Acting out – Originally an analytic term referring to the expression of unconscious feelings about the analyst, the commonly used meaning is the expression of unconscious feelings or conflicts in actions rather than words. This can take many forms including dangerous behavior such as self-harm or suicidal gestures.
Acute stress disorder – A disorder first named in DSM-IV. It is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in that it is evoked by the same types of stressors that precipitate PTSD. However, in this disorder, the symptoms occur during or immediately following the trauma.
Affect. – “A pattern of observable behaviors that is the expression of a subjectively experienced feeling state (emotion). Common examples of affect are sadness, elation, and anger. In contrast to mood, which refers to a more pervasive and sustained emotional `climate,’ affect refers to more fluctuating changes in emotional `weather.’” DSM-IV, p. 763.
Alter. – Another term for personality, alternate personality, or personality state; also called an identity or dissociated part. A distinct identity or personality state, with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self. Modified from DSM-5 “Alters are dissociated parts of the mind that the patient experiences as separate from each other.” ISSD Practice Guidelines Glossary, 1994.
Amnesia. – Experiences become inaccessible to `conscious’ recall. The loss in memory may be organic, emotional, dissociative, or of mixed origin, and may be permanent or limited to a sharply circumscribed period of time.
Anniversary reaction. – The experience of reacting with feelings or behavior on the “anniversary” of a previous event. In some cases, the person may not even consciously recall why he or she is feeling differently on that date. A common anniversary reaction is temporary depression.
Body Memory – The term refers to body sensations that symbolically or literally captures some aspect of the trauma. Sensory impulses are recorded in the parietal lobes of the brain, and these remembrances of bodily sensations can be felt when similar occurrences or cues re-stimulate the stored memories.(Lenore Terr, M.D., personal correspondence, 31 August 1994).
Boundaries – Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of therapy based on the belief that thoughts – not outside circumstances – control our feelings and behaviors and that our feelings and behaviors are consequently under our own control
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) – Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, disempowerment, captivity, or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim.
Conversion Disorder – A condition in which a person has neurological symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation. This disorder is a subset under the umbrella term, Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder, in the DSM-5. It is specified as conversation disorder if the symptoms are induced by a psychological stressor. Often precipitated by psychosocial stress, people with trauma histories have a higher than average rate of conversion disorder.
Countertransference – A therapist’s conscious or unconscious emotional reactions to a client. It is a therapist’s job to monitor his or her reactions to a client and to minimize their impact on the therapeutic relationship and treatment.
Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands and converts protein into energy. When a person feels unsafe or threatened in some manner, the amygdala signals the endocrine system which releases cortisol and causes an increased heart rate and a rise in blood pressure arises in preparation for a defensive response such as fight or fright.
Depersonalization/Derealization – This is one of a number of symptoms of CPTSD and is a form of dissociation in which a person feels as though they are not real, that they are disconnected from themselves, and are somewhat distant or detached from what is happening to them.
Dissociation– Dissociation is a central feature of Complex PTSD in which one or more parts of the person’s psyche becomes fixated on avoiding and/or defending the self from the painful emotions of re-experiencing trauma (defense action systems), while other parts manage the tasks required of daily living (daily living action systems).
Dissociative Amnesia – a type of dissociative disorder that involves inability to recall important personal information that would not typically be lost with ordinary forgetting. It is usually caused by trauma or stress. Diagnosis is based on history after ruling out other causes of amnesia.
Dissociative Disorders – A group of psychiatric conditions with the disruption in the integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment. DID (MPD) is one disorder in this category.
Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) – Developed by Frank W. Putnam M.D. and Eve B. Carlson, Ph.D., the DES is a 28-item self-report instrument that can be completed in about 10 minutes. It asks the respondent to indicate the frequency with which certain dissociative or depersonalization experiences occur.
Dissociative Fugue – A sudden, apparently purposeful, travel away from home, work, or significant others for an extended period of time (days or weeks), or with bewildered wandering. The amnesia is typically associated with confusion about one’s identity, and presentation of a new identity may occur.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) One of the dissociative disorders in DSM- 5. There are four five diagnostic criteria:
Disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states, which may be described in some cultures as an experience of possession. The disruption of marked discontinuity in sense of self and sense of agency, accompanied by related alterations in affect, behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and/or sensory-motor functioning. These signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
Amnesia must occur inconsistent with ordinary forgetting, defined as gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information and/or traumatic events.
The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas because of the disorder.
The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices. Note: In children, the symptoms are not better explained by imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.
The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.
DID is the current name for multiple personality disorder (MPD), first used in DSM-IV. The term DID is felt to reflect more accurately the condition of an individual with two or more personality states.
This change recognizes that MPD represents the failure to form one core personality rather than to simply create many personalities. DID is developed by the age of 5.
Dopamine – dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.
EMDR – EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychological technique sometimes used in the treatment of post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Emotional Abuse – Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG) Emotional abuse of children which is ongoing can lead to developmental arrests (i.e., cognitive, emotional, psychological and/or social) and result in CPTSD.
Emotional Flashbacks – Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations.
Enabling – Enabling is a pattern of behavior, often adopted by abuse victims, which seeks to avoid confrontation and conflict by absorbing the abuse without challenging it or setting boundaries. The perpetrator of the abuse is thus “enabled” to continue their pattern of behavior.
Fawn Response – As described by Walker, the Fawn response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma. Those who fawn tend to put the needs and wants of others ahead of themselves at the cost of the health of their own egos, and the protection of and compassion for themselves.
Fight Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Fight response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma. Those with Complex PTSD who have a fight response tend to react when triggered with anger and contempt.
Flashbacks, Emotional and Visual – Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states (e.g., anger, shame, fear) that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations.
Flight Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Flight response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma. Those with Complex PTSD who engage in a flight response try to move away from and distract themselves from their feelings.
Freeze Response – As described by Walker (n.d.), the Freeze response is one of four defensive reactions to ongoing trauma. Those with Complex PTSD who use a freeze response often Isolate themselves from others, and to dissociate or distance themselves from their pain and fear.
Hyperarousal – Hyperarousal is a main symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and refers to: having a difficult time falling or staying asleep; feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger; having difficulty concentrating; feeling constantly on guard or like danger is lurking around every corner; being jumpy or easily startled. Those with CPTSD may also suffer from this symptom of PTSD.
Identity Disturbance – A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view. Although the link below is for schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, it is also relevant to CPTSD.
Informed Consent – In psychotherapy, informed consent occurs when a client is informed of:
the nature of the treatment being considered
the risks and benefits of such treatment
the likely outcome with and without treatment
alternative approaches to relieve the symptoms
The information must be presented in a form the client can understand and consent must be given without coercion. Often this information is presented in written form which the client signs, thereby giving permission for treatment.
or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.
Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values, or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Journaling – Journaling is a technique of writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind on a topic without taking a break, stopping to think, or slowing down to correct spelling & punctuation.
Learned Helplessness– A term developed by Martin Seligman, pioneering researcher in animal psychology, to describe what occurs when animals or human beings learn that their behavior has no effect on the environment. The impact of this experience leaves an individual apathetic, depressed, and unwilling to try previous or new behavior.
Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (Factitious Disorder) – A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.
Norepinephrine– norepinephrine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.
Numbing – A symptom common to individuals with PTSD. It represents an individual’s attempt to compensate for intrusive thoughts, memories, or feelings of the trauma by shutting down and becoming numb to internal or external stimuli.
Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable, or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order, or accomplishment in other areas of living.
Personal Safety – Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen.
Placebo Effect – The Placebo Effect is when a medical patient is given a “placebo” or fake medicine – one in which there is no ingredient known to have any effect on their stated medical condition, but the patient, believing that the medicine is real, starts to feel better or reports an improvement in their symptoms.
Psychological Evaluation – A Psychological Evaluation is a procedure, typically carried out as part of a court proceeding, in which a mental health professional is appointed by the court to determine a diagnosis or label for a person’s psychology, behavior or personality and to make recommendations which a judge can take into account when making a ruling.
Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) – A cognitive psychotherapy approach developed by Albert Ellis which focuses on the client’s thoughts and beliefs.
The goals of therapy are to identify unrealistic and illogical thoughts question these thoughts or beliefs, and replace them with more reasonable and constructive views.
Regression – The return to earlier or younger behavior and thinking. Trauma often overwhelms everyday defenses and brings about behavioral regression. Child personality states are an example of trauma-based regression. In “age regression,” a person experiences him or herself at a specific earlier age.
Reparenting – First termed by Pete Walker (2013) this is a term to describe process of serving as one’s own parents to heal from the attachment disorder which commonly develops in Complex PTSD.
Repression – An unconscious defense mechanism which occurs when unacceptable ideas, images, or fantasies are kept out of awareness. This is done without an individual consciously knowing that it has taken place. Repression is one psychological mechanism that may account for amnesia of traumatic events.
Somatic Memory – “A physical sensation or change in physical functioning without the presence of organic illness, that represents a dissociated aspect of a traumatic or abusive experience.” ISSD Practice Guidelines, Glossary, 1994.
Structural Dissociation – Trauma related dissociation involves a structural dividedness of the organization of the personality into two or more parts that are essentially mediated by different action systems or constellations of action systems.
Toxic Shame – Refers to a belief that you are inferior and/or unlovable as a person. Shame is something everyone experiences from time to time when we make an error; toxic shame is the belief that you are the error.
Trauma Response – Walker (n.d.) outlines four basic defenses that most people use in life, but which in CPTSD become fixated and maladaptive due to ongoing trauma. These include the Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn and a number of hybrid types.
Vicarious Traumatization- Sometimes called compassion fatigue, is the latest term that describes the phenomenon generally associated with the “cost of caring” for others (Figley, 1982). Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people working with their trauma stories.