Hypo-what? Anti-this? Neuro-that? Tri-whatsis? Here's your guide to medical-speak in the mental health world.
Acute: Refers to a disease or condition that develops rapidly and is intense
and of short duration.
or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language.
Mental health care that emphasizes the interrelationship between mind,
body, and spirit. Although some alternative approaches have a long history,
many remain controversial.
Antianxiety medications: Used to treat anxiety disorders. Antianxiety
medications include the benzodiazepines and buspirone (BuSpar).
Alternative therapy for bipolar disorder. It is as effective in non-rapid-cycling
bipolar disorder as lithium and appears to be superior to lithium in rapid-cycling
medications: Antidepressants take away or reduce the symptoms of depression
and help depressed people feel the way they did before they became depressed.
Antimanic medications: Used to treat symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder.
medications: Used to treat symptoms of a psychotic illness such as
schizophrenia or certain stages of bipolar disorder.
Anxiety: An abnormal sense of fear, nervousness, and apprehension about something
that might happen in the future.
Anxiety disorders: Any of a group of chronic disorders ranging from feelings of uneasiness
to immobilizing bouts of terror. Anxiety
disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic
stress disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
lack of energy and strength.
Behavioral healthcare: Continuum of services for
individuals at risk of, or suffering from, mental, addictive, or other
behavioral health disorders.
Behavioral Therapy: Therapy focusing on changing unwanted behaviors
through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization. Desensitization,
or Exposure Therapy, is a process of confronting something that arouses
anxiety, discomfort, or fear and overcoming the unwanted responses.
Biomedical Treatment: Treatment involving medication. The kind of medication a psychiatrist
prescribes varies with the disorder and the individual being treated.
Bipolar Disorder: A depressive disorder in which a person alternates between episodes of
major depression and mania (periods of abnormally and persistently elevated
mood). Also referred to as manic-depression.
Caregiver: A person who has special training to help people with mental health problems,
such as social workers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentors.
Case manager: An individual who organizes and coordinates services
and supports for persons with mental health problems and their families.
(Also: service coordinator, advocate, and facilitator.)
to a disease or condition that persists over a long period of time.
Therapy: Aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns
that can lead to feelings and behaviors that may be troublesome, self-defeating,
or self-destructive. The goal is to replace such thinking with a more
balanced view that, in turn, leads to more fulfilling and productive behavior.
Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy: A combination of cognitive and behavioral
therapies that helps people change negative thought patterns, beliefs,
and behaviors so they can manage symptoms and enjoy more productive, less
COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): An act
that allows workers and their families to continue their employer-sponsored
health insurance for a certain amount of time after terminating employment.
Consumer: Any individual who does or could receive health care
or services. Also, beneficiary, client, customer, eligible member, recipient,
Cyclothymia: A mood disorder characterized by periods of mild depression followed by
periods of normal or slightly elevated mood.
DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition):A book published by the American
Psychiatric Association that gives general descriptions and characteristic
symptoms of different mental illnesses. Physicians and other mental health
professionals use the DSM-IV to confirm diagnoses for mental illnesses.
Day treatment: Treatment including special education, counseling,
parent training, vocational training, skill building, crisis intervention,
and recreational therapy for at least 4 hours a day.
Deductible: The amount an individual must pay for health care expenses
before insurance (or a self-insured company) begins to pay its contract
share. Often insurance plans are based on yearly deductible amounts.
Delusions: A false belief that persists even when a person has
evidence that the belief is not true.
Depression/MDD (major depressive
disorder): A mood disorder characterized by intense feelings of
sadness that persist beyond a few weeks. A group of diseases that includes
major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder (manic-depression).
Diagnostic Evaluation: The aims of a general psychiatric evaluation
are 1) to establish a psychiatric diagnosis, 2) to collect data sufficient
to permit a case formulation, and 3) to develop an initial treatment plan,
with particular consideration of any immediate interventions that may
be needed to ensure the patient's safety, or, if the evaluation is a reassessment
of a patient in long-term treatment, to revise the plan of treatment in
accord with new perspectives gained from the evaluation.
Disease: An impairment of health or a condition of abnormal functioning
often characterized by typical patient problems (symptoms) and physical
disturburbance or interruption of the normal structure or function of
the body or mind that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms
Dose: A quantity
to be administered at one time, such as a specified amount of medication.
Dually Diagnosed: A person who has both an alcohol or drug problem and an emotional/psychiatric
problem is said to have a dual diagnosis.
Dysphoria, dysphoric: A negative mood state characterized by agitation, anger, impatience, anxiety
Dysthymic disorder: A mood disorder characterized by depressed feeling, loss of interest or
pleasure in one's usual activities, and some of the following: altered
appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, lack of energy, poor concentration,
and feelings of hopelessness. Symptoms are less severe than those of major
ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy):
A highly controversial technique using low voltage electrical stimulation
of the brain to treat some forms of major depression, acute mania, and
some forms of schizophrenia. This potentially life-saving technique is
generally considered only when other therapies have failed, when a person
is seriously medically ill and/or unable to take medication, or when a
person is very likely to commit suicide.
Employee Assistance Plan (EAP): Resources provided by employers
either as part of, or separate from, employer-sponsored health plans.
EAPs typically provide preventive care measures, various health care screenings,
and/or wellness activities.
feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being sometimes exaggerated
in mood disorders as mania.
in the "normal" range, without manic or depressive symptoms.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Among its many
responsibilities, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration protects the public
health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of prescription
and over-the-counter drugs. The FDA also helps speed innovations that
make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable; and provides
accurate, science-based information to the public.
Anxiety Disorder (GAD): An anxiety disorder characterized by consistent
feelings of anxiety for a period of at least six months and accompanied
by symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance.
practice and most state laws require that a generic drug be generically
equivalent to its brand-name counterpart, with the same active ingredients,
strength, and dosage form and have the same medical effect. Some drugs
are protected by patents and supplied by only one company. When the patent
expires, other manufacturers can produce its generic version.
passed from parents to offspring through genes.
Maintenance Organization (HMO): A health care model involving contracts
with physicians organized as a partnership, professional corporation,
or other association. The health plan compensates the medical group for
contracted services at a negotiated rate, and that group is responsible
for compensating its physicians and contracting with hospitals for care
of their patients.
Group Therapy: Therapy involving groups of usually 4 to 12 people
who have similar problems and who meet regularly with a therapist. The
therapist uses the emotional interactions of the group's members to help
them get relief from distress and possibly modify their behavior.
(Health Maintenance Organization): A type of managed care plan that
acts as both insurer and provider of a comprehensive set of health care
services to an enrolled population. Services are furnished through a network
Hallucination: The perception of something, such as a sound or visual image, that is
not actually present other than in the mind.
Hypersomnia: Excessive sleepiness; prolonged nighttime sleep, difficulty staying awake
during the day.
Hypomanic: A mild, nonpsychotic form of mania,
characterized by increased levels of energy, physical activity, and talkativeness.
MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) were the first type of antidepressant in
use.. Researchers believe MAOIs relieve depression by preventing the enzyme
monoamine oxidase from metabolizing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine,
serotonin and dopamine in the brain. As a result, these levels remain
high in the brain, boosting mood.
MRI (magnetic resonance
imaging): An imaging technique that uses magnetic fields to take pictures
of the structure of the brain.
of intense mental and physical hyperactivity, elevated mood, and agitation.
Manic-depression: See bipolar disorder.
Managed Care: An organized system for delivering comprehensive mental health services
that allows the managed care entity to determine what services will be
provided to an individual in return for a prearranged financial payment.
Generally, managed care controls health care costs and discourages unnecessary
hospitalization and overuse of specialists, and the health plan operates
under contract to a payer.
Medicaid: A health insurance assistance program funded by Federal,
State, and local monies. It is run by State guidelines and assists low-income
persons by paying for most medical expenses.
Medicare: A Federal insurance program serving the disabled and persons over the age of 65. Most costs are paid via trust funds that
beneficiaries have paid into throughout the courses of their lives; small
deductibles and some co-payments are required.
Medication Therapy: Prescription, administration, assessment of
drug effectiveness, and monitoring of potential side effects of psycho-tropic
Mental health professionals: See Alphabet
Mental illness: A health condition that changes a person's thinking, feelings, or behavior
(or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning.
Mixed states: The
occurrence of symptoms of mania and depression together. A person may
feel sad and hopeless while at the same time feeling extremely energized.
Also called dysphoric mania, mixed mania, or agitated depression
Mood disorders: Mental disorders whose essential feature is a disturbance of mood manifested
as one or more episodes of mania, hypomania, depression, or some combination:
Bipolar I and bipolar
II disorders, cyclothymic disorder; major depressive disorder and
Mood stabilizer: Lithium and/or an anticonvulsant for
treatment of bipolar disorder, often combined with an antidepressant.
Research has shown that treatment with an antidepressant alone increases
the risk that the patient will switch to mania or hypomania, or develop
Neurotransmitters: Chemical substance that transmits
information from one neuron to another by crossing the space between two
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: an anxiety disorder characterized by
recurrent thoughts, feelings, ideas or sensations (obsessions) or behaviors
that makes a person feel driven to perform (compulsions).
Off-label use: Medications used for a different condition, different dosage, or other
use not mentioned in the FDA-approved labeling. Off-label use is not prohibited by the FDA.
PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): A health plan in which consumers may
use any health care provider on a fee-for-service basis. Consumers will
be charged more for visiting providers outside of the PPO network than
for visiting providers in the network
Panic disorder: An anxiety disorder in which people have feelings
of terror, rapid heart beat, and rapid breathing that strike suddenly
and repeatedly with no warning. A person who has panic disorder cannot
predict when an attack will occur and may develop intense anxiety between
episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike.
intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Examples
of phobias include fear of closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels,
highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood.
Primary care physician
(PCP): Physicians with the following specialties: group practice,
family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics.
The PCP is usually responsible for monitoring an individual's overall
medical care and referring the individual to more specialized physicians
for additional care.
medications: Drugs which are used to treat the symptoms of mental
Psychiatrist/psychologist/therapists: See Alphabet Soup
serious mental disorder in which a person loses contact with reality and
experiences hallucinations or delusions.
Psychotherapy: A treatment method for mental illness in which a mental health professional
(psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor) and a patient discuss problems
and feelings to find solutions. Psychotherapy can help individuals change
their thought or behavior patterns or understand how past experiences
affect current behaviors.
cycling: Experiencing changes in mood from mania to major depression,
or mixed states, within hours, days or months.
molecule that recognizes specific chemicals, including neurotransmitters
and hormones, and transmits the message into the cell on which the receptor
reoccurrence of symptoms of a disease.
Serotonin: A neurotransmitter that most likely contributes to the regulation of sleep,
appetite, and mood. People experiencing depression or anxiety often have
a serotonin deficiency.
of illness which are observed by the examiner rather than reported by
serotonin reuptake inhibitors: A class of antidepressants that act within
the brain to increase the amount of the neurotransmitter, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine
or 5-HT), in the synaptic gap by inhibiting its reuptake.
Stigma: A negative
stereotype about a group of people.
that indicates the presence of a disease.
collection of physical signs and symptoms that, when occurring together,
are characteristic of a specific condition.
TCA (Tricyclic) antidepressants: A class of antidepressant drugs first used in the 1950s.
They are named after the drugs' molecular structure, which contains three
rings of atoms Tricylic antidepressants are generally thought to work
by inhibiting the re-uptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine,
or serotonin by nerve cells.
Third party payer: A public or private organization that is responsible for the health care
expenses of another entity.
gradually increase or decrease the dose of a drug; to raise drug dose
over time to target dose.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Services that
include job finding/development, assessment and enhancement of work-related
skills, as well as provision of job experience to clients/patients.
National Institute of Mental Health
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
and various medical dictionaries
Page updated 2014.