Glossary of Terms

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.

Amygdala – The Amygdala is a small region of the brain which plays a key role in emotional regulation, emotional memory, and responses to emotional stimuli.

Attachment – The term “attachment” refers to a lasting, emotional/psychological bond that is forged between people.

Attachment needs are particularly important in infancy when children form a bond with primary caregivers and develop a sense of safety, security, and self-esteem.

Attachment Styles – Bowlby’s theory of attachment identifies four styles of attachment in people, secure, fearful/avoidant, anxious, and disorganized.

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.

Catastrophizing – The habit of automatically assuming a “worst case scenario” and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Childhood Abuse and Neglect – Childhood abuse and neglect refers to emotional/sexual abuse/physical abuse perpetrated when a person is a child or teen.

Codependency – A Codependency is a relationship in which an otherwise mentally healthy person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected by an addiction or mental illness.

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

Cognitive Dissonance – A psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values.

Comorbidity – Comorbidity is a psychological term used to describe the occurrence of more than one diagnosis in a single patient. Comorbidity is common in the diagnosis of psychological disorders.

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.

Denial – Denial is the practice of believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dependency – An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

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.

Depression – People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – DBT is a psychosocial treatment developed for patients with borderline personality disorder which combines intensive individual and group therapy.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Amnesia must occur inconsistent with ordinary forgetting, defined as gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information and/or traumatic events.
  3. The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas because of the disorder.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Dual Diagnosis – This refers to the co-existence of a mental disorder and substance abuse disorder.

Dysthymia– Dysthymia is a psychological term for prolonged depression, generally lasting 2 or more years.

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.

Fear of Abandonment – An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded, or replaced.

Feelings of Emptiness – An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.

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.

Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false.

Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.

Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

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.

Hypervigilance – Hypervigilance refers to a tendency to constantly scan the environment for threats. Threats can vary from signs of being excluded socially to impending physical attack.

Iatrogenesis – When medical treatment or psychotherapy causes an illness or aggravates an existing illness.

ICD – International Classification of Diseases – World Health Organization (WHO) system for classifying physical and mental disorders of which ICD-10 is the most recent (1992).

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.

Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Informed Consent – In psychotherapy, informed consent occurs when a client is informed of:

  • the diagnosis
  • 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.

Intermittent Reinforcement – Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards

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.

Lightbulb (Eureka) Moment – A Lightbulb Moment is the description many non-personality-disordered individuals use when they first discover the existence of personality disorders.

Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.

Magical Thinking – Looking for supernatural connections between external events and one’s own thoughts, words, and actions.

Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Maryville University- PTSD and Veterans

Minimization – To downplay, belittle, trivialize, or discount another person’s (or your own) feelings, thoughts, or opinions.

Mirroring – Imitating or copying another person’s characteristics, behaviors, or traits.

Mood Swings – Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

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.

Narcissist – A person who behaves with a pattern of selfishness, grandiosity, need for admiration, self-focus and a lack of empathy or consideration toward others.

Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

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.

Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive, or inappropriate behaviors.

“Not My Fault” Syndrome – The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s own words and actions.

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.

Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Parental Alienation Syndrome – When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil, or worthless.

Parentification – A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

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.

Physical Abuse – Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease, or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition, and comfort.

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

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

Projection – The act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures/Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder – Seizures which present as epileptic but do not show similar changes in brain wave activity when recorded by an EEG. 

These non-epileptic seizures are triggered by extreme emotion thus they are psychological versus physiological in nature.

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.

Revictimization – Describes the experience of a survivor being victimized or traumatized after the original trauma.

Ritual Abuse –  While not necessarily satanic, ritual abuse generally involves cult-like or religious rituals and mind control in addition to sexual, physical and/or psychological abuse.

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee, or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief, or desired outcome.

Self-Care – Self-Care is anything you do to reduce stress and take care of your physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual health and well-being.

Self-Harm – Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning, or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions, or one’s ethnic or demographic background.

Self-Regulation – Self-regulation is the ability to modify our thoughts, emotions, and impulses.

Self-Victimization – Casting oneself in the role of a victim.

Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited, or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Serotonin – Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – has been found to reduce depression.

Sexual Objectification – Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.

Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Silent Treatment – A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

Sleep Deprivation – The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding, or restricting another person’s sleep cycle.

Social Anxiety Disorder – Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition where a person becomes anxious when faced with interacting in social situations.

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.

Where Does Somatic Memory in the Body Reside?

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 – An event or experience that is deeply disturbing on an emotional or psychological level. The trauma may involve a single incident (witnessing an accident) or be ongoing (child abuse).

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.

Trigger – a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma.

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.—vicarious-trauma.pdf


Victim Mentality- an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize or consider themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances. Victim mentality depends on clear thought processes and attribution. In some cases, those with a victim mentality have in fact been the victim of wrongdoing by others or have otherwise suffered misfortune through no fault of their own. However, such misfortune does not necessarily imply that one will respond by developing a pervasive and universal victim mentality where one frequently or constantly perceives oneself to be a victim.,contrary%20evidence%20of%20such%20circumstances.



Receiving a DUI comes with many consequences, but the road to regaining driving privileges is not impossible. That’s why we created a guide to license reinstatement after a DUI: Our guide includes:

  • Key DUI statistics
  • Consequences of DUI by state
  • Steps for reinstating a license
  • Additional resources

We work with leading experts in effectively treating substance use issues to offer people a single source of relatable, reliable information at any stage of their recovery journey.


3 Mental Health Coping Strategies for College Students