This glossary of nontechnical descriptions of technical terms was prepared by Dr. Ted Sarbin and Dr. Leissa Nelson of the Defense Personnel Security Research Center
abreaction: expressing feelings that have been suppressed.
acrophobia: excessive fear of heights.
acute: sudden onset and brief duration (as opposed to chronic).
adjustment disorder: a reaction to a stressful event or circumstances that causes significant distress or impairs work performance or social relationships.
affect: generally, a synonym for feelings, moods, emotions.
affective disorders: conditions in which feelings of sadness or elation are excessive and not realistic, given the person's life conditions. Depression and mania are affective disorders.
agitation: (psychomotor agitation) excessive motor activity that coincides with and is accompanied by feelings of inner tension. The activity is usually repetitious and pointless and may include pacing, fidgeting, wringing of the hands, pulling of clothes, and inability to sit still.
agoraphobia: unrealistic fear of open spaces.
ambivalence: contradictory attitudes toward a person, such as love and hate, that occur at the same time.
anesthesia: numbness of part of the body surface, absence of sense of touch.
anorexia nervosa: aversion to food, usually caused by psychological conditions.
antisocial personality: persons who are in constant conflict with society, without conscience, incapable or unwilling to establish bonds of affection or loyalty (see also sociopath, psychopath).
anxiety: a state characterized by apprehensiveness, nervousness, fear.
atypical: not typical, unusual or infrequent.
axis: some psychiatric reports classify patients on five dimensions or axes. See Five-Axis System of Psychiatric Evaluations.
avoidant personality: a pervasive pattern of avoiding interpersonal contact for fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
bipolar disorder: behavior that involves both depressive and manic episodes (depressive = unusual degree of sadness; manic = excitable, expansive, unrealistically cheerful).
borderline personality: a term applied to very unstable persons who are impulsive, unpredictable, often self-destructive, and deficient in interpersonal skills.
bulimia: a disorder characterized by periods of overeating followed by induced vomiting or the use of laxatives.
chronic: a condition of lengthy duration; sometimes used to mean irreversible and incurable.
comorbidity: the appearance of two or more illnesses at the same time, such as the co-occurrence of schizophrenia and substance abuse or of alcohol dependence and depression.
compulsion: an irrational and repetitive impulse to perform some act, e. g. frequent hand washing.
compulsive personality: excessive concern with rules, efficiency, order, neatness, and punctuality.
conduct disorder: patterns of behavior that consistently violate established norms, usually applied to children and adolescents.
conversion reaction: bodily symptoms, in the absence of any tissue damage, that symbolize the patient's psychological conflict.
defense mechanism: a pattern of behavior that protects the person from anxious feelings.
delusion: a persistent or dominating false conception regarding matters of fact, and which is resistant to reason.
dementia: impairment of mental abilities, such as memory and problem-solving.
dependent personality: a person who lacks of self-confidence, is easily influenced through dependence on others, and often avoids initiating action.
depressed affect: refers to sadness or depression.
depression: extreme sadness, often accompanied by self-blame.
dissociation: the action of separating psychological processes that ordinarily are associated or connected; for example, upon experiencing misfortune the person fails to show expected or conventional signs of sadness.
DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; Fourth Edition. This is the generally accepted manual for diagnosing psychiatric disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.
dysfunction: impairment of judgment or action, abnormal function.
dyslexia: reading disorder characterized by omission, distortion, and modification of words while reading, often leading to avoidance of situations requiring normal reading skills.
dysphoria: unhappy, feeling bad, unpleasant feelings (opposite of euphoria).
dysthymia: a chronic type of depression that occurs on most days and lasts for a period of 2 or more years.
ego-dystonic: refers to thoughts, images, and feelings that a person regards as alien, unwanted, and inconsistent with self-image.
endogenous depression: feelings of sadness attributable to internal causes in the absence of external circumstances such as loss of job, death of a loved one, etc.
entitlement: unreasonable expectation of especially favorable treatment.
epilepsy: a physical illness, not a mental illness, characterized by seizures and loss of consciousness. Epileptics who conscientiously take standard doses of medication and who are free of seizures are not a security concern. Unusually high doses of medication or continued seizures indicate need for a medical evaluation.
exhibitionism: displaying one's genitals or other private parts to an involuntary observer for the purpose of sexual arousal.
exogenous depression: feelings of sadness associated with external circumstances such as loss of job, death of a spouse, not winning a coveted prize, etc.
euphoria: feeling good, experiencing pleasant feelings.
flashback: vivid, intense reliving of a past experience, usually an experience associated with the use of mind-altering drugs or post-traumatic stress disorder.
functional psychosis: severe disturbance in thought, emotional display, and overt conduct in the absence of brain damage, intoxication, or chemical imbalance.
grandiosity: exaggerated self importance, conceited, exaggerated expectations of recognition for ordinary job performance.
hallucination: the report of imaginings that are bizarre and that others regard as inappropriate. The person "sees" things or events, or "hears" voices that cannot be validated by others.
histrionic personality: a person who is typically overly dramatic, usually for the purpose of manipulating others.
hysteria: a diagnostic term that has been replaced by either histrionic personality or conversion reaction. Historically, bodily symptoms in the absence of organic pathology.
inappropriate affect: an affect type that is unusual and does not match with the circumstances or the content or speed or thought.
kleptomania: a persistent neurotic impulse to steal, especially without economic motive.
labile affect: abnormal, sudden, rapid shifts in affect; readily or frequently changing moods.
magical thinking: the inaccurate belief that one's thoughts, words, or actions will cause or prevent a specific outcome that does not demonstrate a realistic relationship between cause and effect.
mania: extreme excitability, unrealistic cheerfulness, grandiose thinking often accompanied by insomnia.
masochism: a term to denote a person's achieving sexual gratification from pain inflicted by another person.
narcissism: self-indulgent, self-love, absorbed in self.
neurosis: dominant feelings of anxiety, obsessive thoughts, compulsive actions, or physical complaints without objective evidence of physical disease. The concept of neurosis has been virtually displaced by "personality disorders."
neurotic: pertaining to behavior associated with excessive use of defense mechanisms.
neurotic disorder: a disorder in which the main disturbance is a relatively enduring and upsetting symptom or group of symptoms that is considered unacceptable but does not grossly violate social norms.
obsessive-compulsive disorder: the person is preoccupied with unwanted thoughts and images (obsessions) and/or involuntary, repetitive actions that have no apparent purpose (compulsions).
organic brain syndrome: impaired behavior attributable to brain disease or damage (sometimes called organic psychosis).
panic attacks: distinct periods of intense apprehension, fearfulness, or terror, often associated with feelings of impending doom that occur suddenly and are often associated with physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, accelerated heart rate; chest pain or discomfort; or fear of going crazy or losing control.
paranoid: suspicious and mistrustful in the absence of reasons for such behavior.
paraphilia: recurrent and intense sexual urge or sexually arousing fantasy generally involving either objects, suffering or humiliation, children, or nonconsenting partners.
pathology: abnormal physical or psychological condition.
personality: enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself. Personality traits are prominent aspects of personality that are exhibited in a wide range of important social and personal contexts. Only when personality traits are inflexible and maladaptive and cause either significant functional impairment or subjective distress do they constitute a Personality Disorder.
phobia: irrational fear, often associated with avoidance of the object of such fears.
physiological: pertaining to bodily, organic functioning.
posttraumatic stress disorder: delayed stress resulting from some earlier traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, lack of concentration, and reports of feeling strange and out of touch with everyday events.
premorbid: the psychological status of a person before the development of abnormal conduct.
projection: a defense mechanism; attributing to another person, or to the environment, some undesirable impulse or characteristic which is actually within oneself.
psychopathic personality: see antisocial personality.
psychosis: a serious mental disorder involving severe distortion of reality; extreme impairment of thought and action (equivalent to everyday terms such as insanity, lunacy, madness, crazy).
remission: marked improvement or recovery from an illness, although the improvement may be temporary.
repression: a defense mechanism; a threatening thought is ignored in order to avoid the pain of acknowledging one's guilt or shame. Some authorities define repression as the mental condition of not being conscious of a painful thought or feeling.
sadism: sexual gratification achieved by inflicting pain on others.
schizophrenia: a term used to describe undesirable conduct characterized by hallucinations, delusions, or bizarre behavior.
schizoid: a descriptive term for a person who appears alienated from others, has poor interpersonal skills, and withdraws from social interaction.
sociopathic personality: see antisocial personality.
somatic: refers to the body.
stupor: unresponsiveness, sometimes equivalent to unconsciousness.
voyeurism: sexual pleasure through observing others in the act of undressing, colloquially such a person is called a "Peeping Tom."
word salad: a jumble of meaningless or illogical words and phrases; commonly seen in schizophrenic states.