Dennis B. Kottler, MD

Westlake Village, CA

Appointments:   818-991-8376 


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This glossary explains some of the terms used in psychiatrix.  It is not a complete medical or psychiatric dictionary. Some of the terms mean different things in the psychiatric literature vs. in general parlance.   It is a work in progress.

ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) - ADHD is a complex syndrome of behavior marked by attentional difficulties and/or hyperactivity problems.  It occurs in children, adolescents, and adults and is treated both with medication and psychotherapy, including CBT and coaching techniques.  See Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Adult ADHD.  See also Adult ADHD Self-Test.

Anxiety - vs. Stress - vs. Fear - Anxiety is a subjective experience often described as a feeling of apprehension, dread, being wired, etc.  A person may not know the source of this uneasiness, which can add to the distress he feels.  See Anxiety and Panic Disorder.

"Stress" is generally a "lay term" implying a situation (external) or thought (internal) or behavior (of oneself or another person) which creates a feeling of being overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, or worried.  In common usage, stress often implies a concrete "irritant," usually a situation external to the individual.   Note, what is stressful to one individual may not be stressful to another.  Example:  A job or difficult relationship can be stressful.  Taking an important exam is generally stressful to most people, but some individuals may see it as a welcome challenge or chance to prove competence

"Fear" is usually considered a feeling of apprehension related to an external or other objective contingency.

Anxiety Attack -  Same as Panic Attack.  See Anxiety and Panic Disorder.

Anxiety Disorder - See Anxiety and Panic Disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - CBT is a form of psychotherapy developed by Aaron Beck, MD.  It focuses on how patterns of thought can lead to psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety disorders.  CBT guides the patient in modifying negative thought patterns.  It can be effective as an adjunctive or primary treatment, with or without medication, for a variety of psychiatric disorders.  See also Methods of Treatment.

Defense Mechanisms - A concept originating with the psychoanalysts referring to various mechanisms the mind employs to mitigate mental distress.  The person may or may not be aware of the defense mechanisms.  Examples are:  denial, rationalization, intellectualization, turning negative into positive, externalization, altruism and comedy, the latter often referred to as "high level" defenses.  Everyone employs these defenses to varying degrees.  When they are extreme they can become pathologic and interfere with normal functioning.

Depression / Mood Disorders - See Depression and Bipolar DisordersDepression Article.

Ego-Dystonic - A psychoanalytic term referring to thoughts and behaviors which are "not acceptable" to the individual and therefore cause mental distress.  Example:  In the DSM III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd. Ed. replaced by the DSM IV), homosexuality was only treated as a disorder if it was Ego-Dystonic.

Ego-Syntonic -- A psychoanalytic term referring to thoughts and behaviors which are "acceptable" to the individual and therefore do not cause mental distress.

Manic-Depressive Disorder - The same as "Bipolar Disorder."  Although the term is not used much by mental health professionals, it is still used by many in the lay press and also in older psychiatric books and journals.

Neurotransmitters -  Any of a number of naturally-occurring, endogenous, chemical compounds which facilitate the transmission of neurological impulses in the nervous system, generally having their effect at the interface between neurons or the axons and dendrites of neurons, or between neurons and other tissues, such as muscle.   The interface between neurons is referred to as a synapse.   Many psychotropic medications work by intervening in some way with neurotransmitters, e.g., by blocking their effects on receptor sites, blocking their reuptake, or by interfering with their degradation.

Examples of neurotransmitters:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD and OCPD) - see Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - see Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist - A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an MD), a psychologist has graduate training in psychology.  A psychiatrist is able to evaluate, diagnose and treat psychiatric illness and coordinate this care with the patient's general medical care.  A psychiatrist can prescribe medications.  

Psychotherapy - Commonly called "talk therapy," psychotherapy encompasses many different techniques including psychodynamic psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral psychotherapy, supportive psychotherapy, and other modalities.  See also Methods of Treatment.

Sexual Disorders - see Sexual Disorders.

Sleep Disorders - see Sleep:  The Difference is Day and Night

Sleep Disorders Other - see Daytime Sleepiness, Self-Test.

Synesthesia - see Synesthesia.

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Appointments:   818-991-8376