Glossary - Disordered Minds

30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011

Disordered Minds

Asperger’s syndrome One of the milder forms of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). Typical symptoms are physical clumsiness and social awkwardness. Emotional development is delayed, and the child might develop an obsessive interest in one subject (e.g. trains) to the exclusion of all else.

autism A condition that typically affects social behaviour, language development and learning ability, to varying degrees. The main symptoms are an inability to relate and interact with other people and an obsessive interest in one subject, to the extent that the child might become a genius in that area. Language use is restricted and the child might repeat words or phrases endlessly.

corpus callosum The mass of nerve fibres that connects the two sides of the brain and allows them to share information.

defence mechanism A usually unconscious mental process used to protect oneself from painful thoughts or feelings. On the positive side, this allows people to function socially without succumbing to their emotions. On the negative side, it can mean that painful issues aren’t addressed and are expressed in other, possibly more destructive, ways. Typical defence mechanisms include denial, repression, projection and rationalization.

dissociation A usually unconscious process of compartmentalizing certain thoughts or functions to isolate them from the normal activities of the brain. The function of dissociation is to deal with traumatic thoughts or emotions and strip them of their emotional significance.

dopamine A naturally occurring chemical that is produced in several areas of the brain. As well as assisting with motor functions and concentration, it promotes feelings of euphoria and joy.

epilepsy A neurological disorder in which the electrical discharge in certain parts of the brain is disturbed, leading to recurring episodes of convulsive seizures, possibly accompanied by loss of consciousness.

hemisphere One half of the brain. The left hemisphere is associated with language processing and arithmetic skills, while the right hemisphere is associated with spatial awareness and artistic sensibility.

neurology The area of medicine that specializes in the nervous system, including the brain. Topics include the physical state of the brain, physical functions affected by the brain, such as balance, and cognitive abilities, such as memory and speech.

phobia An irrational and obsessive fear of an object, person or situation. Objects of phobias include spiders, bees, birds, water, foreigners, men, women and sex.

positive psychology A recent branch of psychology that aims to foster happiness and well-being in normal life, instead of focusing uniquely on mental illness. Pioneered by American psychologist Martin Seligman, positive psychology seeks to encourage patients’ key strengths and their capacity for self-determination.

psychogenic Something, such as an illness, that has its origins in the mind rather than the body. Psychogenic illnesses may be the result of unacceptable thoughts or feelings that have been repressed by the unconscious mind and are expressed physically in the body.

psychologist Someone who practises psychology, the study of how the mind works and how mental disorders are expressed through abnormal behaviour. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists do not usually have a medical qualification, and treatment is usually through therapy rather than medicine.

psychosis A symptom of mental illness that includes hallucinations, delusions and a distorted sense of reality. Psychosis is one of the defining characteristics of schizophrenia, as well as several other mental disorders. It can be caused by either biological or social factors, or a combination of the two.

psychotherapist A generic term for anyone who practises psychotherapy, the treatment of mental disorders through therapy — including psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric nurses. There are more than 250 different types of psychotherapy.

repression A defence mechanism, identified by Freud, that blocks unacceptable impulses and drives them into the unconscious mind. Freud made the point that ideas that are consciously dismissed, or ’repudiated’, lose their energy, while those that are repressed retain their energy while lying dormant in the unconscious.

schizophrenia A psychological disorder thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Typically, the condition is marked by a distorted view of reality, an inability to function socially, withdrawal from society, hearing voices and delusions of grandeur.