Glossary of psychiatry
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This glossary covers terms found in the psychiatric literature; the word origins are primarily Greek, but there are also French, German, and English terms. Many of these terms refer to expressions dating from the early days of psychiatry in Europe.
Abreaction is a process of vividly reliving repressed memories and emotions related to a past event. Sigmund Freud used hypnosis to rid their patients of pathological memories through abreaction.
Illusions (Misperceptions) associated with and/or based on changes with mood; for example, at midnight a person may take a shadow as a ghost, but in the early part of night this may not be the case.
Akataphasia (Kraepelin 1896) refers to disorder of thought expression in speech and results due to dissolution of logical ordering of trains of thought..
Akathisia refers to a subjective feeling of restlessness in the lower limbs that is related to abnormal activity in the extrapyramidal system in the brain, often due to antipsychotic medication. It tends to manifest as an inability to sit still.
Alexithymia refers to an inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.
Alice in Wonderland experience
In Alice in Wonderland experience, individuals perceive objects (including animals and other humans, or parts of humans, animals, or objects) as appearing substantially smaller than in reality. Generally, the object appears far away or extremely close at the same time. Alternate term for this is somaesthetic aura. Also see #Lilliputian hallucinations
Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighbouring words. For example, "When I struck and slapped my humble horse, he began to run rapidly."
Literally, this term means "not having words". This refers to poverty of speech, either in amount of content, and it can be seen as a negative symptom of schizophrenia. It may also be seen in advanced dementia.
Anhedonia refers to an inability to experience pleasure, and may be described as a feeling of emotional emptiness. It can be a negative symptom of schizophrenia. It also may be seen in severe depressive states and schizoid personality disorder.
Anosognosia is a condition in which a person who suffers certain disability seems unaware of the existence of his or her disability. Hemiasomatognosia is a subtype of anosognosia in which the person suffering from hemiplegia neglects one half of his body.
Anton syndrome, occasionally known as Anton-Babinski syndrome, is a form of cortical blindness in which the patient denies the visual impairment. The patient may attempt to walk, bumping into objects and injuring himself. Anton syndrome is caused by damaging the occipital lobes bilaterally or from disrupting the pathway from the primary visual cortex into the visual association cortex.
Anwesenheit refers to the feeling of presence of something or some person. It can be seen in normal grief reaction, schizophrenia and some emotionally arousing situations.
This is an alternate term for delusional perception. It is one of the Schneiderian first rank symptoms and is defined as a true perception, to which a patient attributes a false meaning. For example, a person may see written "No Trespassing" on a board and may infer from this that intelligence agencies are spying on him.
Aphemia is the alternate term for mutism. Mutism is absence of speech with apparently normal level of consciousness. Mutism can be dissociative (hysterical) in which an individual (commonly a child or adolescent) stops speaking at once without involvement of any neurological or physical contributing factor; or it can be elective (selective) in which a child does not speak at all in certain situations (such as in school) but speaks well in other conditions (like at home or at play). A rare cause of mutism is akinetic mutism which results due to a lesion around 3rd ventricle of brain.
Apperception is a normal phenomenon and refers to the ability to understand sensory inputs in their context, to interpret them and to incorporate them into experience. Failure of apperception is seen in delirious states.
Astasia-abasia is a form of psychogenic gait disturbance in which gait becomes impaired in the absence of any neurological or physical pathology. The person usually walks in a bizarre manner. He staggers and appears as if going to fall but always manages to catch hold of something in time. Sometimes these people cannot even stand but on the other hand they are well able to move their legs while lying down or sitting. Often associated with conversion disorder or somatization disorder.
Alternate term for Loosening of association. A milder form of derailment of thought, in which a person goes on jumping from one topic to another and there is little connection among the topics. This is in contrast to flight of ideas where a person jumps from one topic to another and there is a connection among the topics. See also #Entgleisen term introduced by (Cameron).
Autistic thinking is a term used to refer to thinking not in accordance with consensus reality that emphasizes preoccupation with inner experience. See also #Dereistic thinking.
Autokabalesis is a term for committing suicide by jumping from a very high place.
Automatisms are sequences of activity that occur without conscious control. They may be simple and repetitive (tic-like) or complex, and are usually natural-looking but purposeless; for example, repeatedly going through the motions of buttering a piece of bread when there is no bread there. Automatic behaviour is not usually recalled afterwards.
Autoscopy is the reduplicative hallucination of "seeing one's own body at a distance" and the person sees it from the place where he or she is located. Autoscopy is sometimes used synonymously with out-of-body experience.
Bouffée délirante is a French term used in the past for acute and transient psychotic disorders (F23 in ICD-10). In DSM-IV, it is described as Brief Psychotic Disorder (298.8). The symptoms usually have an acute onset and reach their peak within two weeks. The symptoms start resolving in a few weeks and complete recovery usually occurs within 2–3 months.
Brain fag is an example of a culture-bound syndrome. Once a common term for mental exhaustion, it is now encountered almost exclusively in West Africa. Seen predominantly in male students, it generally manifests as vague somatic symptoms, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
Bruxism refers to teeth grinding behaviour that is usually seen in children.
Capgras' syndrome or Illusion des sosies
In Capgras syndrome, the patient feels that a person familiar to him, usually a family member has been replaced by an imposter. This is a type of delusion that can be experienced as part of schizophrenia. Capgras Syndrome and several other related disorders are referred to as delusional misidentification syndrome.
Catalepsy is the term for catatonic rigidity of the limbs which often results in abnormal posturing for long intervals.
Cataplexy involves a sudden loss of muscle tone, and is generally precipitated by a sudden emotional response.
Catatonia involves a significant psychomotor disturbance, which can occur as catalepsy, stupor. excessive purposeless motor activity, extreme negativism (seemingly motiveless resistance to movement), mutism, echolalia (imitating speech), or echopraxia (imitating movements). There is a catatonic subtype of schizophrenia.
Cerea flexibilitas, meaning "waxy flexibility", refers to people allowing themselves to be placed in postures by others, and then maintaining those postures for long periods even if they are obviously uncomfortable. It is characterized by a patient's movements having the feeling of a plastic resistance, as if the person were made of wax. This occurs in catatonic schizophrenia, and a person suffering from this condition can have his limbs placed in fixed positions as if the person were in fact made from wax.
Chorea is manifest by abnormal involuntary movements. The term comes from Greek word choreia, meaning dance, since large groups of muscles are usually involved which leads to writhing dance-like movements.
Circumstantial thinking, or circumstantial speech, refers to a person being unable to answer a question without giving excessive, unnecessary detail. This differs from tangential thinking, in that the person does eventually return to the original point.
Clang associations are ideas that are related only by similar or rhyming sounds rather than actual meaning. Example: "He ate the skate, inflated yesterdays gate toward the cheese grater."
Claparede's paradox refers to retention of non-verbal and implicit memory in sufferers of Korsakoff's syndrome.
Clouding of consciousness
Clouding of consciousness, also known as brain fog or mental fog, is a global impairment in higher central nervous functioning. All aspects of cognitive functioning are affected. On mental status examination it is manifest by disorientation in time, place and person, memory difficulties caused by failure to register and recall, aphasia, and agnosia. Impaired perception functioning leads to illusions and hallucinations often in the visual sensory modality. This then causes agitation and distress and secondary delusions. The term 'confusion state' is sometimes used to mean clouding of consciousness, but should be avoided if at all possible because it is ambiguous.
A patient in a coenestopathic state has a localized distortion of body awareness.
Confabulation is the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memories.
Conversion disorder involves the unintentional production of symptoms or deficits affecting motor or sensory function that are not fully explained by a neurological or medical condition. This can manifest as paralysis, for example. It generally involves psychological factors, and symptoms may worsen in the context of situational conflict.
Coprolalia is the involuntary utterance of socially inappropriate phrases. It is a phonic tic associated with Tourette syndrome, although less than 15% of persons with Tourette's have coprolalia.
Cotard delusion involves the belief that one of the person's own bodily organs has changed in a bizarre way, has ceased functioning, or has disappeared. It is a type of delusion that can be experienced in schizophrenia.
In Déjà vu, a person feels undue familiarity to an event or a person. For example, he feels that the same thing has happened before or he or she has met this person before, etc.
In Déjà pensé, a completely new thought sounds familiar to the person and he feels as he has thought the same thing before at some time.
Dementia praecox refers to a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration, usually beginning in the late teens or early adulthood.
Dementia pugilistica, also called "chronic traumatic encephalopathy", "pugilistic Parkinson's syndrome", "boxer's syndrome", and "punch-drunk syndrome", is a neurological disorder which affects career boxers and others who receive multiple dazing blows to the head. The condition develops over a period of years, with the average time of onset being about 16 years after the start of a career in boxing.
Derailment, also known as loosening of associations, refers to disorganized thinking that jumps between ideas that seem entirely unrelated. It can be seen in patients with schizophrenia, as well as those experiencing mania.
Dereistic thinking is an old descriptive term used to refer to thinking not in accordance with the facts of reality and experience and following illogical, idiosyncratic reasoning. This term is also used interchangeably with autistic thinking though not an exact synonym.: dereistic emphasizes disconnection from reality and autistic emphasizes preoccupation with inner experience.
Alternate term for organic hallucinosis and delusional parasitosis, the continuous belief on the part of the patient that their skin or body has been infested by parasites or insects. This state cannot be diagnosed if the hallucinatory state is produced while the patient is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the patient fulfills the criterion for delirium. In general, if a patient is under the influence of a drug, or experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal from that drug, this condition is not psychiatric but medical, and termed formication.
In Dhat syndrome there is a complaint of premature ejaculation or impotence and a belief that semen is being passed in the urine.
The Doppelgänger is a phenomenon in which the person feels that his exact “double” is present alongside him every time and goes with him wherever he goes.
Écho de la pensée
In écho de la pensée, meaning "thought echo" in French, thoughts seem to be spoken aloud just after being produced. The patient hears the 'echo' of his thoughts in the form of a voice after he has made the thought. See also #Gedankenlautwerden and #Thought Sonorization.
Literally means jumping off the rails.[dubious ] Alternate term used for derailment of thought (a morbid form of loosening of association or asyndesis). A Schneiderian term by origin. In this form of thought the patient jumps from one topic to another during conversation and both topics have literally no connection with each other. This is in contrast with flight of ideas where connection is present between one topic and another.
Extracampine hallucinations are hallucinations beyond the possible sensory field, e.g., 'seeing' somebody standing behind you is a visual extracampine hallucination experience.
Fantasy is imagining that expresses desires and aims.
The moods of a patient with fatuous affect resemble the moods of a child. This condition is seen in hebephrenic schizophrenia.
Flight of ideas
Flight of ideas describes excessive speech at a rapid rate that involves fragmented or unrelated ideas. It is common in mania. It has also been described in schizophrenia and ADHD.
Folie à deux
Also called induced psychosis, folie à deux is a delusional disorder shared by two or more people who are closely related emotionally. One has real psychosis while the symptoms of psychosis are induced in the other or others due to close attachment to the one with psychosis. Separation usually results in symptomatic improvement in the one who is not psychotic.
Folie communiquée, folie imposée, folie induite, and folie simultanée are the four subtypes of folie à deux.
- Folie communiquée
Folie communiquée, or subtype C of folie à deux, occurs when a normal person suffers a contagion of his ideas after resisting them for a long time. Once he acquires these beliefs he maintains them despite separation.
- Folie imposée
Folie imposée, or subtype A of folie a deux, is the most common form in which the dominant person imposes a delusion into a person who was not previously mentally ill. Separation of the two results in improvement of the non-dominant person.
- Folie induite
In folie induite, or subtype D of folie a deux, a person who is already psychotic adds the delusions of a closely associated person to his own.
- Folie simultanée
In folie simultanée, or subtype B of folie a deux, a delusional system emerges simultaneously and independently in two closely related persons, and the separation of the two would not be beneficial in the resolution of psychopathology.
In Fregoli delusion, the person has a delusional belief that various different people are in fact a certain other person, even if there is no physical resemblance.
 Fregoli syndrome is considered a form of delusional misidentification "in which the false identification of familiar people occurs in strangers"
In Gedankenlautwerden, a patient hears thoughts spoken aloud. Thoughts are heard in the form of a voice at the same time as they are thought, not afterwards. See also Écho de la pensée and Thought sonorization
Gegenhalten is a catatonic phenomenon in which the subject opposes all passive movements with the same degree of force as applied by the examiner. It is slightly different from negativism in which the subject does exactly the opposite to what is asked in addition to showing resistance.
Hyposchemazia is characterized by the reduced awareness of a patient's body image and Aschemazia by the absence of it. These disorders can have many varied causes such as physical injuries, mental disorders, or mental or physical states. These include transection of the spinal cord, parietal lobe lesions (e.g. right middle cerebral artery thrombosis), anxiety, depersonalization, epileptic auras, migraines, sensory deprivation, and vertigo (i.e. "floating on air").
Idée fixe is an alternate term for an overvalued idea. In this condition, a belief that might seem reasonable both to the patient and to other people comes to dominate completely the patient's thinking and life.
Ideas of alienation
Thoughts that one's own body part or action is not of one's own.
Ideas of influence
Thoughts that one's own action is caused by someone else's will or some other external cause.
Ideas of reference
Ideas of reference are a delusional belief that general events are personally directed at oneself. For example, someone might believe that he or she is receiving messages from the TV that are directed especially at him or her.
Jargon aphasia is characterized by incoherent, meaningless speech with neologisms (newly invented words). These are unconscious thoughts that find expression when one is off one's guard and must be consciously repressed.
In Klüver–Bucy syndrome, a patient will display placidity, hyperorality, hypersexuality, and hyperphagia. This condition results from bilateral destruction of the amygdaloid bodies of the limbic system.
Knight's Move thinking
Knight's move thinking a phenomenon similar to derailment of thought or loosening of associations, is characterized by odd, tangential associations between ideas that lead to disruptions in the smooth continuity of speech. The name for this disorder likely derives from the odd movement pattern of knights in the game of chess.
Kuru (also known as laughing sickness due to the outbursts of laughter that mark its second phase) was first noted in New Guinea in the early 1900s. Kuru is now known to be a prion disease, one of several known transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
Latah is a culture-specific syndrome usually seen in Southeast Asia and involves startle-induced disorganization, hypersuggestibility, automatic obedience, and echopraxia (a tendency to mimic examiner’s or other person’s actions). It is usually associated with women. There is controversy over whether Latah is a real psychiatric condition, or merely a display of exhibitionism that would otherwise not be socially acceptable.
L'homme qui rit
In l'homme qui rit, meaning "The man who laughs" in French, a patient displays inappropriate laughter accompanied by release phenomena of the frontal subdominant lobe.
Lilliputian hallucinations are characterized by abnormal perception of objects as being shrunken in size but normal in detail. Usually seen in delirium tremens.
In logoclonia, the patient often repeats the last syllable of a word. Symptom of Alzheimers or Parkinson's Disease.
Logorrhoea, also known as "volubility", is characterized by a patient's fluent and rambling speech using numerous words.
Mania a potu
Mania a potu is an alcohol intoxication state with violent and markedly disinhibited behavior. This condition is different from violent behavior in otherwise normal individuals who are intoxicated.
Mitgehen is an extreme form of mitmachen in which very slight pressure leads to movement in any direction, also called the "anglepoise" effect or "anglepoise lamp sign". This is done despite instructions that the patient resist the pressure, as the patient often views the slight pressure as forcibly grasping and moving the patient.
In mitmachen, the patient's body can be put into any posture, despite instructions given that the patient resist.
Moria is the condition characterized by euphoric behavior, such as frivolity and the inability to act seriously. In addition, there is a lack of foresight and a general indifference. It is found in frontal lobe lesions, often along with Witzelsucht, particularly when the orbital surface is damaged. Recent research has shown its presence in frontotemporal dementia.
Negativism is found if, on examination, a patient resists attempts to move him and does opposite to what is asked. It is usually a sign of catatonia. It may progress to (catatonic) rigidity. It is slightly different from gegenhalten in which the patient resists movement but does not perform the opposite movement.
The omega sign is the occurrence of a fold (like the Greek letter omega, Ω ) in the forehead above the root of the nose produced by the excessive action of the corrugator muscle. It is sometimes seen in depression.
Palinacousis refers to a phenomenon in which the subject continues to listen to a word, a syllable or any sound, even after the withdrawal of stimulus. It is a type of #Perseveration.
In palinopsia a visual image persists after the stimulus has gone (similar to an afterimage seen after looking into a bright light).
A Freudian slip, or parapraxis, is an error in speech, memory or physical action that is believed to be caused by the unconscious mind.
A delusion in which a person believes he or she has seen a face transform into a grotesque form - often described as a 'monster', 'vampire', 'werewolf' or similar. This is very rare and most likely to be described by children suffering from schizophrenia.
In pareidolia a vague or random stimulus is mistakenly perceived as recognizable. A common example is perceiving the image of a face in clouds. Pareidolia is a type of illusion and hence called pareidolic illusion.
This term refers to uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of the original stimulus. Usually it is seen in organic disorders of brain, head injury, delirium or dementia, however can be seen in schizophrenia as well.
This refers to schizophrenia in people with mild learning disability.
Piblokto, Pibloktoq, or Arctic hysteria is a condition exclusively appearing in Inuit societies living within the Arctic Circle. Appearing most prevalently in winter, it is considered to be a form of a culture-specific disorder.
Symptoms can include intense "hysteria" (including screaming and uncontrolled wild behavior), depression, coprophagia, and insensitivity to extreme cold. This condition is most often seen in Inuit women.
Pseudologia fantastica is a condition in which a person grossly exaggerates his symptoms or even tells a lie about his symptoms in order to get medical attention . Seen in malingering and Munchausen syndrome.
Where the individual holds his/her head a few centimetres above the bed. No explanation is offered for this. It is a symptom of catatonia and can last for many hours.
Psychopathology is a term which refers to either the study of mental illness or mental distress or to the manifestation of behaviours and experiences which may be indicative of mental illness or psychological impairment.
This syndrome is characterized by rapid rhythmic movements of lips so that it resembles a rabbit chewing. It is a type of dystonic reaction.
Reflex hallucinations occur when true sensory input in one sense leads to production of a hallucination in another sense, e.g. seeing a doctor writing (visual) and then feeling him writing across one’s stomach (tactile).
Mental retardation is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills.
In Children: These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child. Children with mental retardation may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school. They will learn, but it will take them longer. There may be some things they cannot learn.
Left–right disorientation is one of the four cardinal signs of Gerstmann's syndrome.
Scanning speech is an ataxic dysarthria in which syllable durations are equalized. It is characteristic of the dysarthria of multiple sclerosis. Together with nystagmus and intention tremor it forms Charcot's triad 1.
A schnauzkrampf is a grimace resembling pouting sometimes observed in catatonic patients.
Sensitiver beziehungswahn, is an alternate term for ideas of reference. In this the person thinks as people are talking about him or observing him or a talk is going on about him on television or radio. Seen in social phobia, depression, delusional disorder and in schizophrenia where they are often present up to a delusional extent.
The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in a hostage, in which the hostage exhibits loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as battered person syndrome, child abuse cases, and bride kidnapping.
(also spelled synæsthesia, synaesthesia, or synesthesia—plural synesthesiae) -- from the Greek syn- meaning union and aesthesis meaning sensation—is a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are coupled. For instance, a person may hear colors.
Telegrammatic or telegraphic speech
Thought blocking refers to an abrupt stop in the middle of a train of thought; the individual may or may not be unable to continue the idea. This is type of formal thought disorder that can be seen in schizophrenia.
Verbigeration is the stereotyped repetition of words or phrases that may or may not have meaning to others.
It refers to an ill humoured mood state often accompanied by low mood and depressive symptoms. The people surrounding the patient often feel upset by this.
In vorbeigehen or vorbeireden, a patient will answer a question in such a way that one can tell the patient understood the question, although the answer itself may be very obviously wrong. For example "how many legs does a dog have?" - "six". This condition occurs in Ganser syndrome and has been observed in prisoners awaiting trial. Vorbeigehen (giving approximate answers) was the original term used by Ganser but Vorbeireden (talking past the point) is the term generally in use (Goldin 1955). This behaviour is also seen in people trying to feign psychiatric disorders (hence association with prisoners).
Wahneinfall is alternate term for autochthonous delusions. This is one of the types of primary delusions in which a firm belief comes into the patient's mind 'out of the blue' or as an intuition, hence called delusional intuition. Other types of primary delusions include delusional mood (or atmosphere), delusional (apophanous perception) and delusional memories.
Waxy flexibility, aka #Cerea flexibilitas, meaning is characterized by a patient's movements having the feeling of a plastic resistance, as if the person were made of wax. This occurs in catatonic schizophrenia, and a person suffering from this condition can have his limbs placed in fixed positions as if the person were in fact made from wax.
Windigo (also Wendigo, Windago, Windiga, Witiko, and numerous other variants) psychosis is a culture-bound disorder which involves an intense craving for human flesh and the fear that one will turn into a cannibal. This was alleged to have occurred among Algonquian Indian cultures.
Witzelsucht is a tendency to tell inappropriate jokes and creating excessive facetiousness and inappropriate or pointless humor. It is seen in Frontal lobe disorders usually along with #Moria. Recent research has shown that it may also be seen in frontotemporal dementia.
Word Salad (derived from the German Wortsalat) is characterized by confused, and often repetitious, language with no apparent meaning or relationship attached to them. It is often symptomatic of various mental illnesses, such as psychoses, including schizophrenia.
Würgstimme refers to speaking in an odd muffled or strangled voice. It is mainly seen in schizophrenia. Click here to listen to an example.
One of the paraphilias, characterized by marked distress over, or acting on, urges to indulge in sexual activity that involves animals.
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