The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Acetylcholine - the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Achluophobia - a phobia of darkness.

Acid Reflux Disease - see gastroesophogial reflux disease.

Acquired Dependence - see addiction.

Acrophobia - a phobia of heights. Also see vertigo.

Acupuncture - the insertion of needles into the body to relieve pain or disease. Typically considered a form of alternative medicine.

Acute - descriptive of disorders, or phases of disorders, involving severe symptoms, fast onset and relatively brief duration. Contrast with chronic.

Acute Combat Stress Reaction - psychological trauma experienced in combat environments which can lead to PTSD.

Acute Stress Disorder - an acute initial stage of severe PTSD. Acute stress disorder may involve dissociation symptoms.

AD - see antidepressant or anxiety disorder.

Addiction - an acquired dependence resulting from excessive exposure to a substance or behavior. Reduction or removal of such exposure often results in physical and/or psychological distress known as a withdrawal syndrome. Since the symptoms of withdrawal syndromes and anxiety disorders are extremely similar, caution should be used in distinguishing the two. Characteristics of addiction may include increasing tolerance, loss of control or functionality, or dismissal of adverse consequences. Causes of addiction include unwise recreation, self-medication (wittingly or unwittingly), genetic vulnerability, or inappropriate management of medication or therapy.

Adjustment Disorder - an emotional or behavioral disorder resulting from difficulty adapting to stressors.

Adrenal Gland - either of two endocrine glands near the kidneys that produces cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Adrenaline - a dated term typically referring to epinephrine.

Adrenaline Rush - commonly, the arousal, excitement or thrill associated with an experience that is novel and/or risky. Symptoms are usually associated with the action of epinephrine and dopamine. A person's appreciation of an adrenaline rush is very subjective; i.e. highly dependent on the individual and circumstances.

Adventure - any remarkable undertaking which involves some form of personal risk and requires courage. Also see thrill.

Aerophobia - a phobia of flying. Also known as aviophobia or flight phobia.

Affective Disorder - any mood disorder, including depressive and bipolar illness.

Afraid - possessing an emotional state of fear.

Agonist - any chemical (chemical messenger or substance) that stimulates the release of a chemical messenger. Contrast with antagonist.

Agoraphobia - a phobia of anxiety or panic attacks that results in a growing avoidance of things or situations. Also see housebound, safe zone.

Air Hunger - see suffocation alarm.

Akinetic Seizure - a type of generalized seizure characterized by a person suddenly collapsing, without warning, and for short duration. Such seizures are usually only seen in children. Also known as a "drop attack." Also see faint.

Alcohol - a substance (namely ethanol) which has a sedative effect when consumed. Consumption of alcoholic beverages may relieve anxiety for several hours. However, the aftereffects of alcohol are generally considered to aggravate anxiety. It is interesting to note that consumption of alcohol can affect dopamine and serotonin. Also see Dionysus. CAUTION: as a dopamine agonist, alcohol can be highly addictive.

Alekto - see Erinys.

Alexithymia - a disorder where emotional responses are expressed through somatic, or bodily, symptoms.

Algae - a group of one-celled colonial plants sometimes sold as an alternative medicine for anxiety disorders; probably a bogus therapy.

Allostasis - the ability of a system to dynamically adopt varying states to accommodate changing demands. Adj. Allostatic. Contrast with homeostasis. An example of allostatic balance is a rise of epinephrine in response to exercise, stress or perceived danger, followed by a fall of epinephrine during relaxation.

Alternative Medicine - techniques used to treat a disorder or disease which are not yet formally embraced by mainstream medicine. These techniques may have a long history of use in traditional healing, or are sometimes newly discovered or developed. Whether old or new, the distinguishing characteristic of an alternative medicine is that it's therapeutic value is based on anecdotal accounts rather than controlled scientific study. Such lack of scientific evidence does not necessarily rule out a true therapeutic value, but simply means that a therapeutic value has yet to be proven scientifically and, consequently, is not yet recognized by mainstream medicine. In other words, alternative medicines may have an unknown or misunderstood value beyond a simple placebo. Due to uncertainty, limited regulation and occasional exploitation, caution should be used when exploring such options. Even though alternative medicine is not "formally" embraced by mainstream medicine, many medical doctors like to remain open-minded on the subject and should be consulted before trying such techniques. Forms of alternative medicine include acupuncture, aroma therapy, chiropractic, cranialsacro somatic therapy, herbal remedies, holistic medicine, homeopathy, magnets, naturopathy, radionics, therapeutic touch.

Alt.Support.Anxiety-Panic (ASAP) - the Internet Usenet newsgroup that focuses on anxiety and panic disorders in general. Created in July, 1994, ASAP was the first Internet group devoted to such disorders. The moderated version of this group is known as Alt.Support.Anxiety-Panic.Moderated (ASAPM).

Amanita Muscaria - a red-speckled mushroom which is the cousin of the deadly "Angel of Death" mushroom. Apparently, this mushroom was sometimes used by ancient warriors as an anxiolytic before tribal combat. Shamans somehow discovered that the mushroom's properties were more potent in urine than direct ingestion.

Amnesia - loss of memory. Amnesia is typically temporary and brief in anxiety disorders. Also see cognitive dysfunction, hysterical fugue.

Amygdala - either of two almond shaped brain structures of the limbic system, which act as a gateway between the limbic system and cerebrum (near the temporal lobes). The association of intellectual and emotional meaning is believed to occur through the amygdala. Some forms of depression, anxiety or panic disorders may be related to amygdala dysfunction. Also see extinction.

Anecdotal - based on personal accounts.

Anecdote - a personal account.

Anhedonia - a decreased ability to enjoy previously pleasurable activities.

Anorgasmia - a loss of sexual desire (libido) and/or sexual function. Anorgasmia is often a side effect of SRI medications, which may temporarily last several weeks or persist throughout medication usage. In cases of prolonged anorgasmia due to medication, other medications are often considered.

Anosodiaphoria - an indifference towards diseases and disorders. Contrast with hypochondria, medical school syndrome, morbid curiosity.

ANT - see automatic negative thought.

Antacid - a substance used to counteract discrete episodes of heartburn. Common active ingredients of antacids include aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, or sodium bicarbonate. In general, antacids should not be used on a regular basis and can interact with some medications, so consult a doctor if heartburn is frequent or regular. Also see gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Antagonist - any chemical (chemical messenger or substance) that inhibits the release of a chemical messenger. Contrast with agonist.

Antianxiety Medication - see tranquilizer.

Anticipatory Anxiety - anxiety which is caused by the expectation of anxiety in a particular situation. Also see performance anxiety, white-coat effect.

Anticonvulsant - a term applied to any medication used to control convulsions, seizures or epilepsy. The BDZ medications are included in this group since they are used to treat both epilepsy and anxiety disorders.

Antidepressant - a term typically used to describe medications that are used in the treatment of depression. Such medications are sometimes found useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders, but tend to still be called antidepressants because doctors originally used them to treat depression. In other words, taking an antidepressant does not necessarily imply that a person is depressed. Antidepressant medications include MAOIs, SRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, but exclude BDZs.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome - any withdrawal syndrome associated with antidepressant medication.

Anxiety - a psychological and/or biological response to stress, which can persist in the absence of such stress. Feelings of anxiety involve discomforting apprehension or concern, which may include symptoms such as cognitive difficulties, hypersensitivity, dizziness, muscular weakness, breathing difficulties, irregular heart beat, sweating, or fear-like sensations in general. Typically, anxiety is a natural and healthy response to life experiences. However, exaggerated or chronic anxiety often indicates an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be produced by external stress (exogenous anxiety) or internal stress (endogenous anxiety). Contrast with fear. Also see courage, healthy anxiety.

Anxiety Attack - an episode of extremely uncomfortable anxiety. Severe forms of anxiety attacks are called panic attacks.

Anxiety Disease - a general term referring to anxiety disorders collectively.

Anxiety Disorder - any disorder mainly characterized by an excessive degree of anxiety. Typical features include anxiety symptoms of greater severity, duration or frequency than seems appropriate for the circumstances involved. There are many possible causes for anxiety disorders which may be psychological, psychiatric, neurological and/or endocrine in nature. Anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Anxiety disorders can sometimes aggravate medical conditions and should be discussed with a medical doctor. Contrast with healthy anxiety. Also see diagnosis, substance-induced anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Phobic Depersonalization Syndrome - an alternate name for panic disorder.

Anxiety Neurosis - see hypochondria.

Anxiogen - anything that generates anxiety. See challenge agent, stressor.

Anxiogenic - descriptive of anything that causes anxiety.

Anxiolytic - descriptive of anything that reduces anxiety.

Anxiolytic Medication - see tranquilizer.

APD - see avoidant personality disorder.

Apothecary - see pharmacist.

Arachnophobia - a phobia of spiders.

Aroma Therapy - an alternative medicine practice where the sense of smell is used to affect mood.

Art Therapy - any psychotherapy which employs an art form. In the visual arts, often the drawing or painting of pictures to promote expression and understanding of an emotional state, or use of prepared images as a catalyst for discussion, free association or a form of exposure therapy. Literary arts or performance arts (music, acting, etc.) can be similarly applied.

ASAP - see Alt.Support.Anxiety-Panic.

ASAPM - see Alt.Support.Anxiety-Panic.

Assertive Behavior - to communicate or act in a bold or insistent manner. Such behavior can reduce anxiety by increasing a sense of control; i.e. it can ease the build up of anxiety, feelings of guilt, being victimized, being used or manipulated. Assertiveness training or assertiveness therapy teaches how to say "no" and to express how "you" feel. Assertive behavior can be helpful in many aspects of anxiety disorders. Contrast with passive behavior.

Assertiveness Therapy - a form of behavioral therapy with emphasis on encouraging assertive behavior.

Auditory Cortex - an area of each temporal lobe that interprets sound.

Aura - any sensation that frequently precedes an attack in various disorders.

Automatic Negative Thought (ANT) - an unpleasant thought which is automatically triggered by a situation and encourages anxiety. Based on concepts from cognitive therapy. Also see negative thought.

Automysophobia - a phobia of being dirty or unclean.

Autonomic Nervous System - a subdivision of the peripheral nervous system; further divided into the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates the functions of various organ systems. Once thought to regulate functions inaccessible to consciousness, the autonomic nervous system is now known to be under greater voluntary control.

Autophobia - a phobia of being alone.

Aversion Therapy - a form of behavioral therapy which reinforces desired behavior through some form of "positive punishment" conditioning. See operant conditioning.

Aviophobia - a phobia of flying. Also known as aerophobia or flight phobia.

Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) - a form of social anxiety disorder characterized by avoidance of social situations which might involve criticism or rejection. Often involves feelings of inadequacy.

The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders