking.
A Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) that affects a person’s ability to communicate, form normal social relationships and respond appropriately to the external world. Autism typically appears in the first three years of life, although there may be signs in infancy such as avoiding eye contact and abruptly stopping language development. Children with autism may stare into space for hours, throw uncontrollable tantrums and show no interest in people including their parents. They may pursue strange, repetitive activities with no apparent purpose. Some people with autism can function at a relatively high level, with speech and intelligence intact. Others, however, have serious learning problems and language delays, and some never speak.
Also known as manic-depressive illness. A serious illness that causes shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Dramatic mood swings can move from “high” feelings of extreme euphoria or irritability to depression, sometimes with periods of normal moods in between. Manic episodes may include such behaviors as prolonged periods without sleep or uncontrolled shopping. Each episode of mania or depression can last for hours, weeks or several months.
Borderline Personality Disorder
A mental illness marked by a pattern of unstable personal relationships and self image, as well as marked impulsivity. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often have a strong fear of abandonment and may exhibit recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self-mutilating behavior. They also may have inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
A belief that is false, fanciful or derived from deception. In psychiatry, a false belief strongly held in spite of evidence that it is not true, especially as a symptom of a mental illness.
A condition of declining mental abilities, especially memory. Individuals with dementia may have trouble doing things they used to do such as keeping the checkbook, driving a car safely or planning a meal. They often have trouble finding the right word and may become confused when given too many things to do at one time. Individuals with dementia may also experience changes in personality, becoming aggressive, paranoid or depressed.
In psychiatry, a disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty with thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness and sometimes suicidal thoughts or attempts to commit suicide. While standing alone as a mental illness, depression also can be experienced in other disorders such as bipolar disorder. Depression can range from mild to severe, and is very treatable with today’s medications and/or therapy.
A disorder marked by a separation from or interruption of a person’s fundamental aspects of waking consciousness, such as personal identity or personal history. The dissociative aspect in any form is thought to be a coping mechanism stemming from trauma of some kind. The individual literally dissociates or separates from a situation or experience that is too traumatic to integrate with the conscious self. There are many forms of dissociative disorders:
A serious disturbance in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating. Usually accompanied by feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight. Eating disorders, which are treatable, usually develop in adolescence or early adulthood and frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Eating disorders can lead to serious physical health complications including heart conditions and kidney failure, which may lead to death. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (Electroshock Therapy)
A treatment for some severe mental illnesses in which a brief application of electrical stimulus is used to generate a generalized seizure. According to the National Institutes of Health, this therapy has been highly successful in treating certain types of depression, especially when followed with anti-depressant medication. It has not been effective with individuals who have less severe forms of depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Characterized by excessive uncontrollable worry about everyday things. The chronic worrying can affect daily functioning and cause physical symptoms, filling an individual’s days with tension even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. Unlike a phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not triggered by a specific object or situation. Individuals with this disorder are always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family or work. In addition to chronic worry, symptoms may include trembling, muscular aches, insomnia, abdominal upsets, dizziness and irritability.
See Bipolar Disorder
A health condition characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior (or a combination of the three). Mental disorders are mediated by the brain and associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. They can be the result of family history, genetics or other biological, environmental, social or behavioral factors that occur alone or in combination.
The condition of being mentally and emotionally sound and well adjusted, characterized by the absence of mental disorder and by adequate adjustment. Individuals with mental health feel comfortable about themselves, have positive feelings about others and exhibit an ability to meet the demands of life.
Refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders. Can refer to a disease of the brain with predominant behavioral symptoms as in acute alcoholism or a disease of the mind or personality that results in abnormal behavior as with hysteria or schizophrenia. Can refer to any psychiatric illness listed in Current Medical Information and Terminology of the American Medical Association or in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.
Below normal intellectual ability that originates during the developmental period. Mental retardation is associated with impairment in maturation, learning and/or social adjustment. In general with mental retardation, the IQ is equivalent to or less than 70 and the condition is present from birth or infancy. Individuals with mental retardation have abnormal development, learning difficulties and problems in social adjustment.
Multiple Personality Disorder
See Dissociative Disorder
Nonverbal Learning Disorder
A neurological disorder originating in the right hemisphere of the brain. Because reception of information is impaired in the right brain, those with nonverbal learning disorder may experience a lack of psychomotor coordination and an inability to recognize nonverbal social cues such as body language, facial expressions, personal space, touch and tone of voice. It can also affect organizational and evaluative skills.
A disorder in which individuals are plagued by persistent, recurring thoughts or obsessions that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Typical obsessions include worry about being contaminated or fears of behaving improperly or acting violently. The obsessions may lead to the performance of ritual or routine compulsions such as washing hands, repeating phrases or hoarding.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
A disruptive behavior pattern of childhood and adolescence characterized by defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior, especially toward adults in positions of authority.
An anxiety disorder in which individuals have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Individuals cannot predict when an attack will occur and may develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when the next one will strike. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, trembling, tingling sensations, a feeling of choking, fear of dying, fear of losing control and feelings of unreality.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
A class of neurological disorders usually evident by age 3. They are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in social interaction skills, communication skills and possibly by stereotyped behavior, interests and activities. Pervasive Developmental Disorders include autism, Asperger’s syndrome and nonverbal learning disorder.
An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from expectations. A personality disorder is pervasive and inflexible, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood. Individuals with a personality disorder tend to be stable over time, but the disorder leads to distress or impairment
An intense and sometimes disabling fear reaction to a specific object or situation that poses little or no actual danger. The level of fear is usually recognized by the individual as being irrational.
A potentially serious condition that occurs within six months after childbirth in which a woman feels extreme sensations of sadness, despair, anxiety and/or irritability. Differs from “baby blues” in intensity and duration. Postpartum often keeps a woman from doing the things she needs to do every day.
A rare but very serious mental illness that can affect new mothers within the first six months after childbirth. Women lose touch with reality, often having hallucinations and delusions focused on the baby. Other symptoms include severe insomnia, paranoia, agitation and restlessness. Homicidal and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. This condition poses significant danger to the baby’s safety and should be managed as a medical emergency requiring hospitalization of the mother.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event, such as wartime combat, physical violence or a natural disaster. It is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares and avoidance of reminders of the event. Individuals can feel emotionally numb, especially with people who were once close to them. Also called delayed-stress disorder or posttraumatic stress syndrome.
Doctor who specializes in the practice of psychiatry (the treatment of people who have a mental disorder and the prevention of mental disorders). Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have had many years of additional training in psychiatric medicine.
The branch of medicine that deals with the science and practice of treating mental, emotional or behavioral disorders.
Ph. D level specialist in psychology licensed to practice professional psychology (e.g. clinical psychology), or qualified to teach psychology as a discipline (academic psychology), or whose scientific specialty is a subfield of psychology (research psychology).
Describes the mental process that helps put physical movements into action. For example, a feeling of fatigue may lead to walking very slowly or resting on a couch.
A serious mental disorder characterized by defective or lost contact with reality, often with hallucinations or delusions, causing deterioration of normal social functioning.
In mental illness, a medication prescribed to treat the illness or symptoms of that illness.
A psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life and disintegration of feeling, thought and conduct. Individuals with schizophrenia often hear internal voices not heard by others (hallucinations) or believe things that other people find absurd (delusions). The symptoms also may include disorganized speech and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Individuals with schizophrenia have marked impairment in social or occupational functioning.
In mental health, a brief formal or informal assessment to identify individuals who have mental health problems or are likely to develop such problems. If a problem is detected, the screening can also determine the most appropriate mental health services for the individual.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. Individuals experience excessive self- consciousness in everyday social situations. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations, faintness, blushing and profuse sweating. Individuals often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation. Symptoms may be limited to only one type of situation, such as fear of speaking in formal or informal situations or eating, drinking or writing in front of others. In its most severe form, individuals may experience symptoms anytime they are around other people.
A mark of shame or discredit. A sign of social unacceptability.
In mental health, a process that builds upon an individual’s strengths to work towards recovery.
The inappropriate use of and possibly addiction to illegal and legal substances including alcohol and prescription and non-prescription drugs.
Treatment of physical, mental or behavioral problems that is meant to cure or rehabilitate. Psychotherapy emphasizes substituting desirable responses and behavior patterns for undesirable ones.
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. If you or any other person you know are in crisis, have severe symptoms or in a life-threatening situation, please seek immediate medical help or call on the below helplines.
AASRA 24x7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669
Vandrevala Foundation 24x7 Helpline: 1860-2662-345 / 1800-2333-330
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