Glossary of Mental Health and Wellness Terms

Self-improvement and mental health articles are packed with complicated terminology that may leave you more confused than you started.

And so it’s time to get your head around the language of Psychology. Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular terms in mental health and wellness, and explained what they mean.

So next time you find yourself reading an article about mental health, you’ll know exactly what they are talking about! 

Mental health terms

Mental health terms can be difficult to grasp. Often, articles talking about mental health will simply name key disorders and interventions without giving any explanation as to what they mean.

While these definitions do not go into too much detail (each term deserves its own article to give it the proper explanation it deserves!), we’ve provided a brief description of each one so you have a solid base understanding next time you read a mental health article. 

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)

A neurodivergent mental health disorder primarily characterised by behavioural traits such as hyperactivity and being unable to focus.

Anxiety

A mental illness causing excessive fear or worry in an individual. It can be general or specific to certain situations (e.g. social anxiety).

Autism

A neurodivergent developmental disability that affects how an individual interacts with the world around them. Autism exists on a spectrum and those with Autism can show a range of symptoms and severity. 

Bipolar disorder

A mental health disorder characterised by extreme mood swings from extremely happy and energetic to the point you feel high (manic) to extremely sad (depressed).

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

A formal mental health therapy intervention. It focuses on the connection between thoughts and behaviours and teaches you how to deal with difficult thoughts that lead to unhelpful behaviour. 

DBT (Dialectal Behaviour Therapy)

A formal mental health therapy intervention. It’s similar to CBT but focuses primarily on intense feelings and learning how to cope with and manage them.

Depression 

A mental health illness that causes extreme sadness, low energy, and low mood. Many people find it hard to perform everyday tasks when dealing with depression.

Eating Disorder 

An umbrella term for disorders that affect a person’s relationship with food and eating. Some examples include anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia.

Neurodivergence 

A difference in how the brain processes information. Conditions that are caused by neurodivergence include Autism and ADHD. It can also cause some personality traits such as HSP (Highly Sensitive Person).

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

A two-part disorder, people with OCD suffer from obsessive thoughts and worries, and compulsive behaviour. Compulsive behaviour in OCD is the repetition of behaviours that help reduce the anxiety caused by your obsessive thoughts.

Panic attacks

As a consequence of panic disorder, panic attacks can occur during moments of high stress or anxiety. They may also happen due to certain triggers an individual may have, for example being on stage in front of many people. Panic attacks often happen with little to no forewarning.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

A mental health condition that can occur after a traumatic experience. It may start straight after the event occurs or take time before it develops.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) 

A mood disorder causing low mood or depression that occurs around the same time every year. For most people, this is winter, although there are cases of SAD that occur in the summer months. 

Serotonin 

A hormone created in the body that makes you feel happier.

SSRI 

One of the most commonly prescribed anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available and therefore making you feel happier. 

Talking therapy 

A type of therapy that focuses on discussing your thoughts and feelings rather than behaviour, and aims to find the root cause of them so you can heal past trauma and wounds.

Talking therapy

Therapy 

An umbrella term for interventions by a professional (therapist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, etc) to help people deal with mental health conditions.

Wellness terms

Wellness articles are full of buzzwords. Speaking of the latest trends and popular theories in modern psychology, it can be hard to keep up. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular wellness terms so you can impress your friends with your knowledge next time a wellbeing conversation pops up!

Affirmations

Motivational and encouraging words or phrases repeated regularly in order to change your inner beliefs and mindset.

Emotional intelligence

How well you recognise and understand other people’s moods, feelings and emotions, as well as your own. 

Fixed mindset

The concept that you are born with a specific amount of talent, skills, and intelligence, and no matter how hard you try, that can never be changed.

Gratitude

The practice of being thankful for the things in your life – big and small. It is usually practised on a daily basis to cultivate a positive mindset.

Growth mindset

The concept that it doesn’t matter the level of talent, skill, and intelligence you are born with. If you work hard and practice, you can improve them.

Habits 

Behaviours that are repeated regularly and subconsciously (without having to make a deliberate effort to change your behaviour). Habits can be good, bad, or neutral.

Healthy boundaries 

The concept that you need to learn when to say no to people and opportunities in order to protect your mental and emotional health.

Journaling

Using a journal to write (or draw) how you feel, work through your emotions, be completely open and honest with your thoughts, and sort through jumbled thoughts in your mind. It’s a popular method to help relieve anxiety and depression, as well as a common mindfulness practice.

Journaling

Manifestation 

The theory that if you want something to happen in your life, or attract an opportunity, you can change the energy you put out into the universe by living your life as if you already have it, and the universe will reward you with said thing. 

Meditation 

A form of mindfulness in which you sit quietly and pay attention to your five senses. During meditation, you try to clear your mind by not dwelling on any thoughts that pop into your head.

Mindfulness 

A practice that helps you keep your brain focused on the present moment instead of worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. Mindfulness can be practised in many different ways. 

Mirror healing 

A practice to help facilitate affirmations and manifestations. Affirmations are repeated daily while looking at yourself in the mirror with the aim to change your core beliefs and feel better about yourself. It is commonly used to help with self-confidence and self-esteem.

Overthinking

Going over thoughts in your mind more than necessary, leading to feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety. Overthinking usually involves a lot of emphasis on possible negative consequences, e.g., thinking about the worst scenario and convincing yourself it will happen.

Perfectionism

A type of anxiety. People with perfectionism feel the need to do things perfectly, fearing rejection and failure if they don’t. Perfectionism often leads to burnout, procrastination, avoidance, and social isolation.

Positive thinking

Being able to see the positive attributes in every situation. Not to be confused with the idea that everything you experience has to be good, or that negative emotions must be avoided at all costs. 

Procrastination

Delaying doing a task. It can be work-related, chores, or social situations. This often occurs as a result of anxiety, especially perfectionism.

Productivity

Getting work done efficiently without wasting too much time on distractions such as social media or multi-tasking.

Self-awareness

The ability to understand your thoughts and actions unbiasedly. This is an crucial attribute when it comes to recognising and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.

Self-care 

The act of looking after yourself. Self-care is often misrepresented as decadent indulgence to make yourself feel better. In reality, it’s simply taking time to look after your basic needs.

Self care

Self-confidence

Believing you are good enough and worthy.

Self-empowerment

Actions and activities that help you feel more confident about yourself. 

Self-esteem

The belief that you have the skills required to do what you want, or that you will be able to work it out on the way.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

The psychological theory that the false behaviour labels placed on you by others can end up becoming a reality. For example, if a teacher constantly tells you you’re a bad child at school despite the fact you haven’t done anything wrong, you start to believe it and as a consequence, eventually start to behave badly.

SMART goals 

A popular planning tool for goal setting. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-restricted. Using this method of goal planning is thought to yield better, more sustainable results. 

Happy reading!

Now that you have the basic vocabulary needed to understand mental health and wellness related articles, we hope you feel more confident the next time you click on one!

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