Mental Health Diagnosis Terms

Dependence on a substance, such as alcohol or drugs. It's usually characterized by impaired control over and preoccupation with the use of the substance, as well as continued use of the substance despite adverse consequences.

Adjustment Disorder
A psychological response to a stressor that results in emotions or behaviors that are greater than would be expected by the stressor or that cause significant impairment in functioning effectively.

Affective Disorder
A type of mental disorder that primarily affects mood and interferes with the ability to function, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Also called mood disorder.

A type of anxiety disorder involving fear of public places or situations in which it seems escape might be difficult or embarrassing, such as a mall or crowded room. May also involve fear of places or situations in which help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or related symptoms.

A disease in which there's a craving for alcohol and continued drinking despite alcohol-related problems, such as legal trouble. It's also characterized by impaired control over your drinking, a physical dependence on alcohol, and alcohol tolerance, requiring increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects.

Memory loss.

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

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 or a morbid fear of weight gain that causes lack of appetite or severe restriction of food intake, resulting in extreme weight loss or starvation. Individuals with anorexia nervosa may also exercise excessively.

Antisocial Personality Disorder
A mental disorder in which there's a disregard for and violation of the rights of others. Behavioral patterns include deceitfulness, lack of conformity to social norms, and reckless disregard for the safety of others or the self

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders range from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing bouts of terror. Most people experience anxiety at some point in their lives and some nervousness in anticipation of a real situation. However, if a person can not shake unwarranted worries or if the feelings are jarring to the point of avoiding everyday activities, he or she most likely has an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders may be manifested by disturbances in mood or emotions, as well as by physiological symptoms, such as elevated blood pressure, rapid breathing and rapid heart rate.

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

Asperger's Syndrome
A developmental disorder typically arising in early childhood. It is characterized by impaired social functioning, lack of spontaneous sharing with others of interests or enjoyable activities, and lack of nonverbal communication, such as eye-to-eye contact.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, sometimes called ADHD, is a chronic condition and the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder among children and adolescents. It affects between 3 and 5 percent of school-aged children. Children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have difficulty controlling their behavior in school and social settings have poor concentration, difficulty remaining still and trouble controlling impulsive behavior. They also tend to be accident-prone. Although some of these young people may not earn high grades in school, most have normal or above-normal intelligence.

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.

Atypical Depression
A subtype of depression in which a person's mood temporarily lifts in response to positive events or social interactions, unlike depression, in which there's generally no lift in mood. Atypical depression may also be characterized by weight gain or an increased appetite and increased sleeping.

Binge-eating Disorder
Binge-eating is an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of compulsive overeating, but unlike bulimia, the eating is not followed by purging. During food binges, individuals with this disorder often eat alone and very quickly, regardless of whether they feel hungry or full.

Bipolar Disorder
Extreme mood swings punctuated by periods of generally even-keeled behavior characterize this disorder. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. This disorder typically begins in the mid-twenties and continues throughout life. Without treatment, people who have bipolar disorder often go through devastating life events such as marital breakups, job loss, substance abuse, and suicide.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Excessive preoccupation with imagined or slight imperfections in your appearance.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness, include pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. The instability can affect family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity.

Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by excessive eating. People who have bulimia will eat an excessive amount of food in a single episode and almost immediately make themselves vomit or use laxatives or diuretics (water pills) to get rid of the food in their bodies. This behavior often is referred to as the "binge/purge" cycle. Like people with anorexia, people with bulimia have an intense fear of gaining weight.

Chemical Imbalance
Having too much or too little of such brain neurotransmitters as serotonin or dopamine, which may play a role in depression and other mental illnesses.

A term used to describe long-lasting diseases or conditions.

Fear of enclosed spaces.

Conduct Disorders
Children with conduct disorder repeatedly violate the personal or property rights of others and the basic expectations of society. A diagnosis of conduct disorder is likely when these symptoms continue for 6 months or longer. Conduct disorder is known as a "disruptive behavior disorder" because of its impact on children and their families, neighbors, and schools.

Cognitive Disorders A set of disorders consisting of significant impairment of thinking (cognition) or memory that represents a marked deterioration from a previous level of functioning.

Cognitive Dissonance
A psychological phenomenon in which you have a conflict between beliefs and actions or between what you already know and new information gained through experience.

Two or more diseases or conditions occurring at the same time, such as anxiety disorder and depression.

An uncontrollable, repetitive and compelling urge to perform certain acts, such as hand washing, which has no immediate benefit beyond relief of anxiety. It's the behavioral manifestation of an obsession. See also obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Conduct Disorder A disorder in which youngsters have difficulty following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way, often engaging in bullying, intimidation and physical violence against people and animals.

Conversion Disorder
A type of mental disorder in which severe anxiety or emotional distress or conflict is expressed through physical symptoms, such as problems walking or moving or even blindness.

Emotional reactions a psychotherapist has toward clients based on unconscious needs and conflicts, as opposed to conscious responses. See also transference.

A sudden intensification of symptoms that results in marked inability to function and possibly raising the risk of harm to others or the person in crisis because of overwhelming emotion, disturbed thinking or risky behavior.

A form of self-injury or self-mutilation, done intentionally in an effort to seek relief from escalating emotional pain.

The swings in mood in bipolar disorder from depression to mania.

Defense Mechanism
A psychological process that protects you from anxiety or stressors by reducing or blocking your awareness of them.

A state of mental confusion, usually temporary, that is sometimes characterized by disordered speech and often accompanied by hallucinations.

A firmly held belief with no basis in reality. That is, clinging to a belief even when the evidence shows that it's false.

Dementia is a problem in the brain that makes it hard for a person to remember, learn and communicate; eventually is becomes difficult for a person to take care of himself or herself. This disorder can also affect a person's mood and personality.

Refusal to acknowledge some aspect of reality or personal experience.

Dependence, Drug
Compulsive need to take a drug or substance to produce a desired effect or prevent unpleasant effects if use is stopped.

Dependence, Psychological
A strong need to rely on another person or thing for emotional strength.

An alteration in the perception or experience of one's self, so that the self is felt to be unreal — detached from reality or one's own body or mental processes.

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by intense feelings of sadness that persist beyond a few weeks. Two neurotransmitters-natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with one another-are implicated in depression: serotonin and norepinephrine.

The process of cleansing the body of a drug, such as alcohol or other chemicals.

Attributing exaggerated negative qualities to the self or others.

A breakdown in the normally integrated functions of consciousness, identity, memory or perception of one's self or surroundings.

Dissociative Identity Disorder
A disorder involving a disturbance in identity, in which two or more separate and distinct personality states (identities) influence or direct behavior at different times. Sometimes called multiple personality disorder.

Double Depression
An episode of major depression that occurs along with dysthymia.

DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition)
An official manual of mental health problems developed by the American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other health and mental health care providers use this reference book to understand and diagnose mental health problems. Insurance companies and health care providers also use the terms and explanations in this book when discussing mental health problems.

Dual Diagnosis
Having a substance abuse problem along with another psychiatric disorder.

Involuntary muscle activity causing distorted movement of the lips, tongue, neck, arms or trunk, sometimes as a side effect of certain medications.

An emotional state characterized by malaise, anxiety, depression or unease.

A type of depression that is long-lasting — two to five years or more — and is less severe than major depression. It's characterized by a persistent gloomy mood.

Eating Disorder
A broad group of mental disorders characterized by abnormal and potentially harmful eating behaviors and habits, such as anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.

Factitious Disorders
Disorders in which a person fabricates illness or injury in order to gain attention, such as Munchausen syndrome.

An involuntary recurrence, often repeatedly, of a feeling, memory or experience from the past.

Hallucinations are experiences of sensations that have no source. Some examples of hallucinations include hearing nonexistent voices, seeing nonexistent things, and experiencing burning or pain sensations with no physical cause.

Histrionic Personality Disorder
A disorder in which your behavior is characterized by being overly dramatic, excessively sensitive to the approval of others, excessively concerned with your appearance, and by an exaggerated level of intimacy in relationships.

A prefix meaning excessive or increased.

A condition of disturbed behavior characterized by prominent overactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, difficulty concentrating and aggressiveness.

A prefix meaning inadequate or insufficient.

Excessive concern about health.

A mild form of mania characterized by increased energy, improved mood, irritability or decreased need for sleep. May be a precursor to a full manic episode.

Awareness and understanding of the origins and meanings of your attitudes, behaviors and feelings.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder
A disorder characterized by repeated episodes of aggressive, violent behavior.

A disorder characterized by a compulsion or impulse to steal or shoplift.

Fluctuating or changing, as when your mood shifts rapidly or frequently between sadness and happiness.

Magical Thinking
The erroneous belief that your thoughts or actions cause or prevent specific events or outcomes in the world, usually in defiance of the laws of physics or logic.

A mood disorder characterized by an intense feeling of elation or irritability and rapidly changing moods (mood lability), often accompanied by increased activity, rapid speech or distractibility.

Mental Disorder
A general term for a wide range of disorders that disrupt thinking, feeling, moods and behaviors, causing a varying degree of impaired functioning in daily life, and believed in many instances to be related to brain dysfunction. Also called mental illness.

Mental Health
A general term for a state of emotional and psychological well-being that allows you to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life. Or, the term for your overall emotional and psychological state.

Mental Health Problems
Mental health problems are real. They affect one's thoughts, body, feelings, and behavior. Mental health problems are not just a passing phase. They can be severe, seriously interfere with a person's life, and even cause a person to become disabled. Mental health problems include depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and conduct disorder.

Mental Illnesses
This term is usually used to refer to severe mental health problems in adults.

Mixed Episode
A period in which symptoms of both mania and depression occur at the same time or rapidly alternate with one another. Also called mixed type.

Munchausen Syndrome
A type of factitious disorder in which you try to appear sick or hurt to gain attention, or you actually harm yourself to receive medical attention.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A disorder in which you have an inflated sense of your own importance, an extreme preoccupation with yourself, an inability to empathize with others, and a propensity for attention-seeking behavior.

Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
A designation used as a broad diagnostic category when a person's condition doesn't precisely fit specific psychiatric categories or when a doctor doesn't have enough information for a specific diagnosis.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness. People who have it suffer from recurrent and unwanted thoughts or rituals. The obsessions and the need to perform rituals can take over a person's life if left untreated. They feel they cannot control these thoughts or rituals.

A recurrent unwanted thought, image or impulse that's distressing and comes to mind despite efforts to suppress or ignore it.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
An anxiety disorder characterized by intense, unwanted and distressing recurrent thoughts (obsessions) and repeated behaviors (compulsions) that are difficult to control.

Panic Disorder
An anxiety disorder characterized by chronic unexpected episodes of potentially disabling intense fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat and dizziness.

A mental disorder or an element of several other mental illnesses, characterized by suspicion, delusions of persecution and jealousy.

Passive Aggression
Indirectly and unassertively expressing aggression toward others, masking resentment or hostility.

Paranoia and Paranoid Disorders
Symptoms of paranoia include feelings of persecution and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. The disorder is present in many mental disorders and it is rare as an isolated mental illness. A person with paranoia can usually work and function in everyday life since the delusions involve only one area. However, their lives can be isolated and limited.

Enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to and thinking about yourself and the environment.

Personality Disorder
A broad term for a cluster of 10 different conditions marked by a variety of maladaptive personality traits and behaviors, such as paranoia, narcissism or sociopathy.

Phobias are irrational fears that lead people to all together avoid specific things or situations that trigger intense anxiety. They occur in several forms, for example, agoraphobia is the fear of being in any situation that might trigger a panic attack and from which escape might be difficult; social phobia is a fear of being extremely embarrassed in front of other people.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Researchers now know that anyone, even children, can develop PTSD if they have experienced, witnessed, or participated in a traumatic occurrence-especially if the event was life threatening. PTSD can result from terrifying experiences such as rape, kidnapping, natural disasters, war, or serious accidents such as airplane crashes. The psychological damage such incidents cause can interfere with a person's ability to hold a job or to develop intimate relationships with others.

The symptoms of PTSD can range from constantly reliving the event to a general emotional numbing. Persistent anxiety, exaggerated startle reactions, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, and insomnia are common. People with PTSD typically avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event, because they provoke intense distress or even panic attacks.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
A severe form of premenstrual syndrome whose symptoms include severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety and low energy.

Pre-existing Condition
A medical condition that is excluded from coverage by an insurance company because the condition was believed to exist prior to the individual obtaining a policy from the company. Many insurance companies now impose waiting periods for coverage of pre-existing conditions. Insurers will cover the condition after the waiting period (of no more than 12 months) has expired.

Pertaining to voluntary physical movement.

A mental disturbance characterized by a loss of contact with reality. Delusions and hallucinations are often present.

Pertaining to the relationship of the mind and body. Psychosomatic illnesses are those in which physical symptoms are caused or aggravated by emotional factors.

Thoughts or actions that are typical of earlier life stages, such as infancy or childhood.

Reappearance of disease signs and symptoms after apparent recovery.

Abatement of signs and symptoms.

Unwilled banishment of disturbing wishes, thoughts or experiences from conscious awareness.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by "positive" and "negative" symptoms. Psychotic, or positive, symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking (apparent from a person's fragmented, disconnected and sometimes nonsensical speech). Negative symptoms include social withdrawal, extreme apathy, diminished motivation, and blunted emotional expression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears related to fluctuations in the exposure to natural light. It usually strikes during autumn and often continues through the winter when natural light is reduced. Researchers have found that people who have SAD can be helped with the symptoms of their illness if they spend blocks of time bathed in light from a special full-spectrum light source, called a "light box."

Serious Emotional Disturbances
Diagnosable disorders in children and adolescents that severely disrupt their daily functioning in the home, school, or community. Serious emotional disturbances affect one in 10 young people. These disorders include depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, and eating disorders. Pursuant to section 1912(c) of the Public Health Service Act "children with a serious emotional disturbance" are persons: (1) from birth up to age 18 and (2) who currently have, or at any time during the last year, had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within DSM-III-R. Federal Register Volume 58 No. 96 published Thursday May 20, 1993 pages 29422 through 29425.

Serious Mental Illness
Pursuant to section 1912(c) of the Public Health Service Act, adults with serious mental illness SMI are persons: (1) age 18 and over and (2) who currently have, or at any time during the past year had a diagnosable mental behavioral or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within DSM-IV or their ICD-9-CM equivalent (and subsequent revisions) with the exception of DSM-IV "V" codes, substance use disorders, and developmental disorders, which are excluded, unless they co-occur with another diagnosable serious mental illness. (3) That has resulted in functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Federal Register Volume 58 No. 96 published Thursday May 20, 1993 pages 29422 through 29425.

Substance Abuse
Misuse of medications, alcohol or illegal substances.

Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about 30,000 lives a year. Ninety percent of persons who commit suicide have depression or another diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder. Suicide attempts are among the leading causes of hospital admissions in persons under 35. The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over the age of 85. Suicide can be prevented.

Sexual Abuse
Psychological or physical injury of a sexual nature, such as rape, incest, fondling and indecent exposure.

Social Anxiety Disorder
A type of anxiety disorder that causes significant anxiety and discomfort related to a fear of being embarrassed, judged, humiliated or scorned by others in social or performance situations. Also called social phobia.

Split Personality
A non medical term sometimes used to describe dissociative identity disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder) or, incorrectly, schizophrenia.

Intentionally avoiding thinking about disturbing problems, wishes, feelings or experiences.

A subjective manifestation of a condition that's reported by the individual and not observable by others, such as sadness.

Thought Disorder
Mental disorders characterized by an impaired perception of reality, such as schizophrenia.

An involuntary muscle spasm, usually of the face, head, neck or shoulder; a twitch.

Unconsciously attributing to others the feelings and attitudes that were originally associated with important people in your early life, such as your parents or siblings.

Mental disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to pull out your hair.