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Mental Health Dictionary

Mental health terms and diagnosis may be confusing at times.   Below are some common mental health disorders and terms along with a link that provides additional information.

(Definitions used with permission - Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Institue of Mental Health)


Anxiety Disorders When anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an illness characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs), cause severe and pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others.

Bipolar Disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a most misunderstood, serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior.

Dissociative Disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as one's personal identity, one's personal history, etc.).

Dual Diagnosis Services are treatments for people who suffer from co-occurring disorders -- mental illness and substance abuse.

Dual Disability Services are treatments for people who suffer from a developmental disability and a mental illness.

Eating Disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, which are serious, often chronic, and life-threatening.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.

Major Depression is persistent sadness, loss, or passing mood states and can significantly interfere with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts -- unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly well up in a person's mind. Compulsions are repetitive rituals such as handwashing, counting, checking, hoarding, or arranging.

Panic Disorder A person who experiences recurrent panic attacks, at least one of which leads to at least a month of increased anxiety or avoidant behavior, is said to have panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Schizophrenia, a serious and challenging medical illness, often interferes with a person's ability to think clearly, to distinguish reality from fantasy, to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.

Schizoaffective Disorder is one of the more common, chronic, and disabling mental illnesses. As the name implies, it is characterized by a combination of symptoms of schizophrenia and an affective (mood) disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition characterized by recurrent episodes of depression - usually in late fall and winter - alternating with periods of normal or high mood the rest of the year.

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

Suicidal Behavior

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Aurora Mental Health Center
11059 East Bethany Drive, #200
Aurora, Colorado 80014 • 303.617.2300

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