Mental Health Disorders
OF TERMS USED IN THIS SITE
disorders are behavioral or emotional problems that start within 3 months
after the onset of a stressor and end within 6 months after the stressor
is removed. If the stressor continues, the problems may also continue and
still be classified as an adjustment disorder.
Affect is displayed emotion. A
person with flat affect does not display emotion; depressed people display
sad, unhappy, affect. Psychosis is sometimes accompanied by inappropriate
affect, for example by laughing when most people in the situation would be
crying. Patients in the manic phase of bipolar disorder display
overexcited, overoptimistic, exaggerated, affect.
was named after phobia (fear) of the agora (marketplace), but its modern
meaning is fear of any open places.
Amnesia is loss of memory; it is retrograde
if memories before a fixed event are lost, and anterograde if
memories after a fixed event are lost. An individual may have both kinds
ANTIANXIETY DRUGS (ALSO CALLED
Drugs that have sedative effects
(hence, "hypno") and reduce anxiety (hence, "anxiolytic").
All or nearly all of them are benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
Anxiety is fear brought about by
anticipation of a negative event; normal anxiety may be adaptive because
it heightens alertness and prepares an individual for action. Abnormal,
unrealistic anxiety is a miserable condition that paralyzes the victim and
prevents normal behavior. Anxiety involves bodily changes as well as
disorders are any disorders whose primary symptom is disordered thinking,
as in dementia, delirium, or amnesia.
Behaviors individuals engage in
to control or reduce their obsessive thoughts/worries (see below).
Typical compulsions involve hand washing to reduce the worry about germs,
or mirror checking to reduce the worry that some physical characteristic
is too noticeable. For the behavior to be considered a compulsion,
however, it must interfere with normal functioning. For example,
the person is late to work because each time he/she is about to leave the
house he/she feels the need to do the behavior again, just one more time.
In the context of mental
disorders, cravings, or strong desires, are usually for forbidden
substances or behaviors. The former include illegal drugs (or sometimes
prescription drugs), and legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol. The
behavioral category includes hand-washing and eating compulsions,
forbidden sexual behavior, and gambling.
a severe disturbance in consciousness and thought that is not better
accounted for by dementia. Delirium is likely to have a sudden onset, be
variable, and have a better chance of remission than dementia.
Fixed beliefs that are not based
in reality. In addition, this fixed belief cannot be changed by
someone who provides evidence that it is incorrect. Typical
delusions: being persecuted (persecutory delusion), being capable of
incredible feats (grandiose delusion), etc.
dementias are severe disturbances in thought and memory. The onset of
dementia is usually gradual, and, as things stand in the year 2000, most,
but not all, cases are irreversible.
Behavior that erratically
changes from one type to the next, such as suddenly from happy to angry.
Usually the behavior is extreme, whatever it is, and inappropriate to the
Speech that erratically changes
from one subject to the next. It may be nonsensical or not, but it
is unrelated to the situation. Inhibits the person's ability to
communicate and to make his/herself understood.
essential feature of dissociative disorders is a splitting, or
dissociation. The splitting may be a splitting off of part of memory, in
which case the victim loses a period of time or memories of a
specific topic; it may be of the personality, in which case the person may
seem to have multiple identities; or it may be a splitting from the
environment, in which the person no longer seems to be "in the
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition). The DSM-IV is the reference book used by mental
health professionals in the United States and in other countries to
diagnose mental health disorders. Because of this, we used it as the
basis for our descriptions of the various mental health
disorders on this site. The diagnoses in DSM-IV were coordinated
with those in the International Classification of Diseases-10 (ICD-10) in
order to facilitate communication between mental health professionals in
different countries. We rearranged the presentation slightly to make it
easier for you to find information on our web site, but nearly all of the Disorders
in DSM-IV are, or will be, indexed on this web site.
Dys is a syllable meaning
"ill" or "bad" that combines with other elements that
specify what it is that is bad; for example, dystonia means bad muscle tone,
which sometimes occurs as spasms that result from taking antipsychotic
medications. Ego-dystonic refers to conditions that the person finds
unpleasant, or inconsistent with his or her picture of himself or
Dyssomnia is the general name for any kind of sleep disorder,
whether it involves difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, getting
restful sleep, or the opposite, difficulty staying awake.
best-known eating disorders are those of adulthood, anorexia nervosa and
bulimia, but there are also serious eating disorders of childhood; pica
and rumination are the most dramatic examples.
Echolalia is speech that echoes
what was just heard; echolalia occurs frequently in autistic
Artificial or contrived; hence a factitious disorder is "made
up," not genuine.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that
usually inhibits brain activity. The primary action of most
benzodiazepines is that they enhance the effects of GABA.
Generic drugs are drugs whose
"copyright" has expired. The names reflect the chemical
structure of the drug, but they are not formal chemical names. The same
drug, once it is eligible for generic status, may be manufactured under
different brand names by different companies.
Perceptions of something
that is not real. For example, the person hears voices others cannot
hear (auditory hallucinations), sees things others cannot see (visual
hallucinations), smells odors others cannot smell (olfactory
hallucinations), feels he/she is being touched by something others cannot
see, or tastes something he/she has not ingested.
means sleeping too much.
A person who is hypervigilant is
extremely anxious and worried that something bad will happen. He/she
therefore is excessively aware of his/her surroundings, so as to
"catch" the harm that is approaching.
HYPNOANXIOLYTICS (see antianxiety drugs)
IDEAS OF REFERENCE
Involve the belief that one is
the point of reference for whatever surrounds us. Typically, a person
with ideas of reference believes that the people that are talking on
television or the radio are speaking directly him/her, or that people,
even strangers, are talking about him or her, although other
types are also found.
When a person's emotional
state is not related to the situation, he/she is said to have inappropriate
affect. For example, the person may laugh in the presence of
pain or suffering.
is difficulty in sleeping.
"Mood" usually connotes
a longer-term emotional tone than does "affect." Mood may also
be taken to mean a more internal and less observable state than affect.
When we say we're in a bad mood, we mean that our state has endured for a
while and makes our experience of external events more negative; a
"good mood" does the opposite. Depressed people have enduring
sad, negative, often guilt-ridden, moods.
MONOAMINE OXIDASE INHIBITORS (MAOIs)
oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) increase the activity of serotonin by
preventing its breakdown by monoamine oxidase. Thus these anti-depressants
increase neural activity by inhibiting an inhibitor of serotonin.
Refers to symptoms of
schizophrenia. Negative symptoms involve absence of behaviors or
"less" of the behaviors. Examples are flat affect, apathy,
less movement, or social isolation.
Thoughts/worries that one cannot
get out of one's head. The obsession occupies the person's thoughts
constantly. The person may find that engaging in certain behaviors
calms the obsession, and therefore begins to have compulsions. For
example, a person obsessed with germs cannot function in his/her daily
life because every activity is evaluated as to the danger of being exposed
to germs. Such individuals may engage in frequent hand washing (a
compulsion) to calm the thoughts and worries about germs.
Panic attacks are experiences of
great fear, accompanied by physiological changes like rapid respiration,
heart rate, high blood pressure, flushing, and sweating. The attacks may
be precipitated by either real or imaginary events, but in either case are
abnormally extreme reactions to the situation.
When a person is suspicious of
people and situations, and that suspiciousness has no basis in reality,
he/she is said to be experiencing paranoia. Paranoia involves paranoid
ideas (paranoid ideation) that is delusional (see "delusions").
A paraphilia is a
sexual practice that is socially prohibited.
Phobias are abnormal fears of
specific situations, usually those in which the phobic individual would
not feel a sense of control. Examples include fear of being in enclosed
spaces (claustrophobia) and its opposite, fear of being in open places
Refers to symptoms of
schizophrenia. Positive symptoms are exaggerations of normal
functioning or occurrence of behaviors that should not be occurring.
Positive symptoms include disorganized speech and behavior, delusions,
hallucinations, etc. As you can see, positive does not mean
"good" in this case, it means "present," or
The prognosis for a mental problem is its
expected course and outcome.
Most definitions of psychosis require a diagnosis of severe
functional impairment that follows a more normal adjustment; schizophrenia
is the classical form of psychosis, but delirium and the dementias would
also be included as psychotic reactions according to most definitions.
Mental retardation, although it may involve severe functional impairment,
is not regarded as a psychosis unless it is accompanied by psychotic
symptoms like hallucinations or delusions.
Schizophrenia is a severe form of psychosis whose symptoms often
include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and behavior,
illogical thought, social withdrawal, and inappropriate affect. To be
diagnosed with schizophrenia, the person must have been disturbed for at
least 6 months.
Serotonin is an excitatory
neurotransmitter whose activity is regulated by serotonin reuptake
inhibitors (SRIs) and serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs);
these drugs have an anti-depressant effect because they decrease the
clearing of serotonin from the synaptic area, and thus increase its
activity. Similarly, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) increase
the activity of serotonin by preventing its breakdown by monoamine oxidase.
A person is said to be thought
disordered when others cannot follow his/her train of thought because it
is not logical.