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Mental Health Resources

Glossary of Mental Health Terms

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by impaired control over a substance, such as alcohol, or a behaviour, such as gambling. Addiction typically involves negative consequences to the addict, their friends and family, such as financial problems, imprisonment or abuse. Substance related addiction is classified as either abuse - a pattern of maladaptive behaviour associated with the substance, or dependence - a long-term pattern of use involving increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorder is a blanket term for multiple irrational and pathological patterns of anxiety and fear. Anxiety disorders are very common and usually include physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and excessive sweating. Phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all examples of anxiety disorders. Substance abuse is common among sufferers and can exacerbate symptoms.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulty paying attention and elevated distractibility that causes significant social or academic difficulty. The disorder is 3-5 times more common in boys than girls.
Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain a normal body weight, a fear of gaining weight and misperceptions in body shape and size. There are sub-types of the disorder that include binge-eating and purging behaviour. Anorexia is far more prevalent in industrialized nations than developing ones and is 9 times more common in girls than boys.
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is not a single disorder but a category of mood disorders characterized by episodes of prolonged and profound depression alternating with periods of excessively elevated mood or irritability, known as mania. Between periods of high and low, sufferers can and often do lead productive lives. The disorder is commonly misdiagnosed as other forms of depression, which can lead to a worsening of symptoms from incorrect drug prescriptions.
Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating associated with emotional stress or a sense of a loss of control that leads to compensation behaviours to prevent weight gain. These behaviours can include purging, and improper use of laxatives or excessive exercise.
Clinical Depression
Depression is one of the most common psychiatric conditions and often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Depression is characterized by a pervasive depressed mood, a decreased ability to experience pleasure, and a loss of interest in your usual activities. There are many associated symptoms such as significant weight loss/gain, loss of energy, problems concentrating, suicidal thoughts and disordered sleep. Diagnosis is based on the combination and severity of symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a psychotherapy based on modifying thoughts and behaviours to treat various psychological disorders. Clients and therapists work together to identify and understand a disorder in the context of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
Personality Disorders
Personality disorders are persisting internal experiences or behaviours that are inappropriate with respect to the individuals culture and lead to distress or impairment. Psychiatrists group personality disorders into 3 clusters; odd/eccentric, dramatic/emotional erratic, and anxious/fearful.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. The sufferer may feel like they are reliving the event and develop problematic symptoms of emotional numbness or avoidance. While an emotional reaction to a stressful event is normal, if the reaction persists beyond a reasonable period of time, then it is classified as PTSD. The events experienced may be natural disasters, assaults, war or personal injury.
Schizophrenia is a severe disturbance in the brain’s functioning characterized by a constellation of positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and an altered sense of self. Negative symptoms can include a lack of motivation, a muted affect or personality, depression and social withdrawal. Schizophrenia is not well understood and may consist of several separate illnesses. The onset usually occurs in adolescence and early adulthood.