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Mental Health Glossary

Mental health is defined as how a person thinks, feels, and acts when faced with life’s situations. It is how people see themselves, their lives, and the other people in their lives. It's how they evaluate their challenges and problems, and explore choices.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a person who has a mental health problem can often be treated successfully with a combination of psychotherapy and medication, if appropriate.

Knowing the definitions of the following terms can help you recognize a disorder and seek help for yourself or someone you love.

  • Anxiety disorders range from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing terror. If a person can’t shake unwarranted worries, or if the feelings are jarring to the point the person avoids everyday activities, he or she may have an anxiety disorder.

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder affects and estimated 3 to 5 percent of school children. Children and adolescents with the disorder have difficulty controlling their behavior in school and social settings.

  • Behavioral therapy focuses on changing unwanted behaviors through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization.

  • Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme high and low mood swings punctuated by periods of even-keeled behavior.

  • Borderline personality disorder causes symptoms that include changing moods and problems with personal relationships, self-image, and behavior.

  • Cognitive therapy aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns that can lead to troublesome, self-defeating, or self-destructive feelings and behaviors.

  • Delusions are bizarre thoughts that have no basis in reality.

  • Dementia is a problem in the brain that makes it hard for a person to remember, learn, and communicate.

  • Depression is a mood disorder characterized by intense feelings of sadness that persist more than two weeks.

  • Hallucinations are experiences or 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.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes people to 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.

  • Panic disorder is a mental illness causing heart-pounding terror that strikes suddenly and without warning. People with this condition can’t predict when a panic attack will seize them. They live in fear that an attack could overcome them at any moment.

  • Paranoid disorders cause feelings of persecution and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

  • Phobias are irrational fears leading people to avoid specific things or situations that trigger intense anxiety.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that develops as a result of witnessing or experiencing a traumatic occurrence, especially a life-threatening event.

Mental health is as important to well-being as physical health. See your health care provider for more information or a diagnosis if you believe you could have a mental health problem.