Glossary of Mental Health Terms
Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.
ADHD is a developmental disorder associated with an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. The symptoms of ADHD can interfere significantly with an individual’s daily activities and relationships. ADHD begins in childhood and can continue into the teen years and adulthood.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic or episodic (which means occurring occasionally and at irregular intervals) mental disorder. It can cause unusual, often extreme and fluctuating changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus. Bipolar disorder sometimes is called manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, which are older terms.
Borderline personality disorder is an illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships with other people. A person with borderline personality disorder may experience episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from a few hours to days. Recognizable symptoms typically show up during adolescence (teenage years) or early adulthood, but early symptoms of the illness can occur during childhood.
Everyone feels sad or low sometimes, but these feelings usually pass with a little time. Depression (also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is different. It can cause severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. It is an illness that can affect anyone—regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. Research suggests that genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role in depression.
Depression may occur with other mental disorders and other illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain. Depression can make these conditions worse, and vice versa. Sometimes medications taken for these illnesses cause side effects that contribute to depression symptoms.
Eating disorders are serious, biologically influenced medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to one’s eating behaviors. Although many people may be concerned about their health, weight, or appearance from time to time, some people become fixated or obsessed with weight loss, body weight or shape, and controlling their food intake. These may be signs of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are not a choice. These disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health. In some cases, they can be life-threatening. With treatment, however, people can recover completely from eating disorders.
OCD is a common, long-lasting disorder characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that can lead people to engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
Although everyone worries or feels the need to double-check things on occasion, the symptoms associated with OCD are severe and persistent. These symptoms can cause distress and lead to behaviors that interfere with day-to-day activities. People with OCD may feel the urge to check things repeatedly or perform routines for more than an hour each day as a way of achieving temporary relief from anxiety. If OCD symptoms are not treated, these behaviors can disrupt work, school, and personal relationships and can cause feelings of distress.
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes combat veterans as well as people who have experienced or witnessed a physical or sexual assault, abuse, an accident, a disaster, a terror attack, or other serious events. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are no longer in danger.
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. In some cases, learning that a relative or close friend experienced trauma can cause PTSD.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem as though they have lost touch with reality, which can be distressing for them and for their family and friends. The symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult to participate in usual, everyday activities, but effective treatments are available. Many people who receive treatment can engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.
In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD or summer depression and is less common.
Stress is our body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress. It is often triggered when we experience something new, unexpected or that threatens our sense of self, or when we feel we have little control over a situation.
We all deal with stress differently. Our ability to cope can depend on our genetics, early life events, personality and social and economic circumstances.