Mental Health Terms that I will be Using

Unless otherwise noted, all definitions have come from WebMD’s website.

Psychiatrist– medical doctor (MD) who graduated from medical school, has a year of medical internship and 3 years of residency in the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders.  Note: they diagnose and prescribe medications).

Psychologist– a person who has a doctoral degree in an area of psychology, the study of the mind and human behavior.  They’re not medical doctors.  A few states allow psychologists to prescribe a limited number of psychiatric medications in they’ve taken a course in psychopharmacology.

Inpatient– staying in a hospital for care.

Outpatient– a person who is not staying in a hospital for medical care treatment.

Bipolar I disorder– involves periods of severe mood episodes from mania to depression.

Bipolar II disorder– milder form of mood elevation, involving milder symptoms of hypomania that alternate with periods of severe depression.

Cyclothymic disorder– describes periods of hypomania with brief periods of depression that are not as extensive or long-lasting as seen in full depressive episodes.

Mixed features– refers to the occurence of simultaneous syptoms of opposite mood polarities during manic, hypomanic or depressive episodes.  It’s marked by high energy, sleeplessness and racing thoughts.  At the same time, the person may feel hopeless, despairing, irritable and suicidal.

Rapid-cycling– a term than describes having four or more mood episodes within a 12-month period.  Episodes must last for some minimum number of days in order to be considered distinct episodes.  Some people also experience changes in polarity from high to low or vice-versa within a single week, or even within a single day… (definition continued on the WebMD website).

Mania– describes the times when someone with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident.  These feelings can involve irritability and impulsive or reckless decision-making.  About half of people during mania can also have delusion or hallucinations.

Hypomania– describes milder symptoms of mania, in which someone does not have delusion or hallucination, and their high sypmtoms do not interfere with their everyday life.

Depressive– describes the times when the person feels very sad or depressed.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)– Characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lean you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).  It’s also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD.  (

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)– a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it.  (

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)– excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that interfere with day-to-day activities. (

Dual-diagnosis– term used when a person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder and a problem with alcohol or drugs.  A person who has a dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses and each illness needs its own treatment plan. (

Antipsychotic– a class of medicines used to treat psychosis and other mental and emotional conditions. (www.medical-dictionary.thefree

Mood stabilizer– mood-stabilizing medicines for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  Mood stabilizers can help to treat mania and to prevent the return of both manic and depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.  They may also help for treating the mood problems associated with schizophrenia, such as depression.

Antidepressant– medicines that relieve symptoms of depressive disorders.  (



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