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Psychobabble Glossary



Accommodation - When others (family, coworkers, friends, etc.) help a person with OCD to ritualize (for example, by purchasing toilet paper and paper towels, by completing rituals, or by waiting while s/he ritualizes, etc.).  Accommodation, although usually well-intended, actually makes a person's OCD worse.  Family members can be helped by a therapist to learn different ways of being supportive without helping an individual to ritualize.

Acute stress disorder - The anxiety and behavioral disturbances that develop within a month of exposure to extreme trauma. The symptoms of an acute stress disorder usually begin during or shortly following the trauma. Such extreme traumatic events include rape or other severe physical assault, near-death experiences in accidents, witnessing a murder, and combat.
See the entire definition of Acute stress disorder

Acute - Of abrupt onset, in reference to a disease. Acute often also connotes an illness that is of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care.
See the entire definition of Acute

Addiction - A chronic relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain. Addiction is the same irrespective of whether the drug is alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or nicotine. Every addictive substance induces pleasant states or relieves distress. Continued use of the addictive substance induces adaptive changes in the brain that lead to tolerance, physical dependence, uncontrollable craving and, all too often, relapse. Dependence is at such a point that stopping is very difficult and causes severe physical and mental reactions from withdrawal. The risk of addiction is in part inherited. Genetic factors, for example, account for about 40% of the risk of alcoholism. The genetic factors predisposing to addiction are not yet fully understood.

ADHD- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Alprazolam- A benzodiazepine sedative that causes dose-related depression of the central nervous system. Alprazolam is useful in treating anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and muscle spasms. The brand name is Xanax. A generic version is available.

American Psychiatric Association- A medical specialty society with over 35,000 US and international member physicians who "work together to ensure humane care and effective treatment for all persons with mental disorder, including mental retardation and substance-related disorders. It is the voice and conscience of modern psychiatry. Its vision is a society that has available, accessible quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment." The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the oldest national medical specialty society in the US.

Anhedonia- Loss of the capacity to experience pleasure. The inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences. Anhedonia is a core clinical feature of depression, schizophrenia, and some other mental illnesses.
See the entire definition of Anhedonia

Antidepressant- Anything, and especially a drug, used to prevent or treat depression.
See the entire definition of Antidepressant

Antipsychotic- A medication (or another measure) that is believed to be effective in the treatment of psychosis. For example, aripiprazole (Abilify) is an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia.

Anxiety disorder- A chronic condition characterized by an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension with physical symptoms such as sweating, palpitations, and feelings of stress. Anxiety disorders have biological and environmental causes.
See the entire definition of Anxiety disorder

Anxiety- A feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of stress. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. These disorders fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event such as a business presentation or a first date, anxiety disorders are chronic, relentless, and can grow progressively worse if not treated. 
See the entire definition of Anxiety

Automatic Thoughts  - Thoughts that "pop" into one's mind during a certain situation.  These thoughts, although sometimes very simple, can represent attitudes or beliefs that fuel feelings.  See also 'Hot Cognitions.'

Autonomic Nervous System - The Autonomic Nervous System is made up of three parts- the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system. It controls the muscles that move involuntarily, like the eyes, the heart, and the intestines. It contributes to the "fight or flight" response, causing your heart to race and your blood pressure to go up when you face danger. This is the system affected by caffeine, which is why caffeine can cause increased heart rate and alertness beyond your control.

Avoidance Behavior  - Any behavior that is done with the intention of avoiding a trigger in order to avoid anxiety.  Avoidance behaviors are treated as a ritual.


Behavior Therapist  - The therapist (or social worker or psychologist) who is in charge of one's treatment plan for OCD using behavior therapy, most often Exposure and Response Prevention.

Behavior Therapy  - A type of therapy that applies learning theory principles to current problem behaviors that one wishes to change.  As the name implies, the point of intervention is at the behavioral level.

Benzodiazepines- A class of drugs that act as tranquilizers and are commonly used in the treatment of anxiety. Benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness.

Bipolar disorder- A mood disorder sometimes called manic-depressive illness or manic-depression that characteristically involves cycles of depression and elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches from high to low and back again are dramatic and rapid, but more often they are gradual and slow, and intervals of normal mood may occur between the high (manic) and low (depressive) phases of the condition. The symptoms of both the depressive and manic cycles may be severe and often lead to impaired functioning. 
See the entire definition of Bipolar disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)  - Obsessions about a body part being deformed in some way, resulting in repeated rituals involving checking, mirror checking, excessive grooming, inability to dress oneself, and avoidance behaviors.  Sometimes individuals with BDD have plastic surgeries relating to their imagined defects, but the relief (if there is any) is short-lived, and soon the individual begins worrying again, or the focus of his/her BDD can change to a different body part.

Borderline personality disorder- A serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity.
See the entire definition of Borderline personality disorder

Brain- That part of the central nervous system that is located within the cranium (skull). The brain functions as the primary receiver, organizer and distributor of information for the body. It has two (right and left) halves called "hemispheres."

Breathing- The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction, and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.


CBT - Is an abbreviation for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic process. The name refers to behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive research. CBT is effective for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, tic, and psychotic disorders. Many CBT treatment programs for specific disorders have been evaluated for efficacy; the health-care trend of evidence-based treatment, where specific treatments for symptom-based diagnoses are recommended, has favored CBT over other approaches such as psychodynamic treatments.

Checking Compulsions
  - Repetitive checking behaviors in order to reduce the probability that someone will be harmed, or to reduce the probability that one might make a mistake.  The checking can be behavioral (i.e. physically returning to a room to check if an appliance is turned off) or it can take the form of a mental ritual (i.e. a mental review in which a person imagines in detail each step he/she took to complete a task).

Chronic- This important term in medicine comes from the Greek chronos, time and means lasting a long time.
See the entire definition of Chronic

Cognitive therapy- A relatively short-term form of psychotherapy based on the concept that the way we think about things affects how we feel emotionally. Cognitive therapy focuses on present thinking, behavior, and communication rather than on past experiences and is oriented toward problem solving. Cognitive therapy has been applied to a broad range of problems including depression, anxiety, panic, fears, eating disorders, substance abuse, and personality problems.
See the entire definition of Cognitive therapy

Cognitive- Pertaining to cognition, the process of knowing and, more precisely, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning and judging. The study of cognition touches on the fields of psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, mathematics, ethology and philosophy.
See the entire definition of Cognitive

Competing Alternative Behaviors  - When one is trying to stop a bad habit, one can engage in a competing alternative behavior, which is an activity that inhibits the ability of the person with OCD to engage in the habit that s/he is trying to break.  For example, if one is knitting, one is unable to simultaneously pull one's hair.  See also 'Habit Reversal.'

Compulsions  - Compulsions, also known as rituals, are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that conform to rigid rules as far as number, order, etc. that function as an attempt to reduce anxiety brought on by intrusive thoughts.

Contamination Compulsions  - These are washing and cleaning behaviors in a particular order or frequency in an attempt to reduce chronic worry about being exposed to germs or becoming ill.  This can also be done for emotional contamination, in which a person washes and cleans in order to reduce the chances of taking on the characteristics of another person.

Contamination Obsessions  - Excessive worries about germs, bodily functions, and illness.  The risk is overestimated, given the chances of actually getting sick.

Cymbalta- Brand name for duloxetine hydrochloride, a drug approved by the FDA to treat major depresssion in adults and to manage the pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage in diabetes. The drug acts as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, believed to be important in regulating a person's emotions as well as reducing the sensitivity to pain.


Depression- An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts, that affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with a depressive disease cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.
See the entire definition of Depression

Diagnosis- 1 The nature of a disease; the identification of an illness. 2 A conclusion or decision reached by diagnosis. The diagnosis is rabies. 3 The identification of any problem. The diagnosis was a plugged IV. 
See the entire definition of Diagnosis

Dissociation- In psychology and psychiatry, a perceived detachment of the mind from the emotional state or even from the body. Dissociation is characterized by a sense of the world as a dreamlike or unreal place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events, which in severe form is known as dissociative amnesia.
See the entire definition of Dissociation

Distraction  - A strategy used primarily outside ERP to enhance one's ability to resist rituals.  One does another activity (for example, playing a board game, watching TV, taking a walk, etc.) while triggered in order to cope with anxiety without ritualizing.

Duloxetine- See- Cymbalta.


Emotional Contamination Obsessions  - Worry that one will be contaminated by the characteristics of another person.  The worrier believes that the risk of "catching" the other person's personality is much like when one is exposed to germs.  The spread of the "emotional germs" can be through touching, or can even be airborne.  This usually includes magical thinking and superstitious behaviors.  For more on Emotional Contamination, click here.

EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing -  is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
  - The behavioral treatment of choice for OCD during which a person with OCD purposefully triggers an obsession and blocks his/her rituals in order to create habituation.  ERP is initially done with a behavioral coach, who assists the person with OCD to resist rituals.  Eventually the coaching is faded, as the person with OCD becomes more able to resist rituals without help.

Extinction  - The process by which reinforcement is withheld in order to decrease or eliminate a target behavior.  It is common to have an extinction burst initially, which is an increase of the target behavior when the extinction process is started.

Extinction Burst  - An initial increase in behavior (can be obsessions or rituals) when one first stops reinforcing a behavior.  When you start a new and more difficult ERP, you should not be surprised if initially you feel more ritualistic and the urge to ritualize feels stronger.


Fading the Prompt  - Once a positive behavior is successfully initiated, the behavioral coach will stop giving the verbal or behavioral cue out loud, so the individual with OCD can practice the new behavior without help.  See also 'Verbal Prompt.'

Fatigue- A condition characterized by a lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness. Fatigue can be acute and come on suddenly or chronic and persist.
See the entire definition of Fatigue

FDA- The Food and Drug Administration, an agency within the U.S. Public Health Service, which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. 
See the entire definition of FDA

Food and Drug Administration- The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Public Health Service, which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
See the entire definition of Food and Drug Administration

Functional Analysis  - The therapist and the individual with OCD study the behaviors and thoughts that occur before and after a target behavior occurs.


Generalization  - The transfer of learning from one environment to another, or from one stimulus to a broader range of stimuli in the same category.

Generalized anxiety disorder- Abbreviated GAD. A condition characterized by 6 months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with GAD usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family, or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Sometimes the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes. People with GAD may feel lightheaded or out of breath. They also may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. Nearly 3% of the adult US population age 18 to 54 has GAD during the course of a given year. GAD most often strikes in childhood or adolescence, but can also begin in adulthood. It affects women more often than men, may run in families, and may also grow worse with stress. GAD often coexists with depression, substance abuse, and other anxiety disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome, often accompanies GAD. Treatment for GAD includes medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy.


Habit Reversal Treatment  - This is the behavioral treatment of choice for Trichotillomania.  In this treatment the patient becomes more aware of patterns of picking or pulling, identifies the  behaviors that bring on the picking or pulling, and then works on developing alternative behaviors to block the destructive habit.  For instance, when feeling high levels of anxiety a hair puller can knit, which keeps both hands occupied and keeps the individual engaged in a relaxing activity when s/he is at a high risk to pull.

Habituation  - The process during which a person stops responding to a stimulus because it is no longer new.  For example, after jumping into a cold swimming pool, one might initially feel that the water is too cold; however, after splashing around for a few minutes, the water begins to feel warmer  (even though the water temperature has not changed at all) because the swimmer has gotten used to the water temperature.  An example of this in OCD would be when someone who worries about germs touches a doorknob without a barrier for at least 1.5 hours.  As time passes without the person ritualizing, the person can no longer maintain an anxious response.

Harm Obsessions  - Excessive worries that one will be harmed, or that others will be harmed, due to intentional or accidental behavior on the part of the person with OCD.

Heart rate- The number of heart beats per unit time, usually per minute. The heart rate is based on the number of contractions of the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart). The heart rate may be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). The pulse is bulge of an artery from the wave of blood coursing through the blood vessel as a result of the heart beat. The pulse is often taken at the wrist to estimate the heart rate.

Heart- The muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. It is positioned in the chest behind the sternum (breastbone; in front of the trachea, esophagus, and aorta; and above the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The normal heart is about the size of a closed fist, and weighs about 10.5 ounces. It is cone-shaped, with the point of the cone pointing down to the left. Two-thirds of the heart lies in the left side of the chest with the balance in the right chest.
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Hierarchy  - A list of situations or triggers that are ranked in order from easier tasks to more difficult tasks according to the patient's estimated SUDS ratings.  Consider the hierarchy as a map or outline of future ERPs.

Hippocampus- An area buried deep in the forebrain that helps regulate emotion and memory. Functionally, the hippocampus is part of the olfactory cortex, that part of the cerebral cortex essential to the sense of smell. Certain antidepressants (such as fluoxetine, or Prozac) influence the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is so-called because its shape suggests that of a seahorse. From the Greek hippos (horse) = kampos (a sea monster).

Hoarding Compulsions  - Saving unreasonable amounts of an item "in case someone else might need it," even though one no longer has space to keep belongings.  Objects are saved even when they are a health hazard.

Hoarding Obsessions  - Worry that one must save more than is necessary in order to feel secure.  The hoarder is not as disturbed by his/her saving and accumulation patterns as those around him/her.

Hot Cognitions  - Automatic thoughts that generate strong or intense affect.

Hyperactivity- A higher than normal level of activity. An organ can be described as hyperactive if it is more active than usual. Behavior can also be hyperactive.
See the entire definition of Hyperactivity


Imagery- Both a mental process (as in imagining) and a wide variety of procedures used in therapy to encourage changes in attitudes, behavior, or physiological reactions. As a mental process, it is often defined as "any thought representing a sensory quality." It includes, as well as the visual, all the senses - aural, tactile, olfactory, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic.
See the entire definition of Imagery

Impulsivity- Inclined to act on impulse rather than thought. People who are overly impulsive, seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. As a result, they may blurt out answers to questions or inappropriate comments, or run into the street without looking. Their impulsivity may make it hard for a child to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit when they are upset.
See the entire definition of Impulsivity

Incest- Sexual activity between individuals so closely related that marriage is prohibited. Incest involving a child is a form of child abuse.

Indicate- In medicine, to make a treatment or procedure advisable because of a particular condition or circumstance. For example, certain medications are indicated for the treatment of hypertension during pregnancy while others are contraindicated.

Injury- Harm or hurt. The term "injury" may be applied in medicine to damage inflicted upon oneself as in a hamstring injury or by an external agent on as in a cold injury. The injury may be accidental or deliberate, as with a needlestick injury. The term "injury" may be synonymous (depending on the context) with a wound or with trauma.

Insight  - For someone with OCD, this is the understanding (when not triggered by an obsession) that one's worry is not realistic, nor does the logic applied to the person's ritual make any sense.  Usually when one is triggered or experiencing high anxiety about an obsession, the level of insight decreases dramatically.

Learning disability- A childhood disorder characterized by difficulty with certain skills such as reading or writing in individuals with normal intelligence. Learning disorders affect the ability to interpret what one sees and hears or the ability to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways -- as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self-control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read or write, or to do math.
See the entire definition of Learning disability


Manic- Refers to a mood disorder in which a person seems "high", euphoric, expansive, sometimes agitated, hyperexcitable, with flights of ideas and speech.

Marijuana- A very common street and recreational drug that comes from the marijuana plant.
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Memory- 1. The ability to recover information about past events or knowledge. 2. The process of recovering information about past events or knowledge. 3. Cognitive reconstruction. The brain engages in a remarkable reshuffling process in an attempt to extract what is general and what is particular about each passing moment.
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Mental Ritual  - A mental act, done in response to an unwanted obsession, that is completed in order to reduce anxiety.  Often a mental ritual must be repeated multiple times.  It can be a prayer, a repeated phrase, a review of steps taken, a self-reassurance, etc.  Often a mental ritual is repeated so often that the individual barely has any awareness of the thought.

Mindfulness  - A focus on the present.  This is a skill that takes a considerable amount of practice.


Negative Reinforcement  - When a reinforcement is removed, the behavior increases.  When a person's headache is eased after taking an aspirin, that experience will increase the likelihood that the person will take an aspirin the next time he has a headache.

Neutralization  -  Refers to when an individual with OCD "undoes" a behavior or thought that is believed to be "dangerous" by neutralizing it with another behavior or thought.   This behavior is also considered a ritual.


Obsessions  - Obsessions are repetitive intrusive thoughts or images that dramatically increase anxiety.  The obsessions are so unpleasant that the person with OCD tries to control or suppress the fear.  The more the person attempts to suppress the fear, the more entrenched and ever-present it becomes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)  - People diagnosed with OCD spend over one hour daily struggling with repetitive intrusive thoughts, impulses and/or behavioral urges that increase their anxiety.  They try to control their obsessions with compulsive behaviors (rituals) that function as an attempt to reduce their anxiety.  Over time, the rituals become less and less effective in controlling the obsessions.

OCD- 1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder; 2. Osteochondritis dissecans.

Operation- Although there are many meanings to the word "operation", in medicine it refers to a surgical procedure.
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Outpatient- A patient who is not an inpatient (not hospitalized) but instead is cared for elsewhere -- as in a doctor's office, clinic, or day surgery center. The term outpatient dates back at least to 1715. Outpatient care today is also called ambulatory care.

Overvalued Ideation  - When the person with OCD has great difficulty understanding that his/her worry is senseless.


Panic- A sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought or action.
See the entire definition of Panic

Perfectionism  - Unrealistically high expectations about one's performance on any task.  Failure is catastrophic and unbearable.  Anything less than 100% perfection is considered a failure.  Consequently, perfectionists are paralyzed and sometimes unable to begin a task until the last minute, or are sometimes unable to complete a task.  For more on perfectionism, click here.

Personality disorder- A disorder characterized by the chronic use of mechanisms of coping in an inappropriate, stereotyped, and maladaptive manner. Personality disorders are enduring and persistent styles of behavior and thought, not atypical episodes. The personality disorders encompass a group of behavioral disorders that are different and distinct from the psychotic and neurotic disorders. The official psychiatric manual, the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition), defines a personality disorder as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that differs markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment. Personality disorders are a long-standing and maladaptive pattern of perceiving and responding to other people and to stressful circumstances. 
See the entire definition of Personality disorder

Phobia- An unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. Phobias are a relatively common type of anxiety disorder.
See the entire definition of Phobia

Positive Reinforcement  - An action or behavior is applied and the consequence is that the frequency of the behavior will increase.  For example, when a teacher praises a student for raising his/her hand in class before speaking, the likelihood of the student's behavior of raising his/her hand before speaking will increase.

Praying Compulsions  - This can include repetitive praying for forgiveness or asking God to protect a person perceived to be at risk, reading the Bible or watching religious TV programming for hours daily, and repeated confessing for possible sins.

Pregnancy- The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the female body. This condition can be indicated by positive results on an over-the-counter urine test, and confirmed through a blood test, ultrasound, detection of fetal heartbeat, or an X-ray. Pregnancy lasts for about nine months, measured from the date of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP). It is conventionally divided into three trimesters, each roughly three months long.
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Pregnant- The state of carrying a developing fetus within the body. 
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Prevalence- The proportion of individuals in a population having a disease. Prevalence is a statistical concept referring to the number of cases of a disease that are present in a particular population at a given time.

Psychiatric Nurse  - This mental health professional has a Bachelor's degree in nursing with a special emphasis on psychiatry and working with mentally ill populations.

Psychiatric- Pertaining to or within the purview of psychiatry, the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.
See the entire definition of Psychiatric

Psychiatrist  - This mental health professional has completed medical school and has specialized in psychiatry and mental illness.  S/he can do therapy and prescribe medicine.

Psychiatry- The medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.
See the entire definition of Psychiatry

Psychologist  - This mental health professional holds a doctorate in either clinical or counseling psychology.  This individual can have a Ph.D., which is a research degree, or a Psy.D., which has a clinical focus.

Psychopharmacologist  - This mental health professional prescribes psychiatric medicines and is an expert in how these medicines work together.

Psychotherapy- The treatment of a behavior disorder, mental illness, or any other condition by psychological means. Psychotherapy may utilize insight, persuasion, suggestion, reassurance, and instruction so that patients may see themselves and their problems more realistically and have the desire to cope effectively with them.
See the entire definition of Psychotherapy

PTSD- Post-traumatic stress disorder. (The abbreviation PTSD has rapidly gained in popularity because saying "post-traumatic stress disorder" can be enough of a mouthful as to be stressful in itself.)


Rape- Forced sexual intercourse; sexual assault; sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor. Rape may be heterosexual (involving members of opposite sexes) or homosexual (involving members of the same sex). Rape involves insertion of an erect penis or an inanimate object into the female vagina or the male anus. Legal definitions of rape may also include forced oral sex and other sexual acts.
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Reassurance Seeking  - When a person with OCD asks others questions repetitively to reduce his/her anxiety (for example, "Do you think this food is spoiled?" or "Do you think I will get sick?").  Sometimes a person with OCD can get reassurance merely from watching another's facial expression and/or body posture.  All reassurance seeking is considered a ritual.

Recurrent- Back again. A recurrent fever is a fever that has returned after an intermission- a recrudescent fever.

Redirection  - When a therapist tells an individual with OCD to change or stop a behavior that is interfering with treatment.

Reinforcement  - Any response from an individual that will increase the frequency of a particular behavior from the recipient.

Relapse Prevention  - A set of skills, both cognitive and behavioral, aimed at preventing an individual with OCD from slipping back into old compulsive behaviors.

Relapse- The return of signs and symptoms of a disease after a patient has enjoyed a remission. For example, after treatment a patient with cancer of the colon went into remission with no sign or symptom of the tumor, remained in remission for 4 years, but then suffered a relapse and had to be treated once again for colon cancer.
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Resolution- In genetics, resolution refers to the degree of molecular detail on a physical map of DNA, ranging from low to high.

Retrigger  - A thought or behavior completed by the individual with OCD in order to undo the negative effects of the rituals.  The person may feel relieved by a reassuring thought like, "I will be okay," but then he must say to himself, "Well, maybe I won't be okay.  Anything is possible."

Ritual  - Another word for compulsive behavior, which can be a behavior that others can see, or a hidden or unseen mental behavior.  Many mental health professionals will identify anything that  reduces one's anxiety as a ritual.  For example, although avoidance behavior is done to avoid the trigger altogether, it still is the same as an outright ritual, in that it is an attempt to reduce anxiety.


Schizophrenia- One of several brain diseases whose symptoms that may include loss of personality (flat affect), agitation, catatonia, confusion, psychosis, unusual behavior, and withdrawal. The illness usually begins in early adulthood.
See the entire definition of Schizophrenia

Scrupulosity (Religious) Obsessions  - Excessive worry about being moral, or worry about blasphemy.

Self-Directed Exposure and Response Prevention (SDERP)  - Once you have learned to effectively block rituals with the assistance of a behavioral coach, you will practice your ERP on your own, with very little help.  This task is much more difficult because you must resist your rituals when triggered and there is no one to hold you accountable or help you motivate yourself to resist. 

Self-Reassurance  - A thought or phrase said out loud or silently in order to lower one's anxiety (for example, "I'm not going to get sick," or "I would never hurt a child).  This is considered a ritualistic behavior.

Sexual Obsessions  - Unwanted, inappropriate sexual thoughts that are repulsive to the person affected.  Often, thoughts are sexually aggressive towards a vulnerable population (children, the elderly, family, or strangers).

Shock- In medicine, shock is a critical condition brought on by a sudden drop in blood flow through the body. There is failure of the circulatory system to maintain adequate blood flow. This sharply curtails the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs. It also compromises the kidney and so curtails the removal of wastes from the body. Shock can be due to a number of different mechanisms including not enough blood volume (hypovolemic shock) and not enough output of blood by the heart (cardiogenic shock). The signs and symptoms of shock include low blood pressure (hypotension), overbreathing (hyperventilation), a weak rapid pulse, cold clammy grayish-bluish (cyanotic) skin, decreased urine flow (oliguria), and mental changes (a sense of great anxiety and foreboding, confusion and, sometimes, combativeness).
See the entire definition of Shock

Sleep- The body's rest cycle.
See the entire definition of Sleep

Social anxiety disorder- Excessive fear of embarrassment in social situations that is extremely intrusive and can have debilitating effects on personal and professional relationships. Also called social phobia.
See the entire definition of Social anxiety disorder

Social Worker  - This individual has a Master's degree in social work, which specializes in psychotherapy, social adjustment and social justice issues.

Sodium- The major positive ion (cation) in fluid outside of cells. The chemical notation for sodium is Na+. When combined with chloride, the resulting substance is table salt.
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Somatic Experiencing is a form of therapy aimed at relieving and resolving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems by focusing on the client’s perceived body sensations (or somatic experiences). It was introduced in Dr. Peter Levine's 1997 book Waking the Tiger. In it, he discusses at length his observations of animals in the wild, and how they deal with and recover from life-threatening situations. He concludes that their behavior gives us "an insight into the biological healing process" (p. 98), and that "the key to healing traumatic symptoms in humans lies in our being able to mirror the fluid adaption of wild animals" (p. 17-18) as they avoid traumatization in reacting to life-threatening situations

Somatic Obsessions  - Unrealistic worry about catching a particular illness (for example, HIV or Hepatitis).

Somatization- The process by which psychologic distress is expressed as physical symptoms. Somatization is an unconscious process.
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SSRI- Abbreviation for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly prescribed drugs for treating depression. SSRIs affect the chemicals that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. These chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, are released by one nerve and taken up by other nerves. Neurotransmitters that are not taken up by other nerves are taken up by the same nerves that released them. This process is termed "reuptake." SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, an action which allows more serotonin to be available to be taken up by other nerves. 
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Stimulus Control  - When a person changes something in his/her environment that affects a particular behavior.  For example, if a person can't sleep, lights are turned off in the room.

Stress- Forces from the outside world impinging on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life that can help us learn and grow. Conversely, stress can cause us significant problems.
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Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS)  - This is a scale from either 1 to 10 or 1 to 100, in which the person with OCD rates his/her anxiety, 1 being the least anxious to 10 or 100 being the most anxious.  The scale is each individual person's sense of his/her own anxiety.

Substance abuse- The excessive use of a substance, especially alcohol or a drug. (There is no universally accepted definition of substance abuse.)
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Substance- 1. Material with particular features, as a pressor substance.
2. The material that makes up an organ or structure. Also known in medicine as the substantia.
3. A psychoactive drug as, for example, in substance abuse.

Suicidal- Pertaining to suicide. the taking of ones own life. As in a suicidal gesture, suicidal thought, or suicidal act. An "online lifeline for suicidal undergrads" may help prevent college students from committing suicide.

Superstitious Behavior  - Behavior that is accidentally reinforced by coincidence.  The behavior increases but it does not have the influence that the person imagines it does.

Symmetry and Exactness Compulsions  (also known as Just Right Compulsions) - Involves fussing with the position of an object for too much time.  The person can't stop the behavior until it "feels right."

Symmetry and Exactness Obsessions  (also known as Just Right Obsessions) - One fears that something bad might happen if the behavior is stopped before it "feels right."  Some people with these obsessions do not worry that something bad will happen; rather, they report that something MUST feel right before ending a particular behavior.

Symptom- Any subjective evidence of disease. Anxiety, lower back pain, and fatigue are all symptoms. They are sensations only the patient can perceive. In contrast, a sign is objective evidence of disease. A bloody nose is a sign. It is evident to the patient, doctor, nurse and other observers.

Syndrome- A set of signs and symptoms that tend to occur together and which reflect the presence of a particular disease or an increased chance of developing a particular disease.
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The treatment of disease. 
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definition of Therapy

Talk Therapy -
 is a general term used to reference the many types of sessions held between a therapist (a mental health professional of any discipline such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nurse, etc., with training and expertise in the art of helping a patient psychologically) and a patient. The term comes from the fact that these sessions use conversation as the primary tool to facilitate treatment. 

Tic Disorder
  - A neurological disorder in which the body involuntarily moves in a random pattern.  This is usually worsened by stress.

Torture- An act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person, for a purpose such as obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation or coercion, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind. Survivors of torture often suffer from physical and psychological symptoms and disabilities. There may be specific forms of physical injury including broken bones, neurological damage, and musculoskeletal problems. Torture may results in psychological symptoms of depression (most common), post-traumatic stress disorder, marked sleep disturbances and alterations in self-perceptions together with feelings of powerlessness, fear, guilt and shame.
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Tourettes Disorder  - A  neurological disorder in which a person engages in both involuntary physical and verbal behaviors in a random fashion.  This is usually worsened by stress.

Trauma- Any injury, whether physically or emotionally inflicted. "Trauma" has both a medical and a psychiatric definition. Medically, "trauma" refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. This definition is often associated with trauma medicine practiced in emergency rooms and represents a popular view of the term. In psychiatry, "trauma" has assumed a different meaning and refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.
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Trichotillomania  - When a person is unable to stop impulsively pulling his/her hair from his/her head, eyebrows, eye lashes, arms, legs or pubic area.  The hair pulling is often pleasurable and soothing.  People report doing this behavior when stressed or bored.  Skin picking also falls into this category.  See also 'Habit Reversal Treatment.'

Trigger  - This can be an external event or object or an internal thought that sets off an obsession.


Verbal Prompt  - A verbal cue that directs the patient as to what to do to resist a ritual, distract from obsessing, or to manage the effect.  See also 'Fading the Prompt.'

Withdrawal symptoms- Abnormal physical or psychological features that follow the abrupt discontinuation of a drug that has the capability of producing physical dependence. Common withdrawal symptoms include sweating, tremor, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, and muscle pain.

Xanax- See- Alprazolam.


Y-BOCS  - Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.  Includes a symptom checklist of OCD obsessions and compulsions and a rating scale to measure the severity of the OCD.  Usually, people who score over 16 also meet the DSM-TR criteria for OCD.