Center for Mental Health in Schools
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Addressing Barriers to Learning:
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Mental Health in Schools

Key Terms Related to Mental Health and Psychosocial Problems
Q - Z


A group of idiopathic psychotic disorders characterized by both positive and negative symptoms associated with disturbance in one or more major areas of functioning such as work, academic development or achievement, interpersonal relations, and self-care. Positive symptoms include delusions, which may be bizarre in nature; hallucinations, especially auditory; disorganized speech; inappropriate affect; and disorganized behavior. Negative symptoms include flat affect, avolition, alogia, and anbedonia. Duration is variable: ICD-10 requires that continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least 1 month; DSM-IV requires a minimum of 6 months.
separation anxiety disorder
A disorder with onset before the age of 18 consisting of inappropriate anxiety concerning separation from home or from persons to whom the child is attached. Among the symptoms that may be seen are unrealistic concern about harm befalling or loss of major attachment figures; refusal to go to school (school phobia) in order to stay at home and maintain contact with this figure; refusal to go to sleep unless close to this person; clinging; nightmares about the theme of separation; and development of physical symptoms or mood changes (apathy, depression) when separation occurs or is anticipated.
sleep terror disorder
One of the parasomnias characterized by panic and confusion when abruptly awakening from sleep. This usually begins with a scream and is accompanied by intense anxiety. The person is often confused and disoriented after awakening. No detailed dream is recalled, and there is amnesia for the episode. Sleep terrors typically occur during the first third of the major sleep episode. Contrast with nightmare disorder.
steroids, anabolic
Synthetic derivatives of testosterone used medically to promote protein anabolism. They can be drugs of abuse used to aid in body building. They sometimes produce an initial sense of well-being replaced after repeated use by lack of energy, irritability, and unhappiness. Continued use may lead to such serious complications as severe depression, outbursts of violence, and liver disease.
systematic desensitization
A behavior therapy procedure widely used to modify behaviors associated with phobias. The procedure involves the construction of a hierarchy of anxiety-producing stimuli by the subject, and gradual presentation of the stimuli until they no longer produce anxiety. Also called desensitization. See also reciprocal inhibition.


tarasoff decision
A California court decision that essentially imposes a duty on the therapist to warn the appropriate person or persons when the therapist becomes aware that the patient may present a risk of harm to a specific person or persons.
thought disorder
A disturbance of speech, communication, or content of thought, such as delusions, ideas of reference, poverty of thought, flight of ideas, preservation, loosening of associations, and so forth. A thought disorder can be caused by a functional emotional disorder or an organic condition. A formal thought disorder is a disturbance in the form of thought rather than in the content of thought (e.g., loosening of associations).
An involuntary, sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic stereotyped motor movement or vocalization. A tic may be an expression of an emotional conflict, the result of neurologic disease, or an effect of a drug (especially a stimulant or other dopamine agonist).
tic disorders
In DSM-IV, this category includes Tourette's disorder, chronic motor or vocal tic disorder, transient tic disorder, and tic disorder not otherwise specified; all beginning before the age of 18 years. Chronic tics may occur many times a day, nearly every day, or intermittently over a period of more than a year. Transient tics do not persist for longer than 12 consecutive months.
Tourette's disorder
A tic disorder consisting of multiple motor and vocal tics that occur in bouts, either concurrently or separately, almost every day or intermittently over a period of more than 12 months.
Pathological hair pulling that results in noticeable hair loss. As in other impulse control disorders, an increasing sense of tension or affective arousal immediately precedes an episode of hair pulling, which is then followed by a sense of pleasure, gratification, or relief.