Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

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A Program of the ATS

Glossary of Terms

Amygdala are almond-shaped groups of neurons located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.

Anticonvulsant sometimes also called antiepileptics, belong to a diverse group of pharmaceuticals used in prevention of the occurrence of epileptic seizures. The goal of an anticonvulsant is to suppress the rapid and excessive firing of neurons that start a seizure. Failing this, a good anticonvulsant would prevent the spread of the seizure within the brain and offer protection against possible excitotoxic effects that may result in brain damage.

Antidepressant medication is taken to alleviate clinical depression or dysthymia ('milder' depression). Several groups of drugs are particularly associated with the term, notably MAOIs and tricyclics as well as SSRIs and more recent variations developed by pharmaceutical companies. These medications are now amongst the most commonly prescribed by psychiatrists and general practitioners, and their effectiveness and adverse effects are the subject of many studies and competing claims.

Antianxiety medication otherwise known as anxiolytics are drugs prescribed for the treatment of symptoms of anxiety. Some anxiolytics have been shown to be useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders as have antidepressants such as the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Benzodiazepines minor tranquilizers that are a class of drugs with sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, amnestic and muscle relaxant properties. Benzodiazepines are often used for short-term relief of severe, disabling anxiety or insomnia. Long-term use can be problematic due to the development of tolerance and physiological and psychological dependency. They are believed to act on the GABA receptor GABAA, the activation of which dampens higher neuronal activity. They began to be widely prescribed for stress-related ailments in the 1960s and 1970s. Their chemical structure is based upon diazepine and phenyl groups.

Beta Blockers a class of drugs typically used to decrease blood pressure and also prescribed to ease physical symptoms of anxiety associated with social phobia

Deep Breathing otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing is the act of breathing deep into your lungs by flexing your diaphragm rather than breathing shallowly by flexing your rib cage. This deep breathing is marked by expansion of the stomach (abdomen) rather than the chest when breathing. It is generally considered a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen, and is often used as a therapy for hyperventilation and anxiety disorders.

Dopamine a chemical naturally produced in the body. In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, activating dopamine receptors. Dopamine is also a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus. Its main function as a hormone is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary. Dopamine can be supplied as a medication that acts on the sympathetic nervous system, producing effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. However, since dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, dopamine given as a drug does not directly affect the central nervous system.

Employee Assistance Program (EAPs) are employee benefit programs offered by many employers, typically in conjunction with a health insurance plan. EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include assessment, short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members.

Hoard compulsive hoarding involves the collection or failure to discard large numbers of objects even when their storage causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities such as moving around the house, cooking, cleaning or sleeping.

Mental Status Examination (MSE) a medical process where a clinician working in the field of mental health (usually a social worker, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or psychologist) systematically examines a patient's mind. Each area of function is considered separately under categories in a way similar to a physical examination performed by physicians. However, much of the material for the MSE is gathered during psychiatric history taking. The result of this examination is combined with the psychiatric history to produce a "psychiatric formulation" of the person being examined.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) a class of antidepressant drugs prescribed for the treatment of depression. They are particularly effective in treating atypical depression, and have also shown efficacy in helping smokers to quit. Due to potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions they had been reserved as a last line of defense, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been tried unsuccessfully.

Norepinephrine released from the medulla of the adrenal glands as a hormone into the blood, but it is also a neurotransmitter in the nervous system where it is released from noradrenergic neurons during synaptic transmission. As a stress hormone, it affects parts of the human brain where attention and responding actions are controlled. Along with epinephrine, this compound affects the fight-or-flight response, activating the sympathetic nervous system to directly increase heart rate, release energy from glucose and glycogen, and increase muscle readiness.

Positron emission tomography (PET) a nuclear medicine medical imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body. PET is both a medical and research tool. It is used heavily in clinical oncology (medical imaging of tumors and the search for metastases), and for clinical diagnosis of certain diffuse brain diseases such as those causing various types of dementias. PET is also an important research tool to map normal human brain and heart function.

Pressured Speech a tendency to speak rapidly and frenziedly, as if motivated by an urgency not apparent to the listener. The speech produced is difficult to interrupt and may be too fast or too tangential for the listener to understand. It is a hallmark of mania and is often seen in bipolar patients during manic periods. People with schizophrenia, as well as anyone experiencing extreme anxiety, may also exhibit pressure of speech.

Psychiatric Nursing otherwise known as mental health nursing is the specialty of nursing that cares for people of all ages with mental illness or mental distress, such as psychosis, depression or dementia. Nurses in this area receive additional training in dealing with behavioral issues, psychiatric medication and a variety of different therapies.

Resiliency describes the capacity of people to cope with stress and catastrophe. It is also used to indicate a characteristic of resistance to future negative events. This psychological meaning of resilience is often contrasted with "risk factors".

Seizure temporary abnormal electro-physiologic phenomena of the brain, resulting in abnormal synchronization of electrical neuronal activity. They can manifest as an alteration in mental state, tonic or clonic movements, convulsions, and various other psychic symptoms (such as déja vu or jamais vu). They are due to temporary abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells. The medical syndrome of recurrent, unprovoked seizures is termed epilepsy, but some seizures may occur in people who do not have epilepsy.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders. SSRIs increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor. They have varying degrees of selectivity for the other monoamine transporters, having little binding affinity for the noradrenaline and dopamine transporters.

Striatum a subcortical part of the telencephalon. It is a major part of the basal ganglia system. The striatum is best known for its role in the planning and modulation of movement pathways but is also involved in a variety of other cognitive processes involving executive function. In humans the striatum is activated by stimuli associated with reward, but also by aversive, novel, unexpected or intense stimuli, and cues associated with such events.

Tricyclic Antidepressants a class of antidepressant drugs first used in the 1950s. They are named after the drugs' molecular structure, which contains three rings of atoms. The term 'tricyclic antidepressant' is sometimes abbreviated to TCA.

Tyramine a normal substance in the body that helps support blood pressure. Tyramine is also found in certain foods. Tyramine is known to interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors leading to dangerous effects. Tyramine is also thought to trigger cluster headaches. Examples of foods and beverages which contain tyramine include: beer, ale, robust red wines, Chianti, vermouth, homemade breads, cheese, crackers (with cheese), sour cream, bananas, red plums, figs, raisins, avocados, fava beans, Italian broad beans, green bean pods, eggplant, pickled herring, liver dry sausages, canned meats, salami, yogurt, soup cubes, commercial gravies, chocolate, and soy sauce.