Glossary - Essential terms and concepts

By: Tom Cloyd - 56 min. read (Published: 2015; reviewed: 2024:05-08:0137 Pacific Time (USA))

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Photo by Tom Cloyd

“No dictionary-sized explanation of these terms can substitute for the full explorations. A dictionary entry on virtue or quantum mechanics cannot substitute for an education in ethics or physics.” ~ S. Blackburn1

Page contents…

Glossary sections ^

A    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    L    M    N    P    R    S    T    U    W   

About this Glossary ^

Clear, accurate communication depends upon good word choice and shared understanding of those words and the concepts they are expressing. This glossary exists to facilitate clear and effective communication at this website. It is a work in progress.

A glossary is not a dictionary. Instead, here you will find definitions, explanations, and brief discussions of selected technical terms and acronyms used on this website. Most, but not all, relate directly to the site’s central topic. Much of the time, you will find one or more quotes from authoritative sources.

When it’s deemed helpful, we may offer a paraphrase in plain language, preceded by “Gloss”. Similarly, in some cases we may offer an “Example”. (For an illustration of this, see Incidence.)

Definitions and meanings are determined by usage, as any professional linguist knows. Therefore, a word or concept’s meaning may vary, depending upon who is using it, and in what context or period of time. Meanings are in almost constant flux. For any single word or concept, multiple useful meanings may well be found, in either casual or professional usage. For that reason, various authoritative sources often offer somewhat different perspectives on a word or concept, and you will see that reflected here. To emphasize this, when a word has multiple definitions, they are numbered.

Links to separate pages exist, in some section headers, for terms with long or involved entries. Depending on how your browser works, clicking on a term in the page contents listing may take you directly to such pages (when they exist), rather than to the link below.

Should you NOT find here what you are seeking, PLEASE notify us, and we will give the matter immediate attention.

Glossary entries ^

< A > ^

Abreaction ^

An “…emotional release or discharge after recalling a painful experience”.2

Affect ^

1. “The subjective and immediate experience of emotion attached to ideas or mental representations of objects. Affect has outward manifestations that may be classified as restricted, blunted, flattened, broad, labile, appropriate, or inappropriate.”3

2. “The way in which an internal emotional state is externally revealed.”4 “A pattern of observable behaviors that is the expression of a subjectively experienced feeling state (emotion). Examples of affect include sadness, elation, and anger. In contrast to mood, which refers to a pervasive and sustained emotional ‘climate’, affect refers to more fluctuating changes in emotional ‘weather’. What is considered the normal range of expression of affect varies considerably, both within and among different cultures.”5

3. “…the strictly biological portion of emotion. …When we say that an affect has been triggered, we mean expressly that some definable stimulus has activated a mechanism which then releases a known pattern of biological events. Each of the innate affects unfolds according to its own precisely written program. …In the human, we say that the circuitry for the affects is stored in that primitive portion of our equipment which Paul D. MacLean (1975) has called the reptile brain.”6

4. “…the external expression of the internal feeling tone.”7 Compare Mood. See Lability.

Affect regulation ^

“The mechanisms by which emotion and its expression are modulated.”8

Alter ^

Concerning terminology: “Alter” is part of a group of closely-related terms, sometimes used interchangeably. To better understand this, see Multiplicity of selves (self-states).

1. “The form that DID takes varies from culture to culture, but the basic structure (switches of executive control, amnesia, and dramatic changes in behavior) are constant. Being ‘possessed’ has been a common aspect of human psychology throughout history. In the mental health field, the possessing entities are called ‘alter personalities’, ‘dissociative identities’, ‘parts’, ‘parts of self’, or some similar term. The entities are viewed as dissociated aspects of the person’s psyche.”9

2. “[Alters are now thought of as]…fragments of a single personality rather than as separate personalities inhabiting the same body.10

3. “An entity with a firm, persistent and well-founded sense of self and a characteristic and consistent pattern of behavior and feelings in response to given stimuli. It must have a range of functions, a range of emotional responses and a significant life history (of its own existence).”11

4. “Alter personalities are not separate people, but are best conceptualized as examples of a fundamental and discrete unit of consciousness, the behavioral state.”12

5. “A disaggregate self-state…is the mental address of a relatively stable and enduring pattern of selective mobilization of mental contents and functions, which may be behaviorally enacted with role-taking and role-playing dimension…It functions both as recipient, processor, and storage center for perceptions, experiences, and the processing of such in connection with past events and thoughts, and/or present and anticipated ones…It has a sense of its own identity and ideation, and a capacity for initiating processes and actions.”13

See also: DID - dissociative identity disorder, Ego state.

Amnesia ^

“…Inability to recall important autobiographical information that is inconsistent with ordinary forgetting.”14 See Dissociative amnesia.

Anecdotal evidence ^

Gloss: Evidence in the form of a personal experience narrative or reports of the personal experiences of others, without regard for matters of sampling bias or confounding variables (such as placebo effect).

“Evidence in the form of stories that people tell about what has happened to them.”15

Anhedonia ^

“A psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts.”16

Anxiety ^

“The apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune accompanied by a feeling of worry, distress, and/or somatic symptoms of tension. The focus of anticipated danger may be internal or external.”17

“Feeling of apprehension caused by anticipation of danger, which may be internal or external.”18

The most common psychiatric symptom.19

Autobiographical memory ^

See Episodic memory.

< C > ^

Central Nervous System ^

“The components of the nervous system such as the skull-enclosed part of the brain, that connect with the peripheral nervous system (which is spread throughout the body). Sometimes abbreviated as ‘CNS’.”20

Clinical ^

An adjective (noun modifier)21 that is difficult to define due to the varied contexts of its usage.

The focus here is on the concept of a “clinical” mental disorder, with the implication being that such a thing is a condition which one would expect to see treated in a medical (or other professional) setting.2223 Another implication is that something “clinical” is a “disease”, which is to say a source of distress: one does not seek professional help for happy states of mind!

However, what one would expect to see treated in a clinical setting varies somewhat with cultural context. “Thresholds of tolerance for specific symptoms or behaviors differ across cultures, social settings, and families.”24

A distinction must be made between clinical disorders, as described above, and “Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention” - a category of concerns detailed in the DSM-5.25 These are a class of concerns which may be brought to a clinical professional’s attention but which are life circumstances - not mental disorders - ranging from “divorce to being in military service”, and “capable of having a profound input on a particular mental illness or on the human experience in general.”26


See Central Nervous System.


[Coming soon.

See Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) ^

[This content is currently under development.]

“The effects of early and severe trauma are widespread, devastating, and difficult to treat. Because of the importance of a context of safety and bonding in the early construction of the brain, childhood trauma compromises core neural networks. …The wide range of effects involved in the adaptation to early unresolved trauma results in the phenomena of complex posttraumatic stress disorder.”27

< D > ^

Defense mechanism, defenses ^

“Mechanisms that mediate the individual’s reaction to emotional conflicts and to external stressors. Some defense mechanisms (e.g., projection, splitting, acting out) are almost invariably maladaptive. Others (e.g., suppression, denial) may be either maladaptive or adaptive, depending on their severity, their inflexibility, and the context in which they occur.”28

Delusion ^

“By definition, patients with delusions have false beliefs.”29

“A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly held despite what almost everyone else believes and what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (i.e., it is not an article of religious faith).”30

Depersonalization ^

“The experience of feeling detached from, as if one is an outside observer of, one’s mental processes, body, or actions (e.g., feeling like one is in a dream; a sense of unreality of self, perceptual alterations; emotional and/or physical numbing, temporal distortions; sense of unreality.)”31

“Sensation of unreality concerning oneself, parts of oneself, or one’s environment that occurs under extreme stress or fatigue. Seen in schizophrenia, depersonalization disorder, or schizotypal personality disorder.”32

“…Depersonalization is the third most common psychiatric symptom (after anxiety and depression).”33

Depression ^

“Mental states characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, and self-reproach; accompanying”signs“ include psychomotor retardation, or, at times, agitation, withdrawal from interpersonal contact, and vegetative symptoms, such as insomnia and anorexia. The term refers to a mood that is so characterized or a mood disorder.”34

“…the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function.”35

The second most common psychiatric symptom, after anxiety.36

Derealization ^

“The experience of feeling detached from, as if one is on the outside of, one’s surroundings (individuals or objects are experienced as unreal, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, or visually distorted.)”37

Developmental trauma disorder ^

[This content is currently under development.]

Diagnosis ^

[This content is currently under development.]

Note that “…the disgnosis of a mental disorder is not equivalent to a need for treatment,” as that decision must involve consideration of a number of additional factors. Additionally, the failure of an individual to show all elements required for a diagnosis should not be cause for limiting or avoiding “access to appropriate care.”38


See Dissociative identity disorder(DID).

Discrete behavioral states (DBS) model of DID ^

“…Mental states are core components of consciousness, behavior, and personality. Many of the mental and behavioral phenomena associated with pathological dissociation—as well as certain other psychiatric disorders—can best be understood by focusing on their state-related properties.DID…in particular can be understood as arising from a traumatic disruption in the early developmental acquisition of control and integration of basic behavioral states coupled with the creation of highly discrete dissociated states organized around differences in sense of self. This conceptual framework provides an interesting perspective on the genesis, evolution and nature of…DID39

“The concept of ‘state’ is encountered at all levels of brain-mind analysis. From the resting and hyperpolarized states of individual neurons to the global behavioral pattern of a manic patient, neuroscientists invoke the concept to organize and classify behavior that they are interested in.” 40

“Mental states are unique organizations or structures of consciousness and behavior….The concept of a discrete state of consciousness [refers to]…a specific and unique configuration of a set of psychological, physiological, and behavioral variables. This is the essence of the various definitions arrived at by investigators studying examples of such states.” 41

“Generally, four or five independent variables are sufficient to classify the discrete behavioral variables of healthy, normal infants….Healthy children are born with a basic set of behavioral states. Indeed, there is evidence for the existence of a basic set of behavioral states in utero.” The classification of infant states adopted by Wolf (1987) 42

(Note: in the quotes above, the original MPD has been replaced by the currently used term DID.)

Dissociation ^

1. “The splitting off of mental contents from conscious awareness. Dissociation is a mechanism central to dissociative disorders. The term is also used to describe the separation of an idea from its emotional significance and affect, as seen in the inappropriate affect in schizophrenia. Often a result of psychological trauma, dissociation may allow the individual to maintain allegiance to two contradictory truths while remaining unconscious of the contradiction. An extreme manifestation of dissociation is dissociative identity disorder, in which a person may exhibit several independent personalities, each unaware of the others.”43

2. “Unconscious defense mechanism involving the segregation of any group of mental or behavioral processes from the rest of the person’s psychic activity; may entail the separation of an idea from its accompanying emotional tone, as seen in dissociative and conversion disorders.”44

Dissociative mental states ^

See Dissociation.

Dissociative amnesia ^

“…An inability to recall important autobiographical information that 1) should be successfully stored in memory, and 2) ordinarily would be readily remembered…” This differs from “permanent amnesias…in that it is always potentially reversible because the memory has been successfully stored….Single or repeated traumatic experiences…are common antecedents.”45

When not better accounted for by “dissociative identity disorder, posttraumatic disorder, acute stress disorder, somatic symptom disorder, or major or mild neurocognitive disorder”, an individual with dissociative amnesia may qualify for a formal DSM-5 (300.12) dissociative amnesia diagnosis.46

Dissociative disorders ^

[This content is currently under development.]

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) ^

[This content is currently under development.]

1. “An extreme manifestation of dissociation…, in which a person may exhibit several independent personalities, each unaware of the others.”47

2. A mental disorder diagnosis whose “defining feature is the presence of two or more distinct personality states or an experience of possession….The overtness or covertness of these personality states…varies as a function of psychological motivation, current level of stress, culture, internal conflicts and dynamics, and emotional resilience….Most individuals with non-possession-form dissociative identity disorder do not overtly display their discontinuity of identity for long periods of time; only a small minority present to clinical attention with observable alternation of identities.”48

See also Alter, Multiplicity of selves (self-states), and Multiple personality disorder (MPD).

DOI - Digital Object Identifier ^

“A digital object identifier (DOI) is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by a registration agency (the International DOI Foundation) to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet. The publisher assigns a DOI when your article is published and made available electronically.”49

“DOIs are an attempt to provide stable, long-lasting links for online articles. They are unique to their documents and consist of a long alphanumeric code. Many-but not all-publishers will provide an article’s DOI on the first page of the document.”50

“The DOI system provides a technical and social infrastructure for the registration and use of persistent interoperable identifiers, called DOIs, for use on digital networks.”51


Acronym for Diagnostic and statistical manual (of the American Psychiatric Association) (See author “American Psychiatric Association” in References section for this page, below.)

Until the DSM-5, the editions were distinguished by the addition of Roman numerals to the “DSM” abbreviation. With the publication of the DSM-5, it was anticipated revisions to the current edition could effectively be made online. So that the next revision could be designated “DSM-5.1”, and so on with each further revision, the numbering was changed to Arabic numerals.


See Developmental trauma disorder.

Dysphoria ^

“A state of feeling unwell or unhappy.”52

< E > ^

Effect size ^

1. In layman’s terms: In empirical research, we are often investigating the effect something has on something else. For example, we might look at the effect taking aspirin has on the frequency of strokes, or the effect some therapy model (such as EMDR) has on PTSD symptoms. If the aspirin or therapy completely eliminated the problem, the effect size would be 100%. If it eliminated half the symptoms, it would be 50%.

However, for technical (mathematical) reasons, such effects are spoken of in statistical analyses as ranging between 0 (no effect at all) and 1 (complete causal relationship - which is never seen in the real world). So, using the examples above, an effect size of 0.48 would mean that about half (almost 50%) of the strokes or PTSD symptoms were eliminated by the treatment. In the real world of health care research, this effect would be generally considered quite good news.

2. For professionals: “The magnitude of an independent variable’s effect, usually expressed as a proportion of explained variance in the dependent variables”.53 Many measures of this have been proposed, with the most commonly seen probably the correlation coefficient and Cohen’s D.54 If “…correlation is the measure of the strength and direction of relationship between…two variables”, then the “squared correlation is the measure of the strength of association between them….This is also called effect size or treatment magnitude”.55

Ego state ^

(Identical in meaning to Self-state, which is preferred by some authors.)

One of the multiple “…covertly segmented personality structures…” we all possess.56

See Multiplicity of selves (self-states) for significant additional information about this.

Emotion ^

1. “Affective aspect of consciousness. The emotions are generally understood as representing a synthesis of subjective experience, expressive behaviour, and neurochemical activity. Most researchers hold that they are part of the human evolutionary legacy and serve adaptive ends by adding to general awareness and the facilitation of social communication. Some nonhuman animals are also considered to possess emotions…”57

2. “Complex feeling state with psychic, somatic, and behavioral components; external manifestation of emotion is affect.58

3. a) “The affective aspect of consciousness”; b) “A state of feeling”; c) “A conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”59

4. “Change(s) in the state of integration. Within the brain, an emotion links various systems together to form a state of mind. It also serves to connect one mind to another. Emotional processing prepares the brain and the rest of the body for action, to “evoke motion.”60

Enabling ^

to enable (verb): “to give the opportunity to”61

enabler (noun):

1. “one who enables”.61

2. “one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior”.62

3. “removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior”63

Energy ^

“A term from physics that means the capacity to do something. Energy comes in various forms, such as kinetic, thermal, nuclear, electrical, and chemical. The nervous system functions by way of the flow of electrochemical energy.”64

Epigenesis ^

1. Epigenetics is “the study of how genes produce their effect on the phenotype of the organism.”65

2. “The process in which experience alters the regulation of gene expression by way of changing the various molecules (histones and methyl groups) on the chromosome.”66

3. Epigenetics is “the study of the chemical modification of specific genes or gene-associated proteins of an organism. Epigenetic modifications define how genetic information is read and used by cells. Epigenetic modifications can be inherited and are influenced by environmental factors, some of which can induce epigenetic signaling that may contribute to biological processes such as aging. Methylation is the principal epigenetic modification of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and of proteins called histones that package DNA into chromatin inside a cell. Epigenetic modifications influence gene expression and enable the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (cells with the potential to become any of many different kinds of cells) into distinct cell types early in embryological development. The ability to control and alter stem cell differentiation through the manipulation of epigenetic modifications has profound implications for the treatment of conditions such as neurodegenerative disease.”67

Episodic memory ^

“The encoding, storage, and retrieval of a sense of self as experienced in one specific episode of time.”68

See Memory.

Etiology ^

“The cause or causes of a disease or abnormal condition.”69

Evidence-based ^

Gloss: An adjective phrase applied to a practice, intervention, or idea, indicating that it derives from explicit empirical data - i.e., from replicable naturalistic observations, rather than from mere anecdotal evidence.

“…Evidence-based practice in psychology (EBPP) [is] …an integration of science and practice [which] takes into account the full range of evidence psychologists and policymakers must consider. Research, clinical expertise, and patient characteristics are all supported as relevant to good outcomes. EBPP promotes effective psychological practice and enhances public health by applying empirically supported principles of psychological assessment, case formulation, therapeutic relationship, and intervention”.70

Explicit memory ^

“The layer of memory that during recall is coupled with an internal sensation of remembering. There are two forms: semantic memory (factual) and episodic memory (with repeated episodes being called ‘autobiographical’). The encoding or deposition of explicit memory requires focal, conscious attention. Without focal attention, or with excessive stress hormone (cortisol) release, items are not encoded explicitly but are encoded in implicit form.”71 See Memory.

< F > ^

Flashback ^

“…reliving some or all of a traumatizing event as though it is happening in the present. Flashbacks can involve images, smells, sounds, taste, emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations.”72

< G > ^

Genotype ^

“All or part of the genetic constitution of an individual or group. …The genotype determines the hereditary potentials and limitations of an individual. Among organisms that reproduce sexually, an individual’s genotype comprises the entire complex of genes inherited from both parents.”73 Compare [Phenotype](#phenotype}

Glossary ^

Gloss: A collection of brief explanations or definitions of words or phrases thought to be difficult or obscure.74

Guilt ^

“Emotional state associated with self-reproach and the need for punishment….Guild has normal psychological and social functions, but special intensity or absence of guilt characterizes many mental disorders, such as depression and anti-social personality disorder, respectively. Psychiatrists distinguish shame as a less internalized form of guilt that relates more to others than to the self.”75 Compare Shame.

< H > ^

HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis ^

[This content is currently under development.]

Hypervigilance ^

“An enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms included increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a continual scanning of the environment for threats. …Hypervigilance can lead to a variety of obsessive behavior patterns as well as producing difficulties with social interaction and relationships.”76

< I > ^

“Induced by a physician - used chiefly of imagined ailments induced in a patient by autosuggestion based on a physician’s words or actions during an examination.”77

ICD (ICD-9, ICD-10, ICD-11…) ^

“The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes. This includes the analysis of the general health situation of population groups. It is used to monitor the incidence and prevalence of diseases and other health problems.

”It is used to classify diseases and other health problems recorded on many types of health and vital records including death certificates and health records. In addition to enabling the storage and retrieval of diagnostic information for clinical, epidemiological and quality purposes, these records also provide the basis for the compilation of national mortality and morbidity statistics by WHO Member States. It is used for reimbursement and resource allocation decision-making by countries.

“The ICD-10 was endorsed by the Forty-third World Health Assembly in May 1990 and came into use in WHO Member States as from 1994. The 11th revision of the classification has already started and will continue until 2015.”78

“[The] DSM-5 ”was designed to correspond to the 10th edition of the ICD (ICD-10} “79

Immediate memory ^

”Reproduction, recognition, or recall of perceived material within seconds after presentation.“80 (emphasis added) See Memory.

Implicit memory ^

”Involves parts of the brain that to do not require conscious, focal attention during encoding and retrieval. Perceptions, emotions, bodily sensations, and behavioral response patterns are all examples of implicit layers of processing. Mental models (schema or generalizations of repeated experiences) and priming (getting ready to respond) are basic components. Implicit memory in its unintegrated form lacks a sense that something is being recalled from the past.“81 See Memory.

Incidence ^

Gloss: An incidence statistic gives the rate or number of new occurrences of a phenomenon of interest in some time period, and excludes the number already present. (Often confused with prevalence.

Example: If someone says ”Women are no more or less likely than men to experience any mental disorder over their lifetime“, the statement refers to events, not persistence over time. If it takes men twice as long to recover, then for any period of time less than a lifetime, prevalence in men will be greater than in women, even while incidence is the same. For an entire lifetime, prevalence always equals incidence.

”The rate of new cases; e.g., the number of infants born with a condition divided by the number of live births in a given population in a given period of time“.82

Compare Prevalence.

Integration ^

1. “…the linkage of differentiated parts. The mind’s process of linking differentiated parts (distinct modes of information processing) into a functional whole is postulated to be the fundamental mechanism of health. Without integration, chaos, rigidity, or both ensue. Integration is both a process and a structural dimension, and can be examined, for example, in the functional and anatomic studies of the nervous system.”83

2. “Although many unique and curious approaches to the treatment of MPD have been advocated…, the vast majority have recommended bringing the alters to a state of unification. …Integration is a reasonable goal for the majority of MPD patients, and…stable retention of integration is feasible for this patient group.”84

3. “Integration is more like making a fruit salad than like making a smoothie: It requires that elements retain their individual uniqueness while simultaneously linking to other components of the system. The key is balance of differentiation and linkage.”85

4. “…a better ideal might be not only harmonious interaction among the multiple self-states but also an appreciation of contextural interdependence.”86

5.Integration…implies patients must somehow assimilate traumatic experiences (and dissociative parts of the personality) in order to move forward with their lives. But integration is also an integral part of and necessary for adaptive living on a daily basis. …Integration is an adaptive process involving ongoing mental actions that help both to differentiate and link experiences over time within a personality that is both flexible and stable, and thus promotes the best functioning possible in the present…”87

See also Multiplicity of selves.


Abbreviation for the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.

< L > ^

Lability ^

”A quality of affect, such that it is abnormally variable, “…with repeated, rapid, and abrupt shifts in affective expression.”88

Long term memory ^

“Reproduction, recognition, or recall of experiences or information that was experienced in the distant past. Also called remote memory.”89 See Memory.

< M > ^

Magical thinking ^

“The belief that thinking is equated with doing. Seen in children as a normal stage of development during which the child believes that his thoughts and hopes are the cause of events happening around him. Also observed in adults with a variety of psychiatric disorders.”90

Malingering ^

“…consciously feigning illness for some clear secondary gain (for example, to obtain drugs, to get a bed for the night, or to hide out from people pursuing them} ”91

Memory ^

Memory is a confusing topic, regardless of where you read. Non-professional discussions of and references to memory virtually always omit large areas of memory given serious attention by professionals - areas essential to a competent understanding of trauma and dissociation disorders. Professional discussions employ a variety of terms whose relationship is often obscure. It is possible, nevertheless, to construct a reasonably coherent system of memory-terms.

1. “The way past events affect future function; the probability that a particular neural network pattern will be activated in the future.”92

2. “[The] process whereby what is experienced or learned is established as a record in the CNS (registration), where it persists with a variable degree of permanence (retention), and can be recollected or retrieved from storage at will (recall).”93

Memory types classified by function and content:94

Memory types classified by duration of persistence:95

Mania ^

“A mood state characterized by elation, agitation, hyperactivity, hypersexuality, and accelerated thinking and speaking.”96

Mental disorder ^

“…A syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental function. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities….This definition of mental disorder was developed for clinical, public health, and research purposes.”38

See Diagnosis.


This is the standard abbreviation for “Mental Health Professional”, an umbrella term that encompasses anyone working professionally in mental illness treatment or mental health promotion, research, or education. Generally, it refers to someone with post-graduate training, be it at the Masters or Doctorate level, be they of medical, psychological, or social work background.97

Mindfulness ^

“Awareness of present-moment experience, with intention and purpose, without grasping on to judgments. Traits of being mindful are having an open stance towards oneself and others, emotional equanimity, and the ability to describe the inner world of the mind.”98

“Mindfulness in its totality has to do with the quality of awareness that a person brings to activities.”99

Mindsight ^

“The ability to perceive the internal world of the self and others, not just to observe behavior; to have a perception of the inner world of minds. It is the way we not only sense but also shape energy and information flow with the triangle of mind, brain, and relationships. Mindsight is the ability to monitor energy and information flow in the body and in relationships and then to modify that flow toward integration.”100

Mood ^

“Pervasive and sustained feeling-tone that is experienced internally, and that, in the extreme, can influence virtually all aspects of a person’s behavior and perception of the world. Distinguished from affect, the external expression of the internal feeling tone.”101

“A pervasive and sustained emotion that colors the perception of the world. Common examples of mood include depression, elation, anger, and anxiety. In contrast to affect, which refers to more fluctuating changes in emotional ‘weather’, mood refers to a pervasive and sustained emotional ‘climate’.”102

Multiple personality disorder (MPD) ^

1. A dissociative disorder which was first formally recognized103 in the 1980 DSM. The disorder’s name was changed to DID – dissociative identity disorder, in the 1994 DSM-IV.104

2. “[Now thought of as]…fragments of a single personality rather than a personalities inhabiting the same body.105

See also DID – dissociative identity disorder, Multiplicity of selves.

Multiplicity of selves (self-states or ego-states) ^

This is a glossary focus term and has its own article: Multiplicity of selves.

See also Alter, Ego state, Integration, and Self-state.

< N > ^

NCBI [USA] - National Center for Biotechnology Information ^

A branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The”National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information.“106

”…NCBI’s mission is to develop new information technologies to aid in the understanding of fundamental molecular and genetic processes that control health and disease. More specifically, the NCBI has been charged with creating automated systems for storing and analyzing knowledge about molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics; facilitating the use of such databases and software by the research and medical community…“107

Neglect ^

”Neglect is the absence of necessary elements for life rather than the presence of definable threat. Insufficient holding, attunement, nourishment, attachment, and touch are experienced as a profound but undefinable threat. When there is early neglect, it is held in implicit memory in the brain and body and becomes one of the core psychological features of individuals… At first, when needs are not met, infants will protest, but when neglect of basic needs is chronic, infants resign themselves and physiologically shut down. …Infants who experience neglect and survive do so by disconnecting from their bodies, going into freeze and dissociation.“108

NIH [USA] - National Institutes of Health ^

The National Institutes of Health”…is the nation’s medical research agency - supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.“109 ”NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems.“110

NIMH [USA] - National Institute of Mental Health ^

One of the 27 Institutes and Centers110 of the NIH,”The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.“111

Nosology ^

”A classification or list of diseases; a branch of medical science that deals with classification of diseases” (“Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online”112

< P > ^

Palliative care ^

“Palliative care…improves the quality of life of patients and their families…through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems…”113

Parts of personality ^

See Multiplicity of selves (self-states).

Pathological ^

There are two main meanings:114

  1. related to or caused by disease

  2. “extreme, excessive, or markedly abnormal”

Peripheral nervous system ^

See Central Nervous System.

Personality ^

“Enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself.”115 Central to the concept of personality is that of the personality trait.

Personality disorder ^

“A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates 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.”116

An Alternative Model For Personality Disorders is offered in the DSM-5 “to address numerous shortcomings of the current approach to personality disorders”; it proposes that they be conceived of as “characterized by impairments in personality functioning and pathological personality traits.”117

Personality trait ^

“A tendency to behave, feel, perceive, and think in relatively consistent ways across time and across situations in which the trait may be manifest…”Personality traits are prominent aspects of personality that are exhibited in relatively consistent ways across time and across situations. Personality traits influence self and interpersonal functioning. Depending on their severity, impairments in personality functioning and personality trait expression may reflect the presence of a personality disorder.”118

See Personality.

Phenotype ^

“The observable properties of an organism that are produced by the interaction of the genotype and the environment. …All the observable characteristics of an organism, such as shape, size, colour, and behaviour, that result from the interaction of its genotype (total genetic makeup) with the environment. The phenotype may change throughout the life of an individual because of environmental changes and the changes associated with aging. Different environments can influence the development of inherited traits (e.g., size is affected by available food supply) and can alter expression by similar genotypes (e.g., twins brought up in dissimilar families may mature differently) Furthermore, not all inherited possibilities in the genotype are expressed in the phenotype, because some are the result of inactive, recessive, or inhibited genes.”119

Compare Genotype.

Placebo effect ^

(Under development. To be posted 2023-05-24.)

Posttraumatic growth (PTG) ^

“…the positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.”120

“Post-traumatic Growth is the positive psychological change experienced as a result of a struggle with challenging life circumstances that represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual and/or an individual’s way of understanding the world and one’s their place in it. It is an experience of improvement that for some is deeply profound.”121

“[The] term ‘post-traumatic growth’ was coined in 1995 by Dr. Richard Tedeschi, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte….”121

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ^

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a formal diagnosis in both the DSM-5 and the ICD. The diagnostic criteria in each standard formulation have been closely coordinated in their development.122 The DSM-5 criteria “specify that the symptoms of intrusion, avoidance, alterations of mood and cognition, and hyperarousal must have lasted for more than one month.” Prior to that, the diagnosis of acute stress disorder may be appropriate.123

Historically and at present, the word “traumatic” has been and is still used to describe both the event and the reaction to the event, generating some distinct confusion. (For more on this problem, see Trauma.)

Since its first inclusion in the 1980 DSM-III, PTSD has been one of a very small number of disorders whose diagnosis depends upon a specific etiology: prior exposure, in any of several specified ways, to a seriously stressful event.123

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders of the American Psychiatric Association presents significant changes to the diagnostic criteria given in the DSM-IV.124 One of the most obvious is that the avoidance/numbing symptom cluster is now divided into two distinct clusters - avoidance and persistent negative alterations in cognitions and mood. The other major change is that “PTSD is now developmentally sensitive in the diagnostic thresholds have been lowered for children and adolescents….Separate criteria have been added for children age 6 years or younger.125

Compare Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [C-PTSD].

Power ^

See Statistical power.

Prevalence ^

“The number [of individuals] with a specific condition in a given population at a particular time”.126

Often confused with incidence, prevalence presumes incidence - a condition must occur (thus becoming an incident) before it can prevail.

Given a period of time, a prevalence statistic counts both new occurrences and those already existing at the beginning of the period. This gets tricky: Lifetime prevalence statistics will always equal lifetime incidence statistics for a given population. This will NOT necessarily be true for prevalence rates given for some period of time within a lifetime.

Example: The 12-month prevalence rate for diagnosable mental illness (DSM-IV criteria) in the USA is 18.6, in 2012.127 That means that during any 12 month period on average about one person in five will have a formally diagnosable mental illness. (t.c) Compare Incidence.

Proprioception ^

[This content is currently under development.]

Psychological trauma ^

This is a glossary focus term and has its own article: Psychological trauma.

Psychosomatic disorders ^

“The term psychosomatic disorder generally refers to a type of physical illness in which the etiology or course is related to significant psychological factors.”128

“Psychosomatic medicine…is based on two specific assumptions: There is a unity of mind and body; and psychological factors must be taken into account when considering all disease states….The concepts of psychosomatic medicine are subsumed in the [DSM-5] diagnostic entity of ‘Psychological factors affecting other medical conditions’. This category covers physical disorders caused by or adversely affected by emotional or psychological factors.”129 See DSM-5 for more on “Psychological factors affecting other medical conditions”.130


This is a glossary focus term and has its own article: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

< R > ^

Rapid eye movement [REM] ^

“A behavioral sign of the phase of sleep during which the sleeper is likely to be experiencing dreamlike mental activity.”131

Reality testing ^

“The objective evaluation of an emotion or thought against real life, as a faculty present in normal individuals but defective in psychotics…”132

[The] “fundamental ego function that consists of tentative actions that test and objectively evaluate the nature and limits of the environment; includes the ability to differentiate between the external world and the internal world and to accurately judge the relation between the self and the environment.”133

Reification ^

Noun form of to reify.

Gloss: To reify something is to treat what is abstract or unreal as concrete or real.

“To consider or represent (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing”; “to give definite content and form to (a concept or idea).”134


See Rapid eye movement.


“…An unconscious defense mechanism in which unacceptable mental contents are banished or kept out of consciousness.”135

“…Freud’s notion of repression involves an active process - itself unconscious - that holds unacceptable or overwhelming thoughts and impulses outside of conscious awareness.”136

Compare Dissociative amnesia.

Resilience ^

“Resiliency is the process of adapting well in the face of: adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, [and] significant sources of stress (family & relationship problems, serious health problems, workplace stress, financial stress) Studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.”137

< S > ^

“An aftereffect of disease or injury”; “a secondary result.”138

Self-state ^

Identical in meaning to Ego state, this term is preferred by some authors.

See Ego state.

Semantic memory ^

“A form of explicit memory, dealing with facts.”139 See Memory.

Shame ^

“A state of mind filled with a sense of the self as being defective. The physiology of shame can create heaviness in the chest, nausea in the belly, and the avoidance of eye-contact with others. One view of the developmental origins of shame posits that when in need of attunement during states of heightened arousal - such as in joy or in distress - the lack of attuned response from others can induce the physiological state of shame and its accompanying cognitions of being ‘damaged goods’.”140

“Failure to live up to self-expectations; often associated with fantasy of how a person will be seen by others.”141

Compare Guilt.

Short term memory ^

“Reproduction, recognition, or recall of perceived material within minutes after initial presentation.”142 (emphasis added) See Memory.

Sign ^

Signs are objective findings observed by the clinician (for example, constricted affect and psychomotor retardation).”143

“An objective manifestation of a pathological condition. Signs are observed by the examiner rather than reported by the affected individual.”144

Compare Symptom.

Statistical power ^

Gloss: Power is a measure of research design sensitivity, and increases with sample size.

Example: If a clinical intervention cures a disease 30% of the time in a general population, the probability that a given study (test) will detect this is its power.

“The probability of detecting a significant effect when the effect truly exists in nature.”145

“The ability of a [statistical] test to detect an effect of a particular size (a value of 0.8 is a good level to aim at).”146

“Many of the choices in designing research are made with an eye toward increasing power because research with low power usually isn’t worth the effort.”147

“The point in doing an analysis of a given research plan is that when the power turns out to be insufficient the investigator may decide to revise these plans, or even drop the investigation entirely if such revision is impossible. Obviously, because little or nothing can be done after the investigation is completed, determination of statistical power is of primary value as a pre-investigation procedure. If power is found to be insufficient, the research plan may be revised in ways that will increase it, primarily by increasing n” [the sample size].148

Stress ^

“The pattern of specific and non-specific responses a person makes to stimulus events that disturb his or her equilibrium and tax or exceed his or her ability to cope.”149

Stressor ^

“Any emotional, physical, social, economic, or other factor that disrupts the normal physiological, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral balance of an individual.”150

See subsyndromal.

“Below a specified level or threshold required to qualify for a particular condition. Subsyndromal conditions…are medical conditions that do not meet full criteria for a diagnosis - for example, because the symptoms are fewer or less severe than a defined syndrome - but that nevertheless can be identified and related to the ‘full-blown’ syndrome.”151 See syndrome.

“…refers to the phenomenon of an ego state (i.e., “alter](#alter personality) spontaneously assuming full executive control [of the personality].”152

Symptoms are subjective experiences described by the patient (for example, depressed mood and decreased energy).”153

“A subjective manifestation of a pathological condition. Symptoms are reported by the affect individual rather than observed by the examiner.”154

Compare Sign.

Syndrome ^

“A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that occur together as a recognizable condition that may be less specific than a clear cut disorder or disease. Most psychiatric conditions are, in fact, syndromes.”155

“A grouping of signs and symptoms, based on their frequent co-occurrence that may suggest a common underlying pathogenesis, course, familial pattern, or treatment selection.”156

< T > ^

Theory of mind ^

“The ability, developed during the first year of life, to detect that another person has a mind with a focus of attention, and intuition, and an emotional state. The theory of mind component is a component of the larger capacity of reflective functioning. The right prefrontal cortex plays a central role in mediating this fundamental process that is central to mentalization and mindsight.157

Trance ^

“Sleeplike state of reduced consciousness and activity.”158

“A sleeplike altered state of consciousness (as of deep hypnosis) usually characterized by partly suspended animation with diminished or absent sensory and motor activity and subsequent lack of recall.”159

“A state of profound abstraction or absorption.”159

Trauma (psychological) ^

This is a glossary focus term and has its own article: Psychological trauma.

Trigger ^

“A trigger (or reactivating stimulus) is something that bears a literal or symbolic similarity to an aspect of an unresolved traumatic experience. It may be a present-day situation, an interaction with another person, an object, or even an inner experience such as a particular feeling or situation or sensation, a smell, or a position of your body. Parts of you then may automatically react in similar ways as during the original traumatizing situation, that is parts of you have conditioned reactions that you cannot consciously control.”160

< U > ^

UTC - Universal Time Coordinate ^

This UTC is the standard way on the Internet of denoting the time at any place on our planet.

Example: As I write this, it is 4:17 PM Pacific Daylight Time, in eastern Washingon state, USA. In 24-hour time this is 16:17 (4:17 + 12:00). To tell anyone in the world (many of whom might not have any idea of the relationship between my time zone and theirs) what time this is, I make reference to the universal source of time keeping for the world–the “UTC”. A standard way to do this is to write my local time with reference to the UTC: ”2019-08-24: 1617 (UTC-7)”. This gives a date, my local 24-hour time, then the adjustment of the UTC needed to produce that local time. 

By convention, UT (Universal Time) is the time at the Greenwich observatory in England, so UTC-7 means that my local time is 7 hours behind the time there. Anyone in the world can then calculate the UTC time of my datestamp, then adjust for their local time, and know exactly when I was doing something, in their local time. This sounds harder than it is, and it does solve the confusing problem of  how to deal with times across our globe. For more information on this see the Universal Time page of the US Naval Observatory website.

< W > ^

Working memory ^

“Holding something in the ‘front of the mind’ for a brief period of time, so that the item can be the focus of attention, sorted, and altered for further information processing.”161

See Memory.

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Bromberg, P. M. (1998). Shadow and substance: A relational perspective on clinical process. In Standing in the spaces : essays on clinical process, trauma, and dissociation (pp. 165 - 187). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. 

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Notes ^

Please see References, above, for full citations.

  1. Blackburn, 1994, p. v. ^

  2. Kaplan, et al., 1994, p. 303. ^

  3. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1407. ^

  4. Siegel, 2012, p. 389. ^

  5. APA, 2013, p. 817. ^

  6. Nathanson, 1997, p. 49. ^

  7. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1414. ^

  8. Siegel, 2012, p. 389. ^

  9. Ross & Halpern, 2009, p. 11. ^

  10. Watkins & Watkins, 1997, p. 44, paraphrasing Putnam, 1992. ^

  11. Kluft, 1984, p. 23, quoted in Ringrose, 2012, p. 6. ^

  12. Putnam, 1992, p. 95. ^

  13. Kluft, 1988, p. 51, quoted in Howell, 2011, p. 58. ^

  14. APA, 2013, p. 817. ^

  15. Anecdotal evidence, n.d. (See References entry) ^

  16. Anhedonia, n.d. ^

  17. APA, 2013, p. 818. ^

  18. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1408. ^

  19. Dell, 2010. ^

  20. Siegel, 2012, pp. 390-391. ^

  21. Clinical Definition & Meaning | Britannica Dictionary. (See References entry) ^

  22. Gove, 1966, p. 423, definition #1. ^

  23. Reber, 1985, p. 125, definition #1. ^

  24. American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 18. ^

  25. American Psychiatric Association, 2013, pp. 715ff. ^

  26. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 812. ^

  27. Cozolino, 2002, p. 258. ^

  28. APA, 2013, p. 819. ^

  29. Sadock, B. J., et al., p. 210. ^

  30. APA, 2013, p. 819. ^

  31. APA, 2013, p. 820. ^

  32. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1410. ^

  33. Dell, 2010. ^

  34. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1410. ^

  35. APA, 2013, p. 155. ^

  36. Dell, 2010. ^

  37. APA, 2013, p. 820. ^

  38. APA, 2013, p. 20. ^ ^2

  39. Putnam, 1997, p. 152. ^

  40. Putnam, 1997, p. 153. ^

  41. Putnam, 1997, p. 152. ^

  42. Putnam, 1997, p. 154. ^

  43. APA, 2013, p. 820 ^

  44. Sadock, et al., 2014. p. 1410. ^

  45. APA, 2013, pp. 298-300. ^

  46. APA, 2013, p. 298. ^

  47. APA, 2013, p. 820. ^

  48. APA, 2013, p. 292ff. ^

  49. What is a digital object identifier, or DOI?, n.d. ^

  50. Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications), n.d. ^

  51. The DOI System, 2014.06.30. ^

  52. Dysphoria, n.d. ^

  53. Grimm & Yarnold, 1995, p. 274. ^

  54. Field, 2012, pp. 57-58. ^

  55. Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989, p. 55. ^

  56. Watkins & Watkins, 1997, p. ix. ^

  57. Emotion (Concise Encyclopedia), n.d. ^

  58. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1411. ^

  59. Emotion (Medical), n.d. ^

  60. Siegel, 2012, p. 395. ^

  61. Gove, 1966, p. 745. ^ ^2

  62. Enabler, n.d. ^

  63. Lancer, 2013. ^

  64. Siegel, 2012, p. 392. ^

  65. Epigenetics (b), n.d. ^

  66. Siegel, 2012, p. 392. ^

  67. Epigenetics (a), n.d. ^

  68. Siegel, 2012, p. 393. ^

  69. Etiology (Medical), n.d. ^

  70. American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice. (2006) ^

  71. Siegel, 2012, p. 393. ^

  72. Boon, Steele, & Hart, 2011, p. 36. ^

  73. Genotype, n.d. ^

  74. Paraphase, from “gloss” and “glossary”, Gove, 1966, p. 967. ^

  75. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1412. ^

  76. APA, 2013, p. 823. ^

  77. Gove, 1966, p. 1119. ^

  78. International Classification of Diseases (ICD), n.d. ^

  79. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 290. ^

  80. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1413. ^

  81. Siegel, 2012, pp. 393-394. ^

  82. Kaplan, et al., 1994, p. 149.  ^

  83. Siegel, 2012, p. 394. ^

  84. Kluft, 1993, p. 102. ^

  85. Siegel, 2012, p. 199. ^

  86. Howell, 2011, p. 143. ^

  87. Van der Hart, Nijenhuis, & Steele, 2006, p. 11. ^

  88. APA, 2013, p. 817. ^

  89. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1414. ^

  90. Reber, 1985, p. 413. ^

  91. Kaplan, et al., 1994, p. 14. ^

  92. Siegel, 2012, p. 395. ^

  93. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1414. ^

  94. Siegel, 2012. ^

  95. Sadock, et al., 2014, pp. 110, 111, ^

  96. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1414; see also American Psychiatric Association. (2013), p. 824. ^

  97. personal knowledge, Tom Cloyd MS MA. ^

  98. Siegel, 2012. p. AI-51. ^

  99. Linehan, 1993, p. 64. ^

  100. Siegel, 2012b, p. AI-52. ^

  101. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 1414. ^

  102. APA, 2013, p. 824. ^

  103. American Psychiatric Association, 1980, 1987 (DSM-III-R), p. 269. ^

  104. American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 484. ^

  105. Watkins & Watkins, 1997, p. 44, paraphrasing Putnam, 1992. ^

  106. Welcome to NCBI, n.d. ^

  107. Our Mission, 2004.05.21. ^

  108. Heller, & LaPierre, 2012, p. 139 ^

  109. NIH at a glance, n.d. ^

  110. Institutes, Center, & Offices, n.d. ^ ^2

  111. NIH mission, 2013.08.06. ^

  112. Nosology, n.d. ^

  113. WHO Definition of Palliative Care, n.d. ^

  114. Merriam-Webster. (n.d). Pathological. ^

  115. APA, 2013, p. 826. ^

  116. APA, 2013 p. 645. ^

  117. APA, 2013, p. 761. ^

  118. APA, 2013, p. 826. ^

  119. Phenotype, n.d. ^

  120. Akhtar, 2014. ^

  121. Garlington, n.d. ^ ^2

  122. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 290. ^

  123. Sadock, et al., 2014, p. 439. ^ ^2

  124. APA, 2000, pp. 467-468. ^

  125. APA, 2013, p. 812. ^

  126. Kaplan, et al., 1994, p. 149. ^

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