Center for Mental Health in Schools
Addressing Barriers to Learning:
New Directions for
Mental Health in Schools
Key Terms Related to Mental Health and Psychosocial Problems
E - M
Marked disturbance in eating behavior. In DSM-IV, this category includes anorexia
nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified.
Parrot-like repetition of overheard words or fragments of speech. It may be part of a
developmental disorder, a neurologic disorder, or schizophrenia. Echolalia tends to
be repetitive and persistent and is often uttered with a mocking, mumbling, or staccato
Insightful awareness, including the meaning and significance of the feelings, emotions,
and behavior of another person. Contrast with sympathy.
An elimination disorder in a child who is at least 4 years of age, consisting of
repeated passage of feces into inappropriate places (clothing, floor, etc.) and not due to
a general medical condition.
An elimination disorder in a child who is at least 5 years of age, consisting of
repeated voiding of urine into bed or clothing, and not due to any general medical
fetal alcohol syndrome
A congenital disorder resulting from alcohol teratogenicity (i.e., the
production, actual or potential, of pathological changes in the fetus, most frequently in
the form of normal development of one or more organ systems; commonly referred to as birth
defects), with the following possible dysmorphic categories: central nervous system
dysfunction, birth deficiencies (such as low birth weight), facial abnormalities, and
variable major and minor malformations. A safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy has
not been established, and it is generally advisable for women to refrain from alcohol use
One of the paraphilias, characterized by marked distress over, or acting on,
sexual urges involving the use of nonliving objects (fetishes), such as underclothing,
stockings, or boots.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder or posthallucinogen perception disorder;
reexperiencing, after ceasing the use of a hallucinogen, one or more of the perceptual
symptoms that had been part of the hallucinatory experience while using the drug.
flight of ideas
An early continuous flow of accelerated speech with abrupt changes from one topic to
another, usually based on understandable associations, distracting stimuli, or playing on
words. When severe, however, this may lead to disorganized and incoherent speech. Flight
of ideas is characteristic of manic episodes, but it may occur also in organicmental disorders, schizophrenia, other psychoses, and, rarely, acute reactions to
A behavior therapy procedure for phobias and other problems involving maladaptive
anxiety, in which anxiety producers are presented in intense forms, either in imagination
or in real life. The presentations, which act as desensitizers, are continued until the
stimuli no longer produce disabling anxiety.
gender identity disorder
One of the major groups of sexual and gender identity disorders, characterized by a
strong and persistent identification with the opposite sex (cross-gender identification)
and discomfort with one's assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in that gender
role. Although onset is usually in childhood or adolescence, the disorder may not be
presented clinically until adulthood. Manifestations include a repeated desire to be of
the opposite sex, insistence that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the
opposite sex, a belief that one was born the wrong sex, and transsexualism or
preoccupation with one's primary and secondary sex characteristics in order to simulate
the opposite sex.
A sensory perception in the absence of an actual external stimulus; to be distinguished
from an illusion, which is a misperception or misinterpretation of an external
stimulus. Hallucinations may involve any of the senses.
Perception of sound, most frequently of voices but sometimes of clicks or other noises.
Perception of odor such as of burning rubber or decaying fish.
Perception of a physical sensation within the body such as a feeling of electricity
running through one's body.
Perception of being touched or of something being under one's skin such as the sensation
of pins being stuck into one's finger. The sensation of something crawling under one's
skin is called formication; it occurs most frequently in alcohol withdrawalsyndrome
and in cocaine withdrawal.
Perception of an image such as people (formed) or a flash of light (unformed).
Excessive motor activity that may be purposeful or aimless; movements and utterances are
usually more rapid than normal. Hyperactivity is a prominent feature of attention-deficit
disorder, so much so that in DSM-IV the latter is called attention-
Overbreathing sometimes associated with anxiety and marked by a reduction of
blood carbon dioxide, producing complaints of light-headedness, faintness, tingling of the
extremities, palpitations, and respiratory distress.
A psychopathological state and abnormality of mood falling somewhere between
normal euphoria and mania.It is characterized by unrealistic
optimism, pressure of speech and activity, and a decreased need for sleep. Some
people show increased creativity during hypomanic states, whereas others show poor
judgment, irritability and irascibility.
A loss of the sense of the sameness and historical continuity of one's self and an
inability to accept or adopt the role one perceives as being expected by society. This is
often expressed by isolation, withdrawal, extremism, rebelliousness, and negativity, and
is typically triggered by a sudden increase in the strength of instructional drives
in a milieu of rapid social evolution and technological change.
impulse control disorders
Failing to resist an impulse, drive, or temptation to perform some act that is
harmful to oneself or to others. The impulse may be resisted consciously, but it is
consonant with the person', immediate, conscious wish. The act may be premeditated
or unplanned. The person may display regret or guilt for the action or its consequences.
In DSM-IV, this category includes pathological gambling, kleptomania,pyromania,
intermittent explosive disorder, and trichotillomania.
inhalant use disorders
In DSM-IV, this group includes inhalant dependence, inhalant abuse, inhalant
intoxication, inhalant delirium, inhalant persisting dementia, inhalant psychotic disorder
with delusions or hallucinations, inhalant mood disorder, and inhalant anxiety disorder.
Rapidly shifting (as applied to emotions); unstable.
Bipolar disorder; a mood disorder characterized by excessive elation, inflated
self-esteem and grandiosity, hyperactivity, agitation, and accelerated thinking and
speaking. Flight of ideas may be present. A manic syndrome may also occur in organic
Formerly used as a nonspecific term for any type of "madness." Currently used
as a suffix to indicate a morbid preoccupation with some kind of idea or activity, and/or
a compulsive need to behave in some deviant way. Some examples are as follows:
Pathological preoccupation with self.
The delusion that one is loved by a particular person.
Compulsion to steal.
Grandiose delusions of power, wealth, or fame.
Pathological preoccupation with one subject.
Pathological preoccupation with dead bodies.
Abnormal and excessive need or desire in the woman for sexual intercourse; see satyriasis.
Compulsion to set fires; an impulse control disorder.
Compulsion to pull one's own hair out; an impulsedisorder.
A distinct period of time (usually lasting at least 1 week) of abnormally and
persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood accompanied by such symptoms as
inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, overtalkativeness or
pressured speech, flight ofideas or feeling that thoughts are racing,
inattentiveness and distractibility, increased goal-directed activity (e.g., at work or
school, socially or sexually), and involvement in pleasurable activities with high
potential for painful consequences (e.g., buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, foolish
business ventures). See bipolar disorders.
A term often used synonymously with bipolardisorder, as defined in
A state of being that is relative rather than absolute. The best indices of mental
health are simultaneous success at working, loving, and creating, with the capacity for
mature and flexible resolution of conflicts between instincts, conscience, important
other people, and reality.
mental status examination
The process of estimating psychological and behavioral function by observing the
patient, eliciting his or her self-description, and using formal questioning. Included in
the examination are 1) evaluation and assessment of any psychiatric condition present,
including provisional diagnosis and prognosis, determination of degree of
impairment, suitability for treatment, and indications for particular types of therapeutic
intervention; 2) formulation of the personality structure of the subject, which may
suggest the historical and developmental antecedents of whatever psychiatric condition
exists; and 3) estimation of the subject's ability and willingness to participate
appropriately in treatment. The mental status is reported in a series of narrative
statements describing such things as affect, speech, thought content, perception,
and cognitive functions. The mental status examination is part of the general
examination of all patients, although it may be markedly abbreviated in the absence of psychopathology.
In DSM-IV, this category includes depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, mood
disorder due to a general medical condition, and substance-induced
(intoxication/withdrawal) mood disorder.
Fluctuation of a person's emotional tone between periods of elation and periods of
Elective mutism; a disorder of infancy, childhood, or adolescence characterized by
persistent failure to speak in specific social situations by a child with demonstrated
ability to speak. The mutism is not due to lack of fluency in the language being spoken or
embarrassment about a speech problem.