Anxiety Disorders

Chronic feelings of overwhelming anxiety and fear, unattached to any obvious source that can grow progressively worse if not treated. The anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, cardiac disturbances, diarrhea or dizziness. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder are considered anxiety disorders (all defined individually in Glossary).

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

A biologically-based disorder that includes distractibility and impulsiveness. Recent research suggests that ADD can be inherited and may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals used by the brain to control behavior) or abnormal glucose metabolism in the central nervous system.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A form of ADD that includes hyperactivity. Children with ADHD are unable to sit still. They may walk, run or climb around when others are seated, and often talk when others are talking.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

A serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities. Autism typically appears in the first three years of life, although there may be signs in infancy such as avoiding eye contact and abruptly stopping language development. Children with autism may stare into space for hours, throw uncontrollable tantrums and show no interest in people including their parents. They may pursue strange, repetitive activities with no apparent purpose. Some people with autism can function at a relatively high level, with speech and intelligence intact. Others, however, have serious learning problems and language delays, and some never speak.

Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic-depressive illness. A serious illness that causes shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Dramatic mood swings can move from “high” feelings of extreme euphoria or irritability to depression, sometimes with periods of normal moods in between. Manic episodes may include such behaviors as prolonged periods without sleep or uncontrolled shopping. Each episode of mania or depression can last for hours, weeks or several months.

Borderline Personality Disorder

A mental illness marked by a pattern of unstable personal relationships and self image, as well as marked impulsivity. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often have a strong fear of abandonment and may exhibit recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self-mutilating behavior. They also may have inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.

Case Management

A process in which individuals are partners in the management of their mental illnesses and in their recovery. Case management focuses on accelerating the use of available services to restore or maintain independent functioning to the fullest extent possible. In pursuing this goal, case management helps people connect to needed services and supports within the community.

Chronic Health Conditions

A long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured. Chronic illness affects the population worldwide. As described by the Centers for Disease Control, chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.


In psychiatry, a disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty with thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness and sometimes suicidal thoughts or attempts to commit suicide. While standing alone as a mental illness, depression also can be experienced in other disorders such as bipolar disorder. Depression can range from mild to severe, and is very treatable with today’s medications and/or therapy.

Early Intervention

In mental health, early intervention comprises of diagnosing and treating mental illnesses early in their development. Studies have shown early intervention can result in higher recovery rates. However, many individuals do not have the advantage of early intervention because the stigma of mental illness and other factors keep them from pursuing help until later in the illness’ development.

Eating Disorder

A serious disturbance in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating. It is usually accompanied by feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight. Eating disorders, which are treatable, usually develop in adolescence or early adulthood and frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Eating disorders can lead to serious physical health complications including heart conditions and kidney failure, which may lead to death. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Evidence-Based Practice

Refers to treatment guidelines that can be supported by quality clinical research.

Homeless, Chronic

Chronically homeless individuals have a disability and have been homeless for a year or more, or they have had at least four episodes of homelessness within the past three years. Homeless also refers to individuals living in transitional housing or those who spend most nights in a supervised or private facility that provides temporary living quarters.


The state of being confined in prison; imprisonment.

Mental Disorder

A health condition characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior (or a combination of the three). Mental disorders are mediated by the brain and associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. They can be the result of family history, genetics or other biological, environmental, social or behavioral factors that occur alone or in combination.

Mental Health

The condition of being mentally and emotionally sound and well adjusted, characterized by the absence of mental disorder and by adequate adjustment. Individuals with mental health feel comfortable about themselves, have positive feelings about others and exhibit an ability to meet the demands of life.


A patient who receives medical treatment without being admitted to a hospital.


According to Obama’s Freedom Commission on Mental Illness, a process by which people who have a mental illness are able to work, learn and participate fully in their communities. For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms.


A deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement.

Residential Treatment

Intensive and comprehensive psychiatric treatment in a campus-like setting, usually for a minimum of several months.


A psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life and disintegration of feeling, thought and conduct. Individuals with schizophrenia often hear internal voices not heard by others (hallucinations) or believe things that other people find absurd (delusions). The symptoms also may include disorganized speech and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Individuals with schizophrenia have marked impairment in social or occupational functioning.


In mental health, a brief formal or informal assessment to identify individuals who have mental health problems or are likely to develop such problems. If a problem is detected, the screening can also determine the most appropriate mental health services for the individual.

Serious Mental Illness

A diagnosable mental disorder found in individuals aged 18 years and older. The disorder is so severe and long lasting, it seriously interferes with a person’s ability to take part in major life activities.

Substance Abuse

The inappropriate use of and possibly addiction to illegal and legal substances including alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs.

Suicidal Impulses

Actions taken by one who is considering or preparing to cause their own death.


Treatment of physical, mental or behavioral problems that is meant to cure or rehabilitate. Psychotherapy emphasizes substituting desirable responses and behavior patterns for undesirable ones.