Glossary of Terms

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. Stressful situations such as meeting tight deadlines or important social obligations often make us nervous or fearful. Experiencing mild anxiety may help a person become more alert and focused on facing challenging or threatening circumstances.  But, individuals who experience extreme fear and worry that does not subside may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. The frequency and intensity of anxiety can be overwhelming and interfere with daily functioning. Fortunately, the majority of people with an anxiety disorder improve considerably by getting effective psychological treatment.

What are the major kinds of anxiety disorders? There are several major types of anxiety disorders, each with its own characteristics.

People with generalized anxiety disorder have recurring fears or worries, such as about health or finances, and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. The reason for the intense feelings of anxiety may be difficult to identify. But, the fears and worries are very real and often keep individuals from concentrating on daily tasks.

Panic disorder involves sudden, intense, and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread. People who suffer from this disorder generally develop strong fears about when and where their next panic attack will occur, and they often restrict their activities as a result.

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER/ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADD/ADHD) - This disorder, like most others, needs careful examination and assessment by a psychologist.  Other difficulties in childhood may have symptoms similar to ADD/ADHD but may not be, thus careful evaluation is necessary.  Symptoms of ADD are inattentiveness, while ADHD symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER - A pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and moods.  Individuals with this disorder may experience impulsivity, feelings of emptiness, inappropriate and intense anger, and self damaging behavior.

DEPRESSION - A depressive disorder is a disorder that affects one's body, mood, and thoughts.  It can also prevent one from falling asleep or staying asleep.  Additionally, one's appetite may increase or decrease, one may feel pervasively down, and that his/her down mood is not changing.  Depression is not a sign of weakness.  In general down moods, one may be able to lift him/herself up once the stressor lifts however , in a depressive disorder, the ability to lift oneself up is more difficult.  If left untreated, symptoms could last for weeks, months, or years.  Treatment is available and is effective to help alleviate suffering.

EATING DISORDERS - Eating disorders occur when one has a distorted body image.  Specifically, one may perceive they are overweight when the person is actually a normal weight or is underweight.  A person experiencing this may fear gaining weight.  Anorexia Nervosa, is an eating disorder in which a person severely limits food intake (restricting type) or experiences binging followed by purging (Binge-Eating/Purging Type).  Bulimia Nervosa, another eating disorder, involves binging and inappropriate compensatory behavior (such as self-induced vomiting, or using laxatives) in order to avoid gaining weight.

LEARNING DISABILITY - A disorder in which academic achievement lags behind general abilities and aptitude.  This is usually due to a cognitive processing difficulty.  This disorder is not due to, nor does it cause, behavioral disturbances, environmental factors, or low intelligence.

NEUROPSYCHOLOGY - A discipline within the field of psychology that studies and applies research to the area of the relationship between brain and behavior.  Psychologists that work in this area assess, diagnose, and treat patients with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric conditions. These psychologists also deal with learning disorders (see above) and cognitive disorders.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD) - A person with OCD may develop anxious thoughts and/or rituals that he/she feels they cannot control and believe an impending sense of trouble if the rituals are not completed.  Intense and disturbing thoughts and images are called obsessions while the rituals are called compulsions.  Some people with OCD may recognize that their behavior is senseless, yet they cannot seem to stop the behavior.  Others, however, may not realize their behavior is out of the ordinary.  A psychologist can assist a person by helping to change behavior and thoughts so the compulsions are no longer overwhelming or out of control.

PANIC DISORDER - People with this disorder have intense feelings of terror that strikes suddenly and can reoccur without warning.  A person with panic disorder may worry and be anxious in between attacks.  During a panic attack, a person may feel dizzy, faint, weak, and/or numb.  Additionally, a person may have chills, nausea, or chest pains.  His/her reality may be distorted and they may feel a sense of doom or loss of control.  Panic attacks usually last for no more than 10 minutes however, some do last longer.  Panic disorders are treatable with assistance from a psychologist.

PERSONALITY DISORDERS - A person's inner experiences are significantly different and deviate from the norm.  The differences may occur in thought patterns, behaviors, interpersonal functioning, and impulse control.  These deviations occur over a long period of time and are across a broad range of personal and social functioning.  As a result, a person may feel distress in his/her social, occupational, or personal areas of functioning.  Individuals may also be able to trace this distress and difficulty functioning to his/her adolescence and early adulthood.

PHOBIAS - Intense fears that actually pose no real threat or actual danger however can be extreme and/or irrational.  Some common phobias include fear of heights, water, dogs, blood, flying, or insects.  Phobias may begin in childhood and persist into adulthood.  Social phobias include intense fear and overwhelming anxiety about social situations.  Persons with social phobias may fear constantly being judged and also fear being humiliated by their actions.  Social phobias can be so strong they may interfere with work, school, or other social activities.  A psychologist can help target treatment to alleviate symptoms of phobias.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER - This disorder can develop after experiencing a terrifying real or perceived threat to self or others.  A person may have persistent frightening images, thoughts or memories, nightmares, and flashbacks related to the traumatic experience.  A person may feel emotionally numb with people he/she was once close to.  Anniversaries of the traumatic event can also produce flashbacks or intrusive images.  PTSD symptoms can be alleviated through targeted therapy.

STRESS MANAGEMENT - Clients learn various problem solving and coping mechanism skills and how to identify environmental triggers so that they may combat a stressful event before it becomes unmanageable as well as learn how to deal with internal stressors.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE - Involves intense and prolonged examination of a person's addiction and the general psychological needs.  The psychologist may determine the need for individual, family, or group therapy.  Treatment plans may include out-patient or in-patient treatment.  Self-help groups may also be necessary.