Glossary of PSY352 Final Exam

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abnormal behavior
Patterns of thought, emotion, and actions that are “away from the normal” based on statistical, social-cultural, and/or functional standards.
abnormal psychology
The scientific study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and ultimately change abnormal patterns of functioning.
acute stress disorder
An anxiety disorder in which fear and related symptoms are experienced soon after a traumatic event, often including amnesia about the event, emotional numbing, and derealization, and lasting less than a month. Many victims later develop posttraumatic stress disorder.
Physical dependence on a substance, marked by tolerance, withdrawal symptoms during abstinence, or both.
A subjective feeling or emotional tone often accompanied by bodily expressions noticeable to others.
age of onset
Person’s age when he or she develops or exhibits symptoms of a disorder.
Inability to recognize and name objects; may be a symptom of dementia or other brain disorders.
Anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or help unavailable if panic symptoms were to occur.
Deficiency in the amount or content of speech, a disturbance often seen in people with schizophrenia. Also known as poverty of speech.
The additional identities along with the host identity in dissociative identity disorder.
American Law Institute (ALI) rule (1955)
A legal test for determining insanity if during criminal conduct, the individual could not judge right from wrong or control his or her behavior as required by law. Repetitive criminal acts are disavowed as a sole criterion. Compare M’Naghten rule and irresistible impulse.
amnestic disorders
Organic disorders involving deterioration in the ability to transfer information from short- to long-term memory, in the absence of other dementia symptoms, as a result of head trauma or drug abuse.
Inability to experience pleasure, associated with some mood and schizophrenic disorders.
anorexia nervosa
Eating disorder characterized by recurrent food refusal leading to dangerously low body weight.
antisocial personality disorder
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) personality disorder involving a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. Similar to the non-DSM label psychopathy but with greater emphasis on overt behavior rather than personality traits.
Mood state characterized by marked negative affect and bodily symptoms of tension in which a person apprehensively anticipates future danger or misfortune. Anxiety may involve feelings, behaviors, and physiological responses.
anxiety disorders
A varied group of disorders that all have anxiety, fear, or tension as an essential feature. Includes phobic disorders, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Impairment or loss of language skills resulting from brain damage caused by stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or other illness or trauma.
Loss of motor activities (such as walking).
A negative symptom of schizophrenia marked by an inability to form close relationships and to feel intimacy.
Asperger’s disorder
Pervasive developmental disorder characterized by impairments in social relationships and restricted or unusual behaviors, but without language delays seen in autism.
associative splitting
Separation among basic functions of human personality (e.g., cognition, emotion, perception) that historically was considered by some as the defining characteristic of schizo­phrenia.
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Developmental disorder featuring maladaptive levels of inattention, excessive activity, and impulsiveness.
auditory hallucinations
Psychotic disturbance in perception in which a person hears sounds or voices although these are not real or actually present. The voices are often critical, accusatory, or demanding.
attributional style
The relatively consistent explanations a person forms about why personal stressors or other negative life events occur, taking the form of internal vs. external, stable vs. unstable, and global vs. specific.
autistic disorder (autism)
Pervasive developmental disorder characterized by significant impairment in social interactions and communication, and restricted patterns of behavior, interest, and activity.
avoidant personality disorder
Cluster C (anxious or fearful) personality disorder featuring a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to criticism.
Apathy, or the inability to initiate or persist in important activities.
behavior therapy
Array of therapy methods based on the principles of behavioral and cognitive science as well as principles of learning as applied to clinical problems. It considers specific behaviors rather than inferred conflict as legitimate targets for change.
behavioral assessment
Measuring, observing, and systematically evaluating (rather than inferring) the client’s thoughts, feelings and behavior in the actual problem situation or context.
behavioral medicine
Interdisciplinary approach applying behavioral science to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of medical problems.
behavioral paradigm
Explanation of human behavior, including dysfunction, based on principles of learning and adaptation derived from experimental psychology.
binge-eating disorder
Pattern of eating involving distress-inducing binges not followed by purging behaviors; being considered as a new DSM diagnostic category.
biological paradigm
Explanation of psychological dysfunction that primarily emphasizes brain disorder or illness as the cause.
biopsychosocial model
The model that psychological disorders are not caused by one or two factors in a linear way; rather, they are a product of a continual interaction of a number of biological, psychological and social factors.
bipolar I disorder
The alternation of major depressive episodes with full manic episodes.
bipolar II disorder
The alternation of major depressive episodes with hypomanic (not full manic) episodes.
Conversion disorder wherein individuals have suffered lesions in the visual cortex and report themselves blind, but can perform well on some specific visual tests.
body dysmorphic disorder
A somatoform disorder marked by preoccupation with an imagined or exaggerated defect in appearance—for example, size/shape of nose/ears, facial wrinkles or excess facial or body hair.
borderline personality disorder
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) personality disorder involving a pervasive pattern of erratic moods, unstable identity, self-image, and relationships; intense, chronic anger, depression and impulsiveness often leading to suicide attempts.
brief psychotic disorder
Psychotic disturbance involving delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech or behavior, but lasting less than 1 month; often occurs in reaction to a stressor.
bulimia nervosa
Eating disorder involving recurrent episodes of uncontrolled excessive (binge) eating followed by compensatory actions to remove the food (e.g., deliberate vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise).
A variation of anorexia in which the individual turns to bingeing as a way of dealing with the recurrent violent hunger pangs he/she feels, and then goes on to purging as a way of keeping weight at very low levels.
Disorder of movement involving immobility or excited agitation.
catatonic type of schizophrenia
Type of schizophrenia in which motor disturbances (rigidity, agitation, odd mannerisms) predominate.
categorical classification
Places disorders in categories with the assumption that each disorder is clearly different from every other disorder (an "all-or-none" approach). Based on the medical model in which every diagnosis has a distinct set of characteristics and underlying cause.
childhood disintegrative disorder
Pervasive developmental disorder involving severe regression in language, adaptive behavior, and motor skills after a 2- to 4-year period of normal development.
civil commitment laws
Legal proceedings that determine a person is mentally disordered and may be hospitalized, even involuntarily.
clinical assessment
Systematic evaluation and measurement of psychological, biological, and social factors in a person presenting with a possible psychological disorder.
The process of knowing; the thinking, judging, reasoning, and planning activities of the human mind. Behavior is often explained as depending on these processes.
cognitive-behavioral paradigm
The model of human behavior that people can best be understood by studying how they perceive and structure their experiences and how this influences behavior.
cognitive therapy
Treatment approach that involves identifying and altering negative thinking styles related to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety and replacing them with more positive beliefs and attitudes-and, ultimately, more adaptive behavior and coping styles.
communication disorders
Problems in transmitting or conveying information, including stuttering, selective mutism, and expressive language disorder.
The presence of two or more disorders in an individual at the same time.
compensatory behaviors
In eating disorders, those behaviors intended to avoid gaining weight from ingesting food. Examples are purging, deliberate vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercising.
A legal term referring to the ability of an individual accused of a crime to participate in their own defense and understand the charges and the roles of the trial participants.
Repetitive, ritualistic, time-consuming behaviors or mental acts a person feels driven to perform to reduce anxiety.
conduct disorder
Pattern of extreme disobedience in youths, including theft, vandalism, lying, and early drug use. May be precursor of antisocial personality disorder.
conversion disorder
A somatoform disorder in which sensory or motor function are impaired (such as blindness or paralysis), even though there is no detectable neurological explanation for the deficits.
Pattern of development and change of a disorder over time.
course modifiers
Patterns of development in a disorder that help predict its future course. These include recurrence, time sequences, and seasonal patterns.
criminal commitment
Legal procedure by which a person who is found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity must be confined in a psychiatric hospital.
cyclothymic disorder
Chronic (at least 2 years) mood disorder characterized by alternating mood elevation and depression levels that are not as severe as manic or major depressive episodes.
defense mechanisms
Common patterns of behavior, often adaptive coping styles when they occur in moderation, observed in response to potentially threatening situations. In psychoanalysis, these are thought to be unconscious processes originating in the ego.
Systematic removal of people with severe mental illness or mental retardation out of institutions like psychiatric hospitals.
Rapid-onset reduced clarity of consciousness and cognition, with confusion, disorientation, and deficits in memory and language.
Psychotic symptom involving disorder of thought content and presence of strong beliefs that are misrepresentations of reality.
delusion of grandeur
A person’s unfounded belief that he or she is more famous or important than is true.
delusion of persecution
A person’s unfounded belief that others seek to harm him or her.
delusion (idea) of reference
A person’s unfounded belief that the actions, thoughts, laughter, and meaningless activities of others are directed toward or refer to him or her.
delusional disorder
Psychotic disorder featuring a persistent belief contrary to reality (non-bizarre delusion) but no other symptoms of schizophrenia.
Gradual-onset deterioration of brain functioning, involving memory loss, inability to recognize objects or faces, and problems in planning and abstract reasoning. These are associated with frustration and discouragement.
dementia of the Alzheimer’s type
Gradual onset of cognitive deficits caused by Alzheimer’s disease, principally identified by person’s inability to recall newly or previously learned material. The most common form of dementia.
dementia praecox
Latin term meaning “premature loss of mind,” an early label for what is now called schizophrenia, emphasizing the disorder’s frequent appearance during adolescence.
dependent personality disorder
Cluster C (anxious or fearful) personality disorder characterized by a person’s pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of, a condition that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation.
The loss of one’s sense of their own reality (e.g., feelings of being detached from yourself, feeling like you are in a dream; sensation of floating above or beside your body and observing yourself act).
depressive cognitive triad
Thinking errors in depressed people negatively focused in three areas: themselves, their immediate world, and their future.
The loss of one’s sense of reality of the outside world (e.g., things may seem to change size or shape; people may seem mechanical).
developmental psychopathology
Study of changes in abnormal behavior that occur over time.
Process of determining whether a presenting problem meets the established criteria for a specific psychological disorder.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV-TR)
Current version of the official classification system for psychological and mental disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
diathesis-stress model
Hypothesis that both an inherited tendency (a vulnerability) and specific stressful conditions are required to produce a disorder.
dimensional classification
A system of organizing the attributes of psychological disorders as occurring on a continuum or spectrum (such as a scale of mild to severe), rather than present or absent. Can specify a cutting point and resemble a categorical system.
disease model of dependence
View that drug dependence is caused by a physiological disorder. This implies the user is a blameless victim of an illness.
disorder of written expression
Condition in which one’s writing performance is significantly below age norms.
disorganized speech
Style of talking often seen in people with schizophrenia, involving incoherence and a lack of typical logic patterns.
The disconnection from full awareness of identity, memory, and/or consciousness of external circumstances. Occurs along a continuum from normal everyday experiences to severely dysfunctional disorders.
dissociative amnesia
Inability to recall personal information, usually of a stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
dissociative disorders
A group of disorders in which the primary symptoms are a disturbance in the normally integrative functions of identity, memory, and consciousness.
dissociative fugue
Amnesia in which person leaves familiar surroundings; sudden, unexpected travel away from home and inability to recall one’s past, sometimes with assumption of new identity; shows no distress.
dissociative identity disorder
Two or more identities (host + alters) which regularly take control of the person's behavior.
dissociative trance disorder
Altered state of consciousness in which the person believes firmly that he or she is possessed by spirits; can be culturally normal; must include distress and culturally-defined dysfunction to be considered abnormal. (Not an official DSM disorder).
double depression
Severe mood disorder typified by major depressive episodes superimposed over a background of dysthymic disorder.
Down syndrome
Type of mental retardation caused by a chromosomal aberration (chromosome 21) and involving characteristic physical appearance.
Durham Rule (1954)
A legal test for insanity by which an accused person is not responsible if the criminal behavior is judged attributable to mental disease or defect.
duty to warn
Mental health professional’s responsibility to break confidentiality and notify the potential victim whom a client has specifically threatened.
Thoughts, feelings, or behavior that is maladaptive or interferes with healthy daily functioning, positive growth, and fulfillment of potential.
Learning disability involving problems in reading.
A sexual pain disorder in which severe pain accompanies intercourse but is not traceable to any medical cause
dysthymic disorder
Mood disorder involving persistent and chronic depressed mood, with low self-­esteem, withdrawal, pessimism or despair, present for at least 2 years, with no absence of symptoms for more than 2 months.
An unusual pattern of behavior (idiosyncrasy, oddity) that others might find strange, but does not meet any other criteria of abnormality. Psychological disorders, by comparison, are usually based on dysfunction and distress.
Repetition or echoing of the speech of others, a normal intermediate step in the development of speech skills. Originally thought to be a unique symptom of autism, it is now seen as evidence of developmental delay involved in that disorder.
The scientific study of the prevalence, distribution, and consequences of disorders in populations.
episodic course
Pattern of a disorder alternating between recovery and recurrence.
All the factors that contribute to the development of a disorder.
Sexual gratification attained by exposing one’s genitals to unsuspecting strangers.
expectancy effect
People’s response to a substance on the basis of their beliefs about it, even if it contains no active ingredient. This phenomenon demonstrates that cognitive as well as physiological factors are involved in drug reaction and dependence. See placebo effect.
expert witness
Person who because of special training and credentials is allowed to offer opinion testimony in legal trials.
expressed emotion (EE)
The hostility, criticism, and overinvolvement demonstrated by some families toward a family member with a psychological disorder; this can often contribute to the person’s relapse.
exposure and response (ritual) prevention (ERP)
The most widely used and accepted treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which the affected individual is prevented from engaging in compulsive ritual activity and instead faces the anxiety provoked by the stimulus, leading eventually to extinction of the conditioned response (anxiety).
expressive language disorder
An individual’s problems in spoken communication, as measured by significantly low scores on standardized tests of expressive language relative to nonverbal intelligence test scores. Symptoms may include a markedly limited vocabulary or errors in verb tense.
factitious disorder
Disorder in which the individual’s physical or psychological symptoms appear under voluntary control and are adopted merely to assume the role of a sick person. Called factitious disorder by proxy or Munchausen syndrome when a parent produces a physical illness in a child.
An emotional response consisting of an immediate alarm reaction to present danger or life-threatening emergencies.
female orgasmic disorder
Recurring delay or absence of orgasm in some women following a normal sexual excitement phase, relative to their prior experience and current stimulation.
female sexual arousal disorder
Recurrent inability in some women to attain or maintain adequate lubrication and swelling sexual excitement responses until completion of sexual activity.
Long-term, recurring, intense sexually arousing urges, fantasies, or behavior involving the use of nonliving, unusual objects, which cause distress or impairment in life functioning.
flat affect
Apparently emotionless demeanor (including toneless speech and vacant gaze) when a reaction would be expected. See also: inappropriate affect.
Paraphilia in which the person gains sexual gratification by rubbing against unwilling victims in crowds from which they cannot escape.
gender identity disorder
Psychological dissatisfaction with one’s own biological gender, a disturbance in the sense of one’s identity as a male or female. The primary goal is not sexual arousal but rather to live the life of the opposite gender.
generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Anxiety disorder characterized by intense, uncontrollable, unfocused, chronic, and continuous worry that is distressing and unproductive accompanied by physical symptoms of tenseness, irritability, and restlessness.
genetic marker
Inherited characteristic for which the chromosomal location of the responsible gene is known.
genetic paradigm
The approach to human behavior that focuses on both heritability of traits and complex interactions between genes and environment.
Guilty But Mentally Ill (GBMI)
An alternative to the verdict Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity which allows for both treatment and punishment. The defendant is given 2 trials: first, to determine whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the criminal act, and second, to determine whether the defendant meets the criteria for insanity.
Psychotic symptoms of perceptual disturbance in which things are seen or heard or otherwise sensed although they are not real or actually present. Can occur in any of the 5 senses.
histrionic personality disorder
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) personality disorder involving a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking.
human genome project
The recently-completed comprehensive map of all human genes.
hypoactive sexual desire disorder
Apparent lack of interest in sexual activity or fantasy that would be expected considering the person’s age and life situation.
A somatoform disorder in which the person, misinterpreting rather ordinary physical sensa­tions, is preoccupied with fears of having a serious disease.
hypomanic episode
An extremely happy or irritable mood accompanied by symptoms like increased energy and decreased need for sleep, but without the significant functional impairment associated with mania.
inappropriate affect
Emotional displays that do not match the situation. See flat affect.
Number of new cases of a disorder appearing during a specific time period (compare with prevalence).
informed consent
Ethical requirement whereby research subjects agree to participate in a research study only after they receive full disclosure about the nature of the study and their own role in it.
In schizophrenia, an aspect of disorganized thinking wherein verbal expression is marked by disconnectedness, fragmented thoughts, and jumbled phrases.
irrational beliefs
Self-defeating assumptions that are assumed by rational-emotive therapists to underlie psychological distress.
irresistible impulse
The term originated in an 1834 Ohio court ruling on criminal responsibility that determined that an insanity defense can be established by proving that the accused had an uncontrollable urge to perform the act. Sometimes referred to as the “fit of passion” test.
Legal rather than psychological or medical concept involving both mental disorder and an inability to know or appreciate the wrongfulness of criminal acts.
la belle indifférence
The blasé attitude and low anxiety manifested people with certain somatoform disorders have toward their symptoms.
learned helplessness theory of depression
Seligman’s theory that people become anxious and depressed when they make an attribution that they have no control over the stress in their lives (whether in reality they do or not).
learning disorders
Reading, mathematics, or written expression performance substantially below levels expected relative to the person’s age, IQ, and education.
lease restrictive alternative
The legal principle according to which a hospitalized patient must be treated in a setting that imposes as few restrictions as possible on his or her freedom.
loose associations
Deficits in logical continuity of speech, with abrupt movement between ideas. A characteristic of schizophrenia also called derailment.
major depressive disorder, single or recurrent episode
Mood disorder involving one (single episode) or more (separated by at least two months without depression-­recurrent) major depressive episodes (Most common and severe experience of depression, including feelings of worthlessness, disturbances in bodily activities such as sleep, loss of interest, and the inability to experience pleasure, persisting at least 2 weeks).
male erectile disorder
Recurring inability in some men to attain or maintain adequate ­penile erection until completion of sexual activity.
male orgasmic disorder
Recurring delay in or absence of orgasm in some men following a normal sexual excitement phase, relative to age and current stimulation. Also known as inhibited male orgasm.
Deliberate faking of a physical or psychological disorder motivated by gain.
Period of abnormally excessive elation or euphoria, associated with some mood disorders.
manic episode
Period of abnormally elevated or irritable mood that may include inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, pressured speech, flight of ideas, agitation, or self-­destructive behavior.
manic defense
Model of mania in which mania is seen as a protection against a painful psychological state.
mental hygiene movement
Mid-19th-century effort to improve care of the mentally disturbed by informing the public of their mistreatment.
mental illness
Term formerly used to mean psychological or mental disorder but less preferred because it implies that the causes of the disorder can be found in a medical disease process.
mental retardation
Significantly below average intellectual functioning paired with deficits in adaptive functioning such as self-care or occupational activities, appearing prior to age 18.
M’Naghten Rule
An 1843 British court decision stating that an insanity defense can be established by proving that the defendant did not know what he or she was doing or did not realize that it was wrong. Widely accepted in U.S.
mixed manic episode
Symptoms of both mania and depression within the same week.
mood disorders
A varied group of disorders involving severe and enduring disturbances in emotionality ranging from elation to severe depression.
moral therapy
19th-century psychosocial approach to treatment that involved treating patients as normally as possible in normal environments.
moral weakness model of chemical dependence
View that substance abusers should be blamed because their behavior results from lack of self-control, character, or moral fiber.
Mower’s two-factor model
Mowrer's theory of avoidance learning according to which (1) fear is attached to a neutral stimulus by pairing it with a noxious unconditioned stimulus, and (2) a person learns to escape the fear elicited by the conditioned stimulus, thereby avoiding the unconditioned stimulus.
multiaxial classification
Categorization system, used in DSM- IV-TR, in which the individual is assessed on 5 types of information in order to provide a more complete picture of the disorder and its context.
narcissistic personality disorder
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) personality disorder involving a pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy or behavior, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
negative schema
Automatic, enduring, and stable negative cognitive bias or belief system about some aspect of life.
negative symptoms
Behavioral deficits or less outgoing symptoms, such as flat affect and poverty of speech, displayed by some people with schizophrenia.
An example of disorganized speech in schizophrenia referring to a word made up by the speaker, usually meaningless to a listener.
A type of antipsychotic medications, dopamine antagonists, that diminish delusions, hallucinations, and aggressive behavior in psychotic patients but that may also cause serious side effects. Fewer side effects are present with atypical antipsychotic medications.
neuropsychological testing
Assessment of brain and nervous system functioning by testing an individual’s performance on behavioral tasks.
neuroscience paradigm
A broad theoretical view that holds that mental disorders are caused in part by some aberrant process directed by the brain.
Obsolete psychodynamic term for psychological disorder thought to result from unconscious conflicts and the anxiety they cause. Plural is neuroses.
Recurrent intrusive thoughts or impulses the client seeks to suppress or neutralize while recognizing they are not imposed by outside forces.
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Anxiety disorder involving unwanted, persistent, intrusive thoughts and impulses as well as repetitive actions intended to suppress them.
obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
Cluster C (anxious or fearful) personality disorder featuring a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.
opponent-process theory
Explanation of drug tolerance and dependence suggesting that when a person experiences positive feelings these will be followed shortly by negative feelings, and vice versa. Eventually, the motivation for drug taking shifts from a desire for the euphoric high to a need to relieve the increasingly unpleasant feelings that follow drug use. A vicious cycle develops: The drug that makes a person feel terrible is the one thing that can eliminate the pain.
oppositional defiant disorder
An externalizing disorder of children marked by high levels of disobedience to authority but lacking the extremes of conduct disorder.
pain disorder
A somatoform disorder in which the person complains of severe and prolonged pain that is not fully explainable by organic pathology and is thus assumed to be caused or intensified by psychological factors.
panic attack
Abrupt experience of intense fear or discomfort in the absence of danger accompanied by a number of physical symptoms, such as dizziness or heart palpitations.
A set of basic assumptions (a model) that outlines the universe of scientific inquiry specifying both the concepts regarded as legitimate and the methods to be used in collecting and interpreting data.
Person’s irrational beliefs that he or she is especially important (delusions of grandeur) or that other people are seeking to do him or her harm.
paranoid personality disorder
Cluster A (odd or eccentric) personality disorder involving pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as mean or hostile. Tend to be humorless and argumentative.
paranoid type of schizophrenia
Type of schizophrenia in which symptoms primarily involve delusions and hallucinations; speech and motor and emotional behavior are relatively intact.
Sexual disorders and deviations in which sexual arousal occurs almost exclusively in the context of inappropriate objects or individuals.
Parkinson’s disease
Degenerative brain disorder principally affecting motor performance (e.g., tremors, stooped posture) associated with reduction in dopamine. Dementia may be a result as well.
Paraphilia (sexual deviation) involving strong sexual attraction toward children.
personality disorders
Enduring maladaptive patterns for relating to the environment and oneself, exhibited in a wide range of contexts that cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress.
personality tests (inventories)
Self-report questionnaires that assess personal traits by asking respondents to identify descriptions that apply to them.
personality trait
Enduring tendency to behave in particular predisposed ways across situations.
pervasive developmental disorders
Wide-ranging, severe, and long-lasting dysfunctions in social interactions that appear before the age of 18.
Psychological disorder characterized by marked and persistent fear of an object or situation.
phobic avoidance
Extreme keeping away from feared objects or situations displayed by people with phobias.
placebo effect
Behavior change resulting from the person’s expectation of change rather than from the experimental manipulation itself.
positive symptoms
Behavioral excesses or overt symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, in schizophrenia.
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Enduring, distressing emotional disorder that follows exposure to a severe helplessness- or fear-inducing threat. The victim reexperiences the trauma, avoids stimuli associated with it, and develops a numbing of responsiveness and an increased vigilance and arousal.
presenting problem
Original complaint reported by the client to the therapist. The actual treated problem may sometimes be a modification derived from the presenting problem.
Number of people displaying a disorder in the total population at any given time (compare with incidence).
privileged communication
The communication between parties in a confidential relationship that is protected by statute, in which a spouse, doctor, lawyer, pastor, psychologist, or psychiatrist thus cannot be forced to disclose, except under special circumstances.
Predicted future development of a disorder over time. Compare with course.
projective tests
Personality assessment measures that present ambiguous stimuli to clients on the assumption that their responses will reveal their unconscious conflicts.
Person who has earned an M.D. degree and then has specialized in psychiatry during residency training. Psychiatrists are trained to investigate primarily the biological nature and causes of psychiatric disorders, and to diagnose and treat them as well.
psychoactive substances
Substances, such as drugs, that alter mood or behavior.
psychoanalytic (psychodynamic) paradigm
Complex and comprehensive theory originally advanced by Sigmund Freud that seeks to account for the development and structure of personality, as well as the origin of abnormal behavior, based primarily on inferred inner entities and forces.
The component of treatment that helps people learn about symptoms, expected time course, triggers for symptoms, and treatment strategies.
psychologist, clinical
A mental health professional who has earned a Ph.D. degree in psychology or a Psy.D. and whose training includes understanding and treatment of psychopathology and has completed an internship in a mental hospital or clinic.
psychomotor retardation
Extremely slow physical movements. Also, deficits in motor activity and coordination development.
Scientific study of psychological and mental disorders.
Non-DSM category similar to antisocial personality disorder but with less emphasis on overt behavior; indicators include superficial charm, lack of remorse, and other personality characteristics.
psychophysiological assessment
Measurement of changes in the nervous system reflecting psychological or emotional events such as anxiety, stress, and sexual arousal. e.g. CT scan, PET scan, MRI, fMRI, EEG, GSR.
psychophysiological disorders
Disorders with physical symptoms that involve actual tissue damage, usually in one organ system, and that are produced in part by continued mobilization of the sympathetic nervous system under stress. Hives and ulcers are examples. A physical illness that is caused in part or exacerbated by stress. The term is misleading because it falsely implies that other psychological problems such as mood disorders do not also have significant biological components.
Group of severe, debilitating psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, featuring delusions and hallucinations.
psychotic depressive episode
Condition in which psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations accompany depressive episodes.
rapid cycling
Temporal course of a bipolar disorder when transitions between mania and depression are frequent, occurring four or more times in one year.
reciprocal gene-environment model
Hypothesis that people with a genetic predisposition for a disorder may also have a genetic tendency to create environmental risk factors that promote the disorder.
relapse prevention
Extending therapeutic progress by teaching the client how to cope with future troubling situations.
In psychoanalytic theory, a process that forces unwanted material from the conscious to the unconscious.
Rett’s disorder
Progressive neurological developmental disorder featuring constant hand-wringing, mental retardation, and impaired motor skills.
An underlying mental structure for organizing information about the world which is activated when the person encounters similar situations. Plural: schemata
schizoaffective disorder
Psychotic disorder featuring symptoms of both schizophrenia and major mood disorder.
schizoid personality disorder
Cluster A (odd or eccentric) personality disorder featuring a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships, indifferent to praise or criticism, and a restricted range of expression of emotions.
Devastating psychotic disorder that may involve characteristic disturbances in thinking (delusions), perception (hallucinations), speech, emotions, and behavior.
schizophreniform disorder
Psychotic disorder involving the symptoms of schizophrenia but lasting less than 6 months.
schizotypal personality disorder
Cluster A (odd or eccentric) personality disorder involving a pervasive pattern of interpersonal deficits featuring acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships (although they may desire social contact), as well as cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior.
seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Mood disorder involving a cycling of episodes corresponding to the seasons of the year, typically with depression occurring during the winter.
secondary gain
Additional reinforcers beyond primary gain that a person may obtain by the display of symptoms. These may include attention, sympathy, and avoidance of unwanted responsibilities.
selective mutism
Developmental disorder characterized by the individual’s consistent failure to speak in specific social situations despite speaking in other situations.
Process by which some individuals may abuse substances in attempting to use them to relieve other problems such as anxiety, pain, or sleeplessness.
separation anxiety disorder
Excessive enduring anxiety in some children that harm will come to them or their parents while they are apart.
sexual aversion disorder
Extreme and persistent dislike of sexual contact or similar activities.
sexual masochism
Paraphilia in which sexual arousal is associated with experiencing pain or humiliation.
sexual sadism
Paraphilia in which sexual arousal is associated with inflicting pain or humiliation.
shared psychotic disorder (folie à deux)
One of the psychotic disorders in which an individual develops a delusion similar to that of a person with whom he or she shares a close relationship.
social phobia
Extreme, enduring, irrational fear and avoidance of social or performance situations.
social worker
A mental health professional who holds a master of social work (M.S.W.) degree.
somatization disorder
A somatoform disorder in which the person continually seeks medical help for recurrent and multiple physical symptoms that have no discoverable physical cause, despite a complicated medical history that is dramatically presented.
somatoform disorders
A varied group of disorders in which symptoms suggest a physical problem but have no known physiological cause; believed to be linked to psychological conflicts and needs but not voluntarily acknowledged.
specific phobia
Unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation that markedly interferes with daily life functioning.
specifiers (e.g. in mood disorders)
Patterns of characteristics that sometimes accompany major depressive or manic episodes and may help predict their course and prognosis. These include psychotic, melancholic, atypical, catatonic, chronic, and with postpartum onset.
structured interview
A method in clinical assessment consisting of an interview in which the questions are set out in a prescribed fashion for the interviewer; assists professionals in making diagnostic decisions based on standardized criteria.
substance abuse
Pattern of psychoactive substance use leading to significant distress or impairment in social and occupational roles, and in hazardous situations.
substance dependence
Maladaptive pattern of substance use characterized by the need for increased amounts to achieve the desired effect, negative physical effects when the substance is withdrawn, unsuccessful efforts to control its use, and substantial effort expended to seek it or recover from its effects.
substance intoxication
Physiological reactions, such as impaired judgment and motor ability as well as mood changes, resulting from the ingestion of psychoactive substances.
substance-related disorders
Range of problems associated with the use and abuse of drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and other substances people use to alter the way they think, feel, and behave. These are extremely costly in human and financial terms.
subthreshold (subclinical) symptoms
Presence of symptoms of a disorder that are clinically significant but do not meet full diagnostic criteria.
suicidal ideation
Serious thoughts about committing suicide.
supernatural model
Explanation of human behavior and its dysfunction that attributes abnormal behavior to agents outside our control, such as demons, spirits, witches, devils, magnetic fields, phases of the moon and stars (lunacy), conflict between good and evil.
systematic desensitization
Behavioral therapy technique to diminish excessive fears, involving gradual exposure to the feared stimulus paired with a positive coping experience, usually relaxation.
Characteristic of the loose cognitive and verbal associations seen in schizophrenia in which the person fails to answer questions and quickly moves the conversation to unrelated topics.
tic disorder
Disruption in early development involving involuntary motor movements or vocalizations.
token economy
Behavior modification system effective in the treatment of schizophrenia and other disorders in which individuals earn items they can exchange for desired rewards by displaying appropriate behaviors.
tolerance (substance)
Need for increased amounts of a substance to achieve the desired effect, and a diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
Tourette’s disorder
Developmental disorder featuring multiple dysfunctional motor and vocal tics.
transvestic fetishism
Paraphilia in which individuals, usually males, are sexually aroused or receive gratification by wearing clothing of the opposite sex.
Part of the psychic makeup that is outside the awareness of the person.
unipolar mood disorder
Mood disorder characterized by depression or mania, but not both. Most cases involve unipolar depression, as unipolar mania is practically non-existent.
unshared environments
Term indicating that even identical twins living in the same home may have different prenatal and family experiences.

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