The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders

PAD - an acronym for "Panic-Anxiety Disorder" referring to anxiety disorders in general.

Pain Disorder - a somatoform disorder characterized by specific and severe pain that causes pronounced distress or social anxiety.

Palpitation - rapid beating of the heart due to exertion or emotional distress. Also see cardiology.

Pan - a woodland or pastoral god from Greek mythology who was said to induce overwhelming and irrational fear. The word "panic" is derived from this mythical character. Also see mythology.

Panacea - a cure-all, or single remedy that cures all ills. Since anxiety disorders are known to have a diversity of causes, both psychological and biological, a single remedy that cures all forms of anxiety disorders is generally considered unlikely.

PANDAS - see Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.

Panic - an extreme form of anxiety or fear. Typically, panic is a natural and healthy response to danger. However, exaggerated or chronic panic in the absence of danger often indicates a panic disorder. Panic can be produced by external stress (exogenous anxiety) or internal stress (endogenous anxiety).

Panic Attack (PA) - an extreme episode of anxiety or fear. People often describe a panic attack as, "a frantic feeling that I am about to die." Sensations of horror or terror can be severe during a panic attack, to the degree that a person may fear going insane as a result. Such attacks typically last about half an hour. In extreme cases, attacks may last several hours or even several days (Status Panicus). Symptoms may include pseudoparalysis, temporary paralysis or fainting.

Panic Disorder (PD) - an extreme form of anxiety disorder characterized by spontaneous and recurring panic attacks in the absence of stress, threat or danger. The distress of severe panic disorder is comparable to the worst of human experiences. Panic disorder should be properly diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Panic disorders have many possible causes which are psychological and/or medical in nature. Pathology can vary greatly from person to person. Severe panic attacks are sometimes characterized as sub-epileptic seizures, suggesting a relationship with epilepsy in some forms of panic disorder.

Panicogen - anything that generates panic. Adj. Panicogenic.

Paradoxical Intention - a cognitive behavioral therapy technique where an activity is sometimes made easier by attempting the opposite. This technique is based on the observation that some activities (socializing, relaxing, going to sleep, etc.) can become more difficult the harder we try, perhaps because the act of "trying" or "trying too hard" or "obsessing" can produce stress or anxiety. Consequently, by attempting (or pretending to attempt) the opposite of a desired activity, the desired activity might be made easier. With regard to anxiety, a deliberate attempt to provoke anxiety may sometimes help to reduce anxiety. Contrast with interoceptive technique.

Paralysis - inability to move. Contrast with pseudoparalysis. Also see freeze.

Paranoia - beliefs or behavior characterized by highly developed delusions of persecution and/or grandeur. Adj. Paranoid.

Parasympathetic Nervous System - a subdivision of the autonomic nervous system. Contrast with sympathetic nervous system.

Paresthesia - sensation of numbness, prickling or tingling of the skin that has no obvious cause. Sometimes a symptom of extreme emotional stress (ex. PTSD). Also see brain zap, dysesthesia.

Parietal Lobe - the upper central lobe of the cerebrum. The parietal lobes are mainly concerned with creating a three dimensional representation of our surroundings. Also contains the sensory cortex and motor cortex.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance - a program, started by pharmaceutical companies, which provides prescription drugs to poor people at no charge. Designed to help those in need who have limited resources, this program is intended to help people who have fallen through the safety net of Medicare or other programs, who often can't afford medications. For information call 1-800-PMA-INFO.

Paruresis - a form of social anxiety disorder characterized by psychosomatic difficulty or inability to urinate in stressful situations. Stressors may include proximity to other people or time pressure. Also known as bashful bladder, pee-shy, shy-bladder. Contrast with incontinence.

Passion Flower - a plant (genus Passiflora) used as a natural sedative. See calms forte, herbal remedy.

Passive Behavior - to habitually yield to the suggestions or actions of others. In cases of anxiety and panic disorders, such behavior often gives the feeling of being victimized, manipulated, used, or produce the feelings of guilt. Contrast with assertive behavior.

Pass Out - see faint.

Pathology - the deviations from normal function that characterize a disease or disorder. Contrast with etiology.

Pathophysiology - the physiological changes associated with a disease or disorder.

Pavlovian Conditioning - see classical conditioning.

Pavor - see Phobos.

Pavor Nucturnus - see sleep terror.

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) - a theoretical association between streptococcus infections (strep throat) and obsessive compulsive disorder in children.

Pee-shy - see paruresis.

Perception - the interpretation of sensory input.

Perceptual Filtering - any process which determines which sensory information warrants attention or should be ignored. Also see hypersensitivity and hypervigilance.

Performance Anxiety - anxiety regarding ability to complete some task. Often experienced in a social, professional or public context. However, performance anxiety can also be a product of expectation of oneself in a non-social context. The best therapy for such anxiety is often practice, experience or exposure. Realistic expectations and not judging oneself too harshly are also helpful. Also see anticipatory anxiety, presentation anxiety, public speaking anxiety, situational anxiety, social anxiety, speaking anxiety, stage fright.

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) - a subdivision of the nervous system which is further divided into the autonomic nervous system, sensory nervous system and motor nervous system. Contrast with central nervous system.

Pernicious Anemia - a blood disorder which has symptoms similar to anxiety disorders. See diagnosis.

Persistent Anxiety - see generalized anxiety disorder.

Perspiration - the production of fluid from the sweat glands. Such fluid is composed of water, salts and other substances. Perspiration is primarily a means of cooling the body, but is also a means of excreting toxins. Perspiration is a common symptom of anxiety. Also see cortisol, dysautonomia, hematidrosis, hyperhidrosis.

Phantasos - see Oneroi.

Pharma - the field of pharmacology and/or the pharmaceutical industry. Contrast with PhRMA.

Pharmaceutical - regarding manufactured medications.

Pharmaceutical Representative - an employee of a pharmaceutical company who meets with doctors to discuss medications. Such "pharm reps" are also known as "drug marketing representatives," "drug representatives" or "drug sales representatives" since they promote medications sold by their employer. Also see preceptorship.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) - the lobbying group which represents the collective interests of the pharmaceutical industry in the United States. Contrast with Pharma.

Pharmacist - a person licensed to sell or dispense prescription pharmaceutical medications in accord with a doctor's guidance.

Pharmacokinetic - regarding the dose and effective duration of a medication.

Pharmacology - the science and clinical application of medications. Adj. Pharmacological.

Pharmacophobia - a phobia of medication.

Pharmacopoeia - the overall pharmaceutical medications available.

Pharmacotherapy - any medication-based therapy.

Phenylethylamine - a chemical involved with the limbic system. Phenylethylamine creates a feeling of bliss and is a natural ingredient in chocolate.

Pheochromocytoma - a tumor of the adrenal gland which produces abnormally high levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine. There are medical tests for this condition and it should be ruled out during the proper diagnosis of anxiety disorders. See diagnosis.

Pheromone - a chemical messenger that can pass from one individual to another.

Phobetor - see Oneroi.

Phobia - an exaggerated fear. Adj. Phobic. Various anxiety disorders are known to enhance preexisting phobias or even introduce phobias not previously experienced. The so-called "simple phobias" or "specific phobias" are phobic responses to a specific thing (e.g. height). Simple phobias can often be treated with the progressive exposure techniques of behavioral therapies. However, agoraphobia and social phobia are often more complicated than a simple phobia and may require more sophisticated therapies. Some common simple phobias include achluophobia, acrophobia, aerophobia, arachnophobia, automysophobia, autophobia, aviophobia, brontophobia, bacteriophobia, claustrophobia, emetophobia, entomophobia, gephyrophobia, helminthophobia, kakorraphiaphobia, nosophobia, ochlophobia, ophidiophobia, pharmacophobia, phobophobia, phonophobia, pnigophobia, triscadecaphobia, xenophobia. People can develop phobias of anything, no matter how mundane.

Phobophobia - a phobia of being afraid.

Phobos - a god from Greek mythology who personified fear, especially panic in the midst of conflict. Son of Ares (Mars) and Aphrodite (Venus). Brother of Deimos. Latin, Phobus. Roman, Pavor or Terror. The word 'phobia' is derived from 'Phobos'. Also see mythology.

Phonophobia - a phobia of phone calls, conversations or noises, which are perceived as stressful. Also see background stressor.

PhRMA - see Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Pituitary - an endocrine gland closely associated with the hypothalamus near the center of the brain. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the "master gland" since it produces hormones that regulate other endocrine glands.

Placebo - a fake cure. In other words, any technique or medication which is presumed to be a remedy, but actually has no medical or physical benefit. However, placebos can be useful as a psychological tool.

Placebo Controlled Study - any study that compares a therapy against a placebo. Placebos are often used in trails of new medications to distinguish between the medical and psychological effects of taking a medication. The most accurate form of such a study is a double blind study.

Placebo Effect - any psychological response attributed to use of a placebo.

PMDD - see Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

PMS - see Premenstrual Syndrome.

Pnigophobia - a phobia of choking.

Polyneuronal Ectopy (PNE) - a generalized term for panic disorder which is more inclusive of related neurological symptoms. PNE involves abnormal electrical activity found in virtually any part of the central or peripheral nervous system which can be a cause or result of acute anxiety.

Polysystemic Dysautonomia (PSD) - an alternate name for panic disorder.

Porphyria - a disturbance of porphyrin metabolism. Symptoms may include confusion, nausea, acute abdominal pain, and sometimes extreme sensitivity to sun-exposure resulting in skin lesions. Porphyria is acutely aggravated by alcohol and medications (even Aspirin). This condition can be medically diagnosed with a blood or urine test. See diagnosis.

Positive Thought - any thought associated with constructive or pleasant emotional states (such as acceptance, accomplishment, happiness, optimism, etc.). An important concept of cognitive therapy. Contrast with negative thought.

Postpartum Depression (PPD) - a form of depression sometimes experienced by women shortly after giving birth. Probably related to hormonal changes experienced by mothers. See chemical messenger, diagnosis.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - a form of obsessive compulsive disorder sometimes experienced by women shortly after giving birth. Postpartum OCD typically involves frightening thoughts of harming or killing a baby, but such thoughts are not acted upon. Contrast with postpartum psychosis. See chemical messenger, diagnosis.

Postpartum Psychosis - a form of psychosis sometimes experienced by women shortly after giving birth. Often characterized by delusions or hallucinations (such as hearing voices). Postpartum psychosis can result in injury to a baby, so a doctor should be promptly consulted. Contrast with postpartum OCD. See chemical messenger, diagnosis.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - any anxiety disorder based on a traumatic experience (such as combat, rape, child abuse, witnessing a violent or troubling event, or any serious medical or psychological trauma). People with PTSD typically have triggers that evoke flashbacks. Un-triggered flashbacks (intrusive memories or intrusive thoughts) may also occur in the absence of distractions (e.g. when trying to relax or sleep). Symptoms may include cognitive dysfunction, depersonalization, derealization, paresthesia and most somatic symptoms common to anxiety disorders. Extreme cases of PTSD may involve a preliminary phase called acute stress disorder. PTSD was added to the DSM following the Vietnam War. Past synonyms for PTSD include battle fatigue, battle shock, combat exhaustion, combat fatigue, combat shock, DaCosta's syndrome, effort syndrome, exhausted heart, operational fatigue, Post-Vietnam syndrome, railroad heart, shell shock, soldier's heart, trench neurosis, war neurosis.

Postural Hypotension - a brief drop in blood pressure caused by a change in posture (such as rising from sitting to standing) resulting in dizziness, lightheadedness or sometimes even fainting. Also see hypotension.

Post-Vietnam Syndrome - the initial name for post traumatic stress disorder.

PPD - see Postpartum Depression.

Prayer - a form of spiritual communion. Also see meditation, religion, scrupulosity.

Preceptorship - the practice of a pharmaceutical representative offering medication suggestions under the supervision of a doctor. Though this practice can provide useful information, there are also ethical concerns due to potential conflict of interest between patient interests and commercial interests. Preceptorship is also known as shadowing.

Prefrontal Cortex - the anterior (frontal) cortex of the brain's frontal lobe. Theorized to play a major role in cognitive adaptation to fear and anxiety. Also see extinction.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) - an alternate name for premenstrual syndrome.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - the psychological and physical symptoms associated with menstruation. Often such symptoms are due to chemical messenger disturbances which can aggravate an anxiety disorder. Also see uterus.

Prescription - any written direction of a treatment by an appropriately licensed health professional. Often regards regulated pharmaceutical medications, therapies, equipment or products. The abbreviation 'Rx' generally refers to a medical prescription.

Presentation Anxiety - a form of performance anxiety characterized by display of an accomplishment.

PRN - as needed. Prescription direction based on the Latin phrase "pro re nata." Typically, PRN refers to fast acting medications used to treat discrete attacks. However, the meaning of PRN is sometimes stretched to regard longer periods; for example, SSRI PRN really refers to regular SSRI use over a relatively short period of several months. Also see dose.

Prognosis - the expected progression of a disorder. Contrast with diagnosis.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation - a relaxation technique that involves the tensing and relaxing of various muscle groups. Also known as deep muscle relaxation.

Prolactin - a hormone. Excess prolactin production can dampen libido and is caused by hypothyroidism, some medications, and stress. Prolactin is restricted by dopamine.

Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) - medications which decrease stomach acid by binding to H+/K+ ATPase. Used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease and ulcers. PPIs can decrease the elimination rate of benzodiazepines, so dosage issues should be discussed with a doctor. Also see H2 Receptor Blocker.

Pseudocyesis - a psychosomatic state which, in the absence of conception, convincingly mimics pregnancy with symptoms including cessation of menses, abdominal enlargement, hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and even apparent fetal movement. Also see uterus.

Pseudoparalysis - pronounced loss of muscular strength and control without true paralysis. Severe panic attacks sometimes cause pseudoparalysis to a degree where ability to walk, stand or sit upright may not be possible for the duration of the attack. Also see freeze, sub-epileptic seizure.

Psyche - in psychiatry, the mind. Derived from the Greek word 'psyche' meaning the soul. Also a mythological character named Psyche; a nymph who personified the passion of love. Also see mythology.

Psychiatrist - a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry. Many psychiatrists also have some knowledge of psychology.

Psychiatry - a field of medicine concerned with physical and chemical interactions in the brain and how they affect mental and emotional processes. In other words, psychiatry is where the fields of medicine and psychology overlap. Adj. Psychiatric.

Psychoanalysis - a psychotherapy concerned with issues of emotional conflict and repression which are often attributed to formative childhood experiences. Adj. Psychoanalytic. Often based on Freudian theories.

Psychoanalyst - any psychologist practicing psychoanalysis.

Psychobabble - inappropriate or incorrect application of psychological theories.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy - see psychoanalysis.

Psychogenic - generated by a psychological process.

Psychologist - a person that studies psychology. Practicing clinical psychologists are called psychotherapists.

Psychology - a discipline concerned with behavioral, mental and emotional processes. Adj. Psychological. The clinical application of psychology is generally called psychotherapy.

Psychoneuroimmunology - a field of medicine that addresses the effects of psychology and neurology on the immune system. Studies suggest that anxiety and stress can weaken immune system responses and make people more vulnerable to certain diseases. Likewise, positive emotional states appear to help immune system responses.

Psychoneurosis - a dated term for disorders characterized by anxiety or depression. Also see neurosis.

Psychopathology - any pathology of psychological orientation.

Psychopharmacology - a discipline which studies the effects of medications on mind and behavior.

Psychophysiological Death - death induced by extreme stress, fear or anxiety. Such events are very rare even in the anxiety disorder community. The most likely mechanism appears to be aggravation of some preexisting cardiovascular condition. Also see Baskerville effect.

Psychosomatic - descriptive of physical symptoms (real or perceived) that are caused by some form of psychological stress. Also see hypochondria, medical school syndrome, paruresis, pseudocyesis, somatize, white-coat effect.

Psychotherapist - any psychologist that practices any kind of psychotherapy. Many psychotherapists have some knowledge of psychiatry.

Psychotherapy - the clinical application of psychology in the form of a therapy. Adj. Psychotherapeutic. Such therapies typically involve open discussion of emotional issues. Psychotherapies include forms of behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, psychoanalysis. Also see art therapy, hypnotic psychotherapy, family therapy, neurolinguistic programming, special education.

Psychotropic - anything, especially substances, that affect the mind.

PTSD - see post traumatic stress disorder.

Public Speaking Anxiety - a form of performance anxiety characterized by speaking to a group.

Pyrosis - see gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders