By: Katie Dale

This is not an exhaustive list of terms, but it’s a start. I don’t know that theological seminaries prepare soon-to-be pastors and clergy to recognize mental illness and symptoms of mental health conditions. I do know that referencing a list of terms like these could help shed light on what church members and church leadership may be struggling with, in addition to spiritual warfare or physical illness. 

Familiarizing yourself with mental illness is vital to helping your members and yourself. Many problems arise and can appear as “sin,” but underneath can be rooted in mental illness. 

If you are careful to know your members, yourself, and some basics of mental health hygiene and illness, you can be another step ahead and that much closer to solutions for shepherding your mentally ill flock.

Recognizing no one is immune to sickness, whether physical, or psychological, is step number one in humbling ourselves to think of and treat others as we would want to be treated. After all, Jesus came for the sick, not the well.

(All definitions were taken from Wikipedia.org. unless otherwise specified)

Agoraphobia:  an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape.

Anosognosia: a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person with a disability is unaware of having it.

Antidepressants: medications used to treat major depressive disorder, some anxiety disorders, some chronic pain conditions, and to help manage some addictions.

Antipsychotics: also known as neuroleptics or major tranquilizers, are a class of medication primarily used to manage psychosis (including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or disordered thought), principally in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Anxiety disorders:  a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterized by difficulty paying attention, excessive activity and acting without regards to consequences, which are otherwise not appropriate for a person’s age. 

Bipolar disorder: a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and abnormally elevated moods.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): a mental illness characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable relationships, a distorted sense of self, and strong emotional reactions. 

Catatonia: a state of psycho-motor immobility and behavioral abnormality manifested by stupor.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

Cyclothymic Disorder: a mental disorder that involves numerous periods of symptoms of depression and periods of symptoms of hypomania. These symptoms, however, are not sufficient to be a major depressive episode or a hypomanic episode.

Delusion: a firm and fixed belief based on inadequate grounds not amenable to rational argument or evidence to contrary, not in sync with regional, cultural and educational background. 

Depression: a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, motivation, feelings, and sense of well-being. It may feature sadness, difficulty in thinking and concentration and a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping. People experiencing depression may have feelings of dejection, hopelessness and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts. It can either be short term or long term.

Depressive Disorders: commonly called major depression, unipolar depression, or clinical depression, wherein a person has one or more major depressive episodes. After a single episode, Major Depressive Disorder (single episode) would be diagnosed. After more than one episode, the diagnosis becomes Major Depressive Disorder (Recurrent). Depression without periods of mania is sometimes referred to as unipolar depression because the mood remains at the bottom “pole” and does not climb to the higher, manic “pole” as in bipolar disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat borderline personality disorder (also known as Emotional Instability Disorder). There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioral patterns such as self-harm, and substance abuse.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): a publication for the classification of mental disorders using a common language and standard criteria. It is used by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the legal system, and policy makers.

Dual-Diagnosis:  (also called co-occurring disorders, COD, or dual pathology) is the condition of suffering from a mental illness and a comorbid substance abuse problem. 

Eating Disorder:  a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health.

Evidence Based Practice: any practice that relies on scientific evidence for guidance and decision-making.

Grandiose Delusion: a subtype of delusion…characterized by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, wealthy, or otherwise very powerful. The delusions are generally fantastic and typically have a religious, science fictional, or supernatural theme. 

Hallucination: a perception in the absence of external stimulus that has qualities of real perception. Hallucinations can occur in any sensory modality – visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, nociceptive, thermoceptive, and chronoceptive. 

Hypomania: (literally “under mania” or “less than mania”) is a mood state characterized by persistent disinhibition and mood elevation (euphoria), with behavior that is noticeably different from the person’s typical behavior when in a non-depressed state.

Mania: a state of abnormally elevated arousal, affect, and energy level, or “a state of heightened overall activation with enhanced affective expression together with lability of affect.” The symptoms of mania include heightened mood (either euphoric or irritable); flight of ideas and pressure of speech; and increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and hyperactivity.

Mental disorder: (also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder), is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode. 

Mood stabilizer: is a psychiatric pharmaceutical drug used to treat mood disorders characterized by intense and sustained mood shifts, such as bipolar disorder type I or type II and schizoaffective disorder.

Mood swing: an extreme or rapid change in mood. Such mood swings can play a positive part in promoting problem solving and in producing flexible forward planning. However, when mood swings are so strong that they are disruptive, they may be the main part of a bipolar disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward other people.

Neuroticism: one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.

Neurotransmitters:  are endogenous chemicals that enable neurotransmission. It is a type of chemical messenger which transmits signals across a chemical synapse, such as a neuromuscular junction, from one neuron (nerve cell) to another “target” neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD):  a mental disorder in which a person feels the need to perform certain routines repeatedly (called “compulsions”), or has certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). The person is unable to control either the thoughts or activities for more than a short period of time.

Paranoia: an instinct or thought process which is believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. the American colloquial phrase, “Everyone is out to get me.”) Paranoia is a central symptom of psychosis.

Personality Disorders: are a class of mental disorders characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience, exhibited across many contexts and deviating from those accepted by the individual’s culture. These patterns develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response.

Psych Hospital/Unit: hospitals or wards specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Psychiatric hospitals may also be referred to as psychiatric wards or units (or “psych” wards/units) when they are a subunit of a regular hospital.

Psyche: is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.

Psychiatrist: a physician who specializes in psychiatry, the branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, unlike psychologists, and must evaluate patients to determine whether their symptoms are the result of a physical illness, a combination of physical and mental ailments, or strictly psychiatric. Psychiatrists prescribe medicine, and may also use psychotherapy.

Psychologist: studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.[

Psychosis: an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not. Symptoms may include false beliefs (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear (hallucinations). Other symptoms may include incoherent speech and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. There may also be sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulties carrying out daily activities.

Psychotropics: psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.

Schizoaffective disorder (SZA, SZD or SAD): is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and an unstable mood. The diagnosis is made when the person has symptoms of both schizophrenia (usually psychosis) and a mood disorder—either bipolar disorder or depression—but does not meet the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia or a mood disorder individually.

Schizophrenia: a mental illness characterized by hearing voices, delusions (false beliefs), disordered thinking, social withdrawal, decreased emotional expression, and lack of motivation. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and in many cases never resolve.

Self-Medicate:  a human behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments.

Severe/Serious Mental Illness (SMI): someone over 18 having (within the past year) a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. (Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are examples). (Source: SAMSHA.gov)

Suicidal Ideations: also known as suicidal thoughts, is thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies from fleeting thoughts, to extensive thoughts, to detailed planning.

Suicidal Intent: to have suicide or deliberate self-killing as one’s purpose. Intent refers to the aim, purpose, or goal of the behavior rather than the behavior itself. The term connotes a conscious desire or wish to leave or escape from life, and also connotes a resolve to act. This is contrasted with suicidal motivation, or the driving force behind ideation or intent, which need not be conscious. 

Trauma (psychological): damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.

Treatment Plan: versatile, multi-faceted documents that allow mental health care practitioners and those they are treating to design and monitor therapeutic treatment. These plans are typically used by psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, therapists, and social workers in most levels of care. (Source: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/treatment-plan)

 

Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and the e-book GAMEPLAN: A Mental Health Resource Guide. She works full time at a behavioral outpatient clinic, ministering to those with mental illness. She can be found on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

One thought on “A to Z: Basic Terms Everyone in Church Leadership Should Know About Mental Illness By: Katie Dale

  1. Thank you, Ms. Dale. I know your list is not exhaustive, so I offer one more, which I have experienced (also from Wikipedia):

    Dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), is a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms.

    Like

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