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A-Z definitions of terms, diseases, treatments, and everything else related to mental health.

A – B

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders represent a condition in which worry, anxiety or fear are prominent symptoms. Disorders include obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks and phobias. Typically, a person’s anxiety levels are so high that day to day functioning becomes difficult.

Bipolar Mood disorder

People with bipolar mood disorder experience recurrent episodes of depressed and elated moods. Both can be mild to severe. The term ‘mania’ is used to describe the most severe state of extreme elation and over activity. There are 2 separate diagnoses for bipolar disorder, known as bipolar 1 and bipolar 2, related to the severity of the manic episode, known as “mania” or “hypomania”. During both mania and hypomania an individual feels or acts abnormally happy, energetic, or irritable; often making poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced. During periods of depression there may be crying, poor eye contact with others, and a negative outlook on life. See Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder.

Bipolar 1 Disorder

People with bipolar 1 have manic episodes. During mania, that mood is extremely abnormal, and is also combined with increased activity or energy that is also abnormal. Someone with bipolar 1 disorder may also have hypomanic episodes associated with bipolar 2 disorder.

Bipolar 2 Disorder

People with bipolar 2 have hypomanic episodes. During hypomania, an individual has a sustained, noticeably different mood that is elevated (heightened), expansive (grand, superior) or irritable. During mania, that mood is extremely abnormal, and is also combined with increased activity or energy that is also abnormal. Someone with bipolar 2 disorder cannot ever have had a manic episode associated with bipolar 1 disorder.

C – D

CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world’s leading research centres in its field. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.

CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association)

Founded in 1918, CMHA is one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada. Each year, they provide direct service to more than 100,000 Canadians through the combined efforts of more than 10,000 volunteers and staff across Canada in over 120 communities.


A belief that is false, fanciful or derived from deception. In psychiatry, a false belief strongly held in spite of evidence that it is not true, especially as a symptom of a mental illness.


Clinical depression involves a persistent lowering of mood. This plays out in a variety of symptoms that include feeling extremely sad or tearful, sleeplessness, feeling guilty and worthless, loss of energy and motivation, loss of pleasure, and impaired thinking and concentration. Everyday functioning can become extremely difficult.

E – N

Early Intervention

In mental health, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses early in their development. Studies have shown early intervention can result in higher recovery rates. However, many individuals do not have the advantage of early intervention because the stigma of mental illness and other factors keep them from pursuing help until later in the illness’ development.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient Care is the care of patients whose condition requires admission to a hospital. Patients enter inpatient care mainly from previous ambulatory care such as referral from a family doctor, or through emergency medicine departments. The patient formally becomes an “inpatient” at the writing of an admission note. Likewise, it is formally ended by writing a discharge note.

Mental Health

Mental health has to do with how you feel about yourself, how you feel about others, and how you are able to balance problems with appropriate coping skills.

Mental Illness

Mental Illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders. Can refer to a disease of the brain with predominant behavioral symptoms as in acute alcoholism or a disease of the mind or personality that results in abnormal behavior as with hysteria or schizophrenia. Can refer to any psychiatric illness listed in Current Medical Information and Terminology of the American Medical Association or in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

The largest grassroots mental health organization in the United States, dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.

O – R

Outpatient Care

Outpatient Care describes medical care or treatment that does not require an overnight stay in a hospital or medical facility. Outpatient care may be administered in a medical office or a hospital, but most commonly, it is provided in a medical office or outpatient surgery center.


Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the science and practice of treating mental, emotional or behavioral disorders.


A serious mental disorder characterized by defective or lost contact with reality, often with hallucinations or delusions, causing deterioration of normal social functioning.


Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that emphasizes substituting desirable responses and behavior patterns for undesirable ones.


Recovery is the personal process that people with mental health conditions experience in gaining control, meaning and purpose in their lives. Recovery is the process of realizing that you would not want to be anyone other than who you are today.

Residential Treatment

Residential Treatment is intensive and comprehensive psychiatric treatment in a campus-like setting, usually for a minimum of several months.

S – Z


Schizophrenia is a cognitive disorder often characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real. It affects approximately 1% of the world’s population, equally between men and women, and is present in all cultures and countries. Schizophrenia can have “positive” symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and disorganised thought, speech or behaviour. It can also have “negative” symptoms, including a flattening in emotions, lack of drive, and social withdrawl. Statistics show that 80% of patients will go off their medication at least once as they being to “feel better”. Also, 50% of patients will attempt suicide, with 10% actually committing suicide.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder is an illness that displays some of the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia along with the mood extremes associated with bipolar disorder.


A Stigma is a mark of shame or discredit, or a sign of social unacceptability.

System of Care

A System of Care is a partnership of mental health, education, child welfare and juvenile justice agencies as well as teachers, children with serious emotional disturbances and their families and other caregivers. These agencies and individuals work together to ensure children with mental, emotional and behavioral problems and their families have access to the services and supports they need to succeed. Together, this team creates an individualized service plan that builds on the unique strengths of each child and each family. The plan is then implemented in a way that is consistent with the family’s culture and language.


Therapy is the treatment of physical, mental or behavioral problems that is meant to cure or rehabilitate.