Glossary of terms and definitions
Anxiety (+ Show)
Anxiety is a general term that applies to a number of situations. Anxiety can be a general feeling of worry, edginess and fatiguing nervousness. Anxious people often feel their worry is irrational or ‘over the top’ but cannot seem to stop doing it.
Generalized anxiety (GAD) (+ Show)
People suffering wide-ranging anticipatory worry about everyday situations is called generalized anxiety and often occurs together with low mood and depression. GAD sufferers often report physical symptoms such as inability to concentrate, tension, poor sleep and feeling irritable.
Specific phobias (+ Show)
Specific phobias are irrational fears of a particular situation or object for example fear of flying, having a blood sample taken, or fear of a snake or spider.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (+ Show)
People can react very differently to trauma which might result from accidents, natural disasters or extreme violence. Some people who have had these experiences do not develop PTSD. Others will start to suffer PTSD which means they relive the distress by having repeated intrusive thoughts and images (or recurring distressing dreams), about the traumatic event. The person might keep on re-experiencing the incident in a very detailed way and as a result will seek to avoid any triggers that may remind them of the original incident. These memories can interfere with normal life and the person may start to become withdrawn. Symptoms that stem from the incident may include anxiety, mood and personality change, poor sleep and inability to concentrate.
Social Anxiety (+ Show)
This is often referred to as social phobia. This anxiety arises when thinking about and going into social situations. The fear is usually associated with worry that the socially anxious person will make a fool of themselves in front of others and be ridiculed or criticised.
Health Anxiety (+ Show)
Health anxiety or hypochondriasis is the worry that one has a serious disease. The sufferer misinterprets common physical symptoms and even medical reassurance is not sufficient to dispel the needless fear of significant disease. Others with health anxiety refuse to see a doctor at all because they fear the diagnosis.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) (+ Show)
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts or impulses that are counter intuitive and compulsions are usually repeated behaviours such as hand washing, checking, counting or lining up objects into strict symmetrical order. The purpose of the behaviour is to try to reduce anxiety. Most people without OCD double check they have their passport with them when going on holiday, or re-check they have secured their home when going out for the day. For people suffering from OCD the obsessions and compulsions are excessive, feel unreasonable and interfere with normal life.
Panic Disorder (+ Show)
Overwhelming panic suddenly and unexpectedly occurs. Symptoms can be physically intense and may include palpitations, dizziness, sweating, choking, trembling and breathlessness. The person may feel they are having a heart attack or other life threatening condition.
Agoraphobia (+ Show)
Agoraphobia is a fear of open environments where the person fears they are in unfamiliar territory and not in control.
Depression (+ Show)
Depression is a very common condition and it is thought that it will affect one in three people at some stage in their life. Some depressions occur as a response to a significant loss such as bereavement, divorce or redundancy. Other depressions just seem to develop over time with the depressed person feeling increasingly worthless and guilty. People with depression feel low and despairing and often do not feel like continuing with normal life because they no longer feel pleasure from activities that used to make them feel good. It is important to note that there are different degrees of depression from mild to very severe.
Some of the symptoms of depression include feeling tired and slowed down, poor sleep or oversleeping, loss of appetite or over eating and sometimes recurrent thoughts of suicide.
Bipolar disorder (+ Show)
Bipolar depression occurs when a person’s mood frequently swings from being extremely happy to very low. There does not seem to be any middle ground.
Bipolar disorder generally develops in late adolescence. It is treatable and can be well managed with medication.
Post natal depression (+ Show)
Post natal depression can occur between two weeks and two years after the birth of a baby and results in the mother feeling she cannot cope with the demands of the child. Symptoms are similar to general depression and the mother may feel overwhelmed, worthless and guilty. This condition should not be confused with the baby blues which is common and only lasts briefly, or post partum exhaustion which is brought on by fatigue caused by sleep deprivation.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (+ Show)
Seasonal affective disorder occurs when natural daylight hours are reduced in winter. People who live in the northern latitudes are most at risk.
In SAD sufferers the circadian rhythm (which operates on a 24 hour cycle) is disrupted due to lack of sunshine and daylight. This can result in feelings of sluggishness and fatigue. SAD sufferers can experience other anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Low self esteem (+ Show)
This is literally a low self worth or value. People with low self esteem feel they are not as important as others and can be driven to please others. People with low self esteem can be inclined to try and cope by being perfectionists.
Lack of Assertiveness (+ Show)
Being assertive means you can sensitively communicate your feelings or opinions in an honest way without violating the rights of others. Assertiveness is not aggressive, offensive or manipulative. People who lack assertion often have low self esteem and feel they do not want to upset others. They tend to agree with others to avoid confrontation. The consequence of not asserting oneself can lead to repression of true feelings and needs leading to feelings of overall dissatisfaction.
Lack of confidence (+ Show)
Low self confidence is linked to self esteem – but self confident people may have low self esteem. Self confidence is about being self assured and self reliant. Confidence may be based on achievement or positive experiences. People with low confidence tend to be unduly negative about their own abilities. Self confidence can be developed.
Problems with anger control (+ Show)
Anger is a natural emotion and can be used in a positive way such as correcting an injustice. Anger can also be negative and used a means to control others causing serious harm to all those involved. The angry person may feel insecure and lack self esteem. Repressed hurt and anger can build up and be released in inappropriate fury and violence. Angry people often and end up upsetting those people closest to them.
Jealousy (+ Show)
Jealousy is a natural emotion. Jealousy surfaces because of insecurity. The jealous person is often possessive, controlling and sometimes intimidating. Out of control jealousy is irrational and causes misery to all those involved.
Bulimia (+ Show)
In bulimia nervosa sufferers repeatedly binge eat large amounts of food usually starches and sugary food. To prevent weight gain the person vomits, over exercises, uses laxatives or diuretics. People with bulimia usually have insight and feel guilty and ashamed at their behaviour.
Addictions (+ Show)
Addictions often develop as an escape from other problems and people who have addictive behaviours find it difficult to stop. Examples are alcohol and drug dependence; gambling; gaming; smoking; sex; shopping and internet addiction.
Stress (+ Show)
A little stress can be motivating but too much can be overwhelming and incapacitating. Each person’s level of resilience to stress is different. Prolonged stress over a long period of time or sudden significant events such as job loss, relationship breakdown and bereavement can trigger anxiety and depression.
The information above consists of short definitions of conditions but is not a substitute for individual medical advice. If you are worried about your mental health you are advised to consult your medical practitioner.