When you’re making your way through the mental health field, there are many medical terms that might throw you off. If you’re helping a teen with bipolar disorder or if you’re attempting to wade through the world of psychological health yourself, the following terms and their definitions might be useful.
Common Terms to Know
Acute – relatively short but severe, as in an “acute manic episode.
Adjunctive – complimentary, as in adjunctive treatment, that accompanies the main methods of treating a disorder.
Affective Disorders – another term for mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Antidepressant – a form of medication developed to treat the symptoms of depression. There are various classes of antidepressants depending on the neurotransmitter it affects, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephine.
Antipsychotics – this is also a form of medication. They were originally developed to treat psychotic symptoms; however, they are used to treat bipolar disorder and severe cases of depression.
Bipolar Disorder – this is a type of mood disorder that is characterized by a mood swings between depression and mania. There are two types of this disorder.
Bipolar I – also known as Bipolar I, includes one or more distinct periods of mania, and could also include a mixed period. For instance, if there is a period of mania, there might also be features of depression and if there is a period of depression, there might also be features of mania. However, Bipolar I does not require having an episode of depression.
Bipolar II – characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of depression. This diagnosis can be made only if the individual has not ever experienced a period of mania. Hypomania is an episode of that is less severe than a full episode of mania.
Comorbid – a medical condition that is present with another medical condition but often the two are unrelated. For instance, some might have bipolar disorder as well as a substance abuse disorder.
Cyclothymia – a type of mood disorder that is sometimes known as bipolar lite. It involves having episodes of hypomania and depressive symptoms, but a patient does not meet the requirements for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Dopamine – this is neurotransmitter is linked to feeling good and experiencing pleasure. It affects attention, focus, muscle movement, and mood. It plays a role in the experience of psychosis.
Dysthymia – this is a chronic but low level experience of depression, usually accompanied by irritability and an inability to experience joy.
Euthymic – moods that are considered within the normal range, those that are not manic or depressed.
Executive Functioning – the ability to organize, manage, and sort incoming information. It is common among those who experience mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, that their executive functioning is impaired.
Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) – an amino acid neurotransmitter that acts as an inhibitor and has a calming down effect.
Glutamate – a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in the experience of mania and depression. Its effect is revving up the central nervous system.
Hypersexual – having an excess interest or involvement in sexual activity, sometimes a symptom of a manic episode
Hyperthymic – meaning high energy, very outgoing, active, confident, and sometimes even arrogant.
Hypomania – an elevated mood that is not quite full mania but does include increased energy, less sleep, clarity of vision, and strong creativity.
Insight – medically, this is a term used to indicate the acceptance and understanding of a psychological disorder. It also includes the objectivity that one has regarding their behaviors and attitudes that might be characteristic of that disorder.
Maintenance dose – the amount of medication that is needed to prevent the onset of symptoms rather than treating any existing symptoms.
Major depressive episode – an experience of very low mood that lasts for at least two weeks and is characterized by symptoms of despair, fatigue, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, and thoughts of suicide.
Mania – an experience of euphoria, high energy, impulsivity, irritability, and less need for sleep.
Manic depression – an old name used for bipolar disorder.
Manic episode – an experience of euphoria, high energy, impulsivity, irritability, and less need for sleep that lasts for one week or shorter.
MAOI’s (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) – These were the first class of anti-depressants to be developed. They increase levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine by inhibiting an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. However, this drug has several side effects when use with other medication, which limits their usefulness with patients who take other forms of medication. They interact with other drugs that also increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, constrict blood vessels, or also inhibit monoamine oxidase.
Mindfulness – a therapeutic, although ancient practice, that invites an individual to focus their attention on the present moment and all that is happening within and around them.
Mood chart – a tool that documents the rise and fall of moods over time. They are useful in predicting the onset of certain moods and the need for medication.
Mood stabilizer – a type of drug that reduces the severity of depression of mania and reduces the frequency of cycling through these two moods.
The above list is the first part of two articles containing important terms to know with regard to teen bipolar disorder. If you or your teen is new to the mental health field, knowing these terms might be useful in conversations with a psychiatrist or therapist.