The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Sabotage - in psychology, any thought or behavior that undermines a therapy or recovery. The concept of psychological sabotage should be interpreted carefully since it may reflect circular logic or self-fulfilling prophecies (by either patient or therapist). Also see compulsive, intrusive memory, obsessive, self-downing.

SAD - see Seasonal Affective Disorder or Social Anxiety Disorder.

Safe Zone - any area within which anxiety symptoms are not notably aggravated. Also see agoraphobia, separation anxiety.

Saint John's Wort (SJW) - see Hypericum perforatum.

Salivation - the secretion of saliva in the mouth. Brief episodes of spontaneous and excessive salivation sometimes occur with anxiety disorders. Also see dysautonomia, xerostomia.

Scare - to induce fear.

Scaremonger - anyone who circulates frightening rumors.

Scare Tactic - any act that employs fear to affect thought or behavior.

Scrupulosity - a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by excessive anxiety regarding moral behavior, spiritual status or correct conduct of religious practices. Also see superstition, religion.

Scutellaria Lateriflora - a plant used as a herbal remedy; sedative and antispasmodic. A member of the mint family which grows in eastern North America. Commonly called Skullcap.

SDS - see serotonin deficiency syndrome.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - a disorder involving depression or anxiety that typically occurs during the darker seasons. Apparently, reduced daily exposure to sunlight can significantly affect some people's serotonin and melatonin levels, which results in SAD. This disorder can be alleviated by light therapy.

Sedative - anything that induces calm.

Seizure - a sudden attack of epilepsy that produces convulsions. Seizures are typically classified as 'partial' or 'generalized'. Partial seizures include "simple partial seizures" (motor, sensory, autonomic) and "complex partial seizures" (absences, complex hallucinations, affective symptoms, automatism). Generalized seizures are characterized by absence attacks (petit mal), tonic-clonic (grand mal), bilateral myoclonic, drop attacks (akinetic). It is interesting to note that the auras associated with some seizures are remarkably similar to, if not the same as, some forms of anxiety attacks. Consequently, panic attacks are sometimes described as sub-epileptic seizures. Also see temporal lobe seizure.

Selective Mutism - inability to speak in certain situations. Often associated with social phobia or other anxiety disorders. Also see mutism and surdomutism.

Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSNRI) - psychiatrists now prefer the abbreviated term Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitor (SNRI). Both terms refer to the same group of medications.

Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) - psychiatrists now prefer the abbreviated term Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SRI). Both terms refer to the same group of medications.

Self Abuse - see self injury.

Self-downing - a form of self sabotage where an anxiety disorder or depression is made worse by obsessing over the condition or by blaming oneself for the condition.

Self Esteem - a sense of pride and/or respect for oneself. Self esteem is not necessarily based on tangible accomplishments, but can also result from personal, inner accomplishments as well.

Self Harm - see self injury.

Self Help - coping skills or recovery techniques that are practiced without the guidance of a doctor or therapist.

Self Injury - any act of intentional physical injury to oneself. Such acts involve bruising, scratching, cutting, burning, etc. Often, people practice self injury in an effort to relieve or express emotional pain. Both psychological and biological factors should be explored as potential causes.

Self Medication - the consumption of any substance to treat a health problem without or despite the guidance of a doctor. Contrast with recreational drug.

Self Monitoring - observing and monitoring one's own thoughts or behavior.

Self Mutilation - see self injury.

Semiparalysis - see pseudoparalysis.

Sensory Cortex - a vertical strip of each parietal lobe that effectively provides a map of the body for sensations to be interpreted.

Sensory Nervous System - a subdivision of the peripheral nervous system that channels sensory stimulus (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch) to the brain.

Separation Anxiety - anxiety related to separation from a comforting person, object or situation. Separation anxiety is sometimes a healthy response (as in the anxiety of a child being separated from a parent or guardian). However, separation anxiety can also indicate excessive insecurity or dependence. Also see safe zone.

Serotonin (5-HT) - a hormone and neurotransmitter (an indoleamine) associated with appetite, digestion, sleep, depression and anxiety disorders. Also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). For biosynthesis details see tryptophan.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitor (SNRI) - any medication that slows the re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine by neurons in the brain, thus allowing serotonin and norepinephrine to remain in the synapse longer. Like most psychiatric medications, SNRIs are best started with ramped dosage. The SNRI medications include (generic names) duloxetine, venlafaxine. Also see antidepressant, re-uptake inhibitor, serotonin re-uptake inhibitor.

Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome (SDS) - a disorder caused by insufficient serotonin levels. A possible cause of anxiety disorders, depression and related conditions. Contrast with serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SRI) - any medication that slows the re-uptake of serotonin by neurons in the brain, thus allowing serotonin to remain in the synapse longer. SRIs can interfere with sexual desire or function, but this effect is often temporary. Like most psychiatric medications, SRIs are best started with ramped dosage. The SRI medications include (generic names) buspirone hydrochloride, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, mirtazapine, nefazodone, paroxetine, sertraline, trazodone. CAUTION: SRIs should not be combined with MAOIs. SRIs may pose risks to unborn children during pregnancy and newborns through breast milk. A possible relationship between SRIs and suicidal ideation remains controversial. Nefazodone has been discontinued due to association with liver damage. Also see anorgasmia, antidepressant, re-uptake inhibitor, serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor.

Serotonin Syndrome - a disorder caused by excessive serotonin levels. Symptoms can include restlessness, hallucinations, loss of coordination, fast heart beat, rapid changes in blood pressure, increased body temperature, overactive reflexes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Possible causes include migraine headache medications known as triptans, antidepressants (especially SRI and SNRI medications) and any other substance (natural or pharmaceutical) which elevates serotonin. Contrast with serotonin deficiency syndrome.

Set Back - a rise in symptoms during a period of recovery. Anxiety disorders are known to wax and wane over both long and short periods, so set backs are not uncommon. When considering progress of recovery, do not focus on specific setbacks but, instead, consider long-term progress. Also see relapse.

Shadowing - see preceptorship.

Shell Shock - an alternate name for PTSD dating from WW-I.

Shock - in psychology, a shock is any sudden mental or emotional disturbance. In medicine, the term shock refers to a collection of medical symptoms; i.e. turning notably pale, rapid and shallow breathing, rapid but weak pulse, low blood pressure.

Shock Treatment - see electroconvulsive therapy.

Shut-in - a common term for someone who is housebound.

Shy - see social anxiety.

Shy-bladder - see paruresis.

Simple Phobia - see phobia.

Sinusitis - irritation of the sinuses. In cases involving anxiety disorders, sinusitis is often attributed to gastroesophogial reflux disease.

Situational Anxiety - any anxiety which is associated with specific circumstances. Also see performance anxiety, phobia.

SJW - Saint John's Wort. See Hypericum perforatum.

Skullcap - see Scutellaria lateriflora.

Sleep - a periodic state of unconsciousness which promotes restoration of psychological and physical function. Also see dream, nocturnal bruxism.

Sleep Paralysis - a state in which the brain is awake, but the body is still sleeping. Also known by the traditional term "old hag." Also see hypnagogic, hypnopompic, incubus.

Sleep Terror - awakening with a sense of intense anxiety, but not associated with a dream. Occurs during first hours of sleep, during slow-wave sleep (sleep stages 3 or 4) and prior to REM sleep. Typically involves confusion and intense autonomic activity. Sometimes called "pavor nucturnus" in children and "incubus attack" in adults. Also known as "night terror" and "nocturnal panic attack." Contrast with nightmare and bad dream.

Sleep Violence - see REM-sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD).

Smoking - the inhalation of tobacco smoke.

Snake Oil - see bogus therapy.

SNRI - see Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor.

Social Anxiety - anxiety regarding social situations. People suffering from social anxiety are often called 'shy', but shyness does not necessarily indicate an anxiety disorder. Pronounced or chronic social anxiety may indicate a social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Also see blush, performance anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) - an anxiety disorder characterized by social phobia. Also see avoidant personality disorder, paruresis, selective mutism.

Social Phobia - a phobia of social situations, typically with exaggerated fears of rejection, humiliation, persecution, or scrutiny. Social phobia can be amplified or complicated by other anxiety disorders. Often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, psychoanalysis, support group. Some cases may benefit from medication. Also see housebound.

Social Work - counseling or psychotherapy with an emphasis on family and community relationships. Social workers often provide guidance regarding various forms of support.

Sodium Lactate - a substance which can produce anxiety, mainly in people with an anxiety disorder. Though the body does produce sodium lactate during exercise, levels tend to remain low and not induce anxiety attacks. When used as a challenge agent, sodium lactate is typically injected at artificially high levels.

Soldier's Heart - a dated alternate name for PTSD or other pronounced anxiety disorder.

Somatic - pertaining to the body.

Somatization Disorder - a somatoform disorder characterized by a history of various physical complaints that are not attributed to a medical condition, substance or intentionally produced.

Somatize - to manifest a mental state in the form of physical symptoms. See psychosomatic.

Somatoform Disorder - a class of disorders characterized by physical symptoms which are not caused by a medical condition. Somatoform disorders include body dysmorphic disorder, conversion disorder, hypochondria, pain disorder, somatization disorder.

Somatosensory Cortex - see sensory cortex.

Somnus - see Hypnos.

Spa - any health resort devoted to relaxation or rejuvenation. Spas may provide pools, baths, saunas, hydrotherapy, massage, diets, meditation, yoga, etc., in the context of treatment sessions or even related classes or vacations. Also see relax.

Speaking Anxiety - a form of performance anxiety characterized by verbal expression.

Special Education - any form of schooling in which a student's therapeutic needs are addressed. May involve variations of teaching style, curriculum, environment. Regarding anxiety disorders, students may be asked to participate in specially planned exercises designed to reduce anxiety. Special education options vary greatly, so ask school administrators for any available information. Also see psychotherapy.

Specific Phobia - see phobia.

SR Conditioning - see operant conditioning.

SRI - see Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor.

SSNRI - see Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor.

SSRI - see Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor.

Stage Fright - a form of performance anxiety characterized by appearance before an audience.

Startle Response - an involuntary reaction to a sudden and unexpected stimulus. Also see fight or flight response.

Stathmin - a protein involved in the formation of fear memories.

Status Panicus - a severe panic attack which lasts hours or days and sometimes involves pseudoparalysis or temporary paralysis. Also see sub-epileptic seizure.

Stigma - a socially negative association. Historically, people with anxiety disorders have been stigmatized as emotionally weak, cowardly, or lazy because the powerful mechanisms of such disorders were obscure and misunderstood.

Stimulant - any substance that increases biological activity. See caffeine.

Stimulus-Response (SR) Conditioning - see operant conditioning.

Streptococcus Infection - see Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).

Stress - commonly, any biological or psychological force that affects a change in physical or mental health. Often, stress is associated with environmental change. Originally, the term "stress" was exclusively applied to any disturbance of biological homeostasis (Hans Selye, mid 20th century). Also see fear.

Stress Cardiomyopathy - a cardiac condition which can be mistaken for a heart attack but is brought on by emotional distress. Also see cardiology.

Stress Disorder - see acute stress disorder.

Stress Inoculation Therapy - a form of exposure therapy intended to improve an individual's response to stress.

Stressor - anything that causes stress. Also see adjustment disorder, background stressor.

Stress Shutdown - a dramatic reduction of cognitive abilities due to excessive stress or anxiety. The causes of stress shutdown may involve psychological mechanisms or a disturbance of neurotransmitters. Also see cognitive dysfunction.

Subconscious - any thought or mental process that we are unaware of. Contrast with conscious.

Sub-epileptic Seizure - an attack of seizure-like symptoms which is not associated with epilepsy proper. Also see pseudoparalysis, status panicus.

Subliminal - regarding any stimulus that affects the mind on a subconscious level.

Sublingual - under the tongue. Some medications reach the brain faster when allowed to dissolve under the tongue instead of simply swallowed. For example, alprazolam may take effect in roughly 30 minutes when swallowed and absorbed through the stomach, but may take effect in roughly 15 minutes when taken sublingually and absorbed through the mouth.

Substance - anything acting in a chemical manner; includes diet, herbal remedies, medications, recreational drugs, vitamins.

Substance Abuse - excessive use of a substance which can lead to medical problems such as addiction or organ damage. Also see recreational drug.

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder - any anxiety disorder caused by substance intoxication, detoxification or withdrawal syndrome.

Succubus - a mythological female demon believed to have sex with sleeping men. Also see incubus, mythology, sleep terror.

Suffocation Alarm - a state of distress due to a perceived lack of oxygen. Suffocation alarm is a common symptom of anxiety disorders. During suffocation alarm, a person might hyperventilate.

Suicidal Ideation - thoughts or behaviors relating to a preoccupation with suicide.

Suicidality - tendency towards suicidal ideation.

Suicide - the act of killing oneself.

Superstition - an irrational belief that certain acts, or lack of certain acts, are associated with undesirable or fearful consequences. Also see scrupulosity.

Support Group - any group of people that share encouragement, consolation and information regarding coping skills or recovery. Contrast with group therapy.

Support Person - a person who reliably shares encouragement, consolation and information regarding coping skills or recovery. Typically a family member or friend.

Surdomutism - an inability to speak induced by great fear. Also see hysterical conversion, mutism and selective mutism.

Sweat - see perspiration.

Sympathetic Nervous System - a subdivision of the autonomic nervous system. Contrast with parasympathetic nervous system.

Synapse - the place at which a neural impulse passes from one neuron to another via neurotransmitters.

The ASAP Dictionary of Anxiety and Panic Disorders