Glossary of Mental Health Terms

National Institute of Mental Health

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented approach to psychotherapy that stems from traditional behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. ACT has been used effectively to help treat workplace stress, test anxiety, social anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis. It has also been used to help treat medical conditions such as chronic pain, substance abuse, and diabetes.

ANTIDEPRESSANT Medication used to treat depression and other mood and anxiety disorders.

ANTIPSYCHOTIC Medication used to treat psychosis.

AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS Hearing something that is not real. Hearing voices is an example of auditory hallucinations.

CHRONIC Persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.

CLINICAL TRIAL A scientific study using human volunteers (also called participants) to look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments.

COGNITION Conscious mental activities (such as thinking, communicating, understanding, solving problems, processing information and remembering) that are associated with gaining knowledge and understanding.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR PSYCHOSIS (CBT-P) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that specifically addresses the positive symptoms of psychosis (e.g., hearing voices).

COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT – Experiencing difficulty with cognition. Examples include having trouble paying attention, thinking clearly or remembering new information. (Also see cognition)

COGNITIVE REMEDIATION – Training that uses a variety of techniques including computer exercises and adaptive strategies to improve cognition. This therapy is designed to strengthen the underlying brain functions that help support cognitive skills such as memory, attention and problem solving.

COMORBIDITY – The existence of two or more illnesses in the same person. These illnesses can be physical or mental.

DELUSIONS – Beliefs that have no basis in reality.

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, cope healthily with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others. It was originally intended for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) but has since been adapted for other conditions where the person struggles with emotional regulation or exhibits self-destructive behavior, such as disordered eating and substance misuse.

DUAL DIAGNOSIS – Having a mental health disorder and an alcohol or drug problem at the same time.

DURATION OF UNTREATED PSYCHOSIS – The length of time between the beginning of psychotic symptoms and the beginning of antipsychotic treatment.

EARLY INTERVENTION – Diagnosing and treating a mental illness when it first develops.

EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE – Treatments that are supported by clinical research.

FAMILY EDUCATION/SUPPORT – This part of coordinated specialty care teaches family and friends about first episode psychosis and helps them support the client’s recovery. Family and friends are involved in the client’s treatment as much as possible, and as long as it is consistent with the client’s wishes.

FIRST EPISODE PSYCHOSIS – The first time an individual experiences an episode of psychosis. Also see Psychosis.

FIRST EPISODE SCHIZOPHRENIA SPECTRUM – The first time an individual experiences an episode of psychosis. Also see Psychosis.

HALLUCINATIONS – Hearing, seeing, touching, smelling or tasting things that are not real.

INPATIENT – Health care treatment for someone who is admitted to a hospital (also see Outpatient).

INTERVENTION – An action intended to help treat or cure a condition.

LONG-ACTING INJECTABLE (drugs) – A shot of medication administered once or twice a month. The shot is an alternative to taking a daily dose of medication.

MOOD DISORDERS – Mental disorders primarily affecting a person’s mood.

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS (NAMI) – The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. NAMI is one of over 80 national nonprofit organizations that participate in the NIMH Outreach Partnership Program.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH (NIMH) – The lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS – Symptoms of schizophrenia are often classified as positive or negative. Examples of negative symptoms that “take away” from life include social withdrawal, lost interest in life, low energy, emotional flatness, reduced ability to concentrate and remember. (Also see Positive Symptoms)

OUTPATIENT – Health care treatment given to individuals who are not admitted to a hospital. (Also see Inpatient)

PHARMACOTHERAPY – Medication selection, dosing and management. Pharmacotherapy for first episode psychosis typically involves a low dose of a single antipsychotic medication and careful monitoring for side effects.

POSITIVE SYMPTOMS – Psychotic symptoms are often classified as positive or negative. Examples of positive symptoms that “add to” a person’s experiences include delusions (believing something to be true when it is not) and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that is not real). (Also see Negative Symptoms)

PSYCHOEDUCATION – Learning about mental illness and ways to communicate, solve problems and cope.

PSYCHOSIS – The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. A person in a psychotic episode may also experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation and difficulty functioning overall.

PSYCHOSOCIAL INTERVENTIONS – Non-medication therapies for people with mental illness and their families. Therapies include psychotherapy, coping skills, training and supported employment and education services.

PSYCHOTHERAPY – Treatment of mental illness by talking about problems rather than by using medication. Treatment for first episode psychosis is based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles and emphasizes resilience training, illness and wellness management, and coping skills. Treatment is tailored to each client’s needs.

RECOVERY – The process by which people with mental illness return or begin to work, learn and participate in their communities. For some individuals and their families, recovery means the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life.

SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

SOLUTION FOCUSED BRIEF THERAPY Unlike traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyze problems, pathology and past life events, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate coaching and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.

SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT/EDUCATION (SEE) – Part of coordinated specialty care, SEE services help clients return to work or school and achieve personal goals. Emphasis is on rapid placement in a work or school setting, combined with coaching and support to ensure success. Learn more at “What is supported education/employment and why is it important” on our Questions and Answers page