PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY GLOSSARYThe glossary/dictionary that you can find in this section of our site gathers all the technical terms that are currently used in psychology and psychotherapy. Each term presents a brief and clear description.
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Abreaction: a psychoanalytical term referring to an emotional reaction, whereby a person releases repressed feelings relating to a more or less distant trauma concealed in the Unconscious mind. The reaction may be spontaneous or provoked. A concept related to that of catharsis.
Abulia: one of the symptoms of depression. The condition implies an impediment in relation to autonomous decision-making, the expression of one’s desires and the undertaking of any initiative.
Accommodation (Piaget): a psychological process allowing for the acquisition of new experiential data through the modification, in an adaptational sense, of mental schemes.
Acting out: the expression of feelings, desires or drives through generally uncontrolled behaviour and actions in individuals who appear to neglect the possible personal or social consequences of such action for themselves and for others.
Adaptation: the capacity to adapt to the physical and social environment, modifying one’s behaviour according to circumstances so as to create a condition in which one is capable of attaining satisfaction of one’s needs and responding in an adequate manner with respect to physical and social demands. See ‘Adaptation Disorders’.
Affect: an affect is a feeling which binds a person to someone or to something. The concept may be extended to include affective bonds with animals or plants and even particular objects, especially if the latter are in some way associated with a loved one or significant memories.
Affiliation: the need to turn to others to receive support in relation to personal problems. Affiliation involves the possibility of sharing one’s problems with others and not an attempt to offload onto others the responsibility for one’s difficulties.
Agnosia: the incapacity to recognise or identify objects and persons, even though one’s sensory functions are intact; sometimes also present in Dementia.
Akathisia: a disorder involving physical movements, characterised by the incapacity to remain still, accompanied by intense (also internal) restlessness. Included amongst symptoms presenting in the neuroleptic-induced extrapyramidal syndrome. See ‘Neuroleptics’.
Alienation: a feeling of extraneousness (feeling ‘alien’) with respect to what one does and one’s habitual environment. Feelings of impotence and hostility towards one’s surroundings may also be present.
Alogia: a term referring to limitations in the fluidity and production of thought and speech. A symptom which presents during a psychotic episode.
Alter-ego: a combination of two Latin words used to refer to ‘another self’, often used in literary contexts to indicate characters who are practically identical from the psychological point of view. The term may be used to refer to an often concealed ‘second personality’.
Altruism (defence): an individual presenting such an attitude will cope with emotional conflicts or internal or external stressors by dedicating his/her efforts to the assistance of others in some way. Unlike the idea of self-sacrifice, which may occasionally be due to a defensive ‘reaction formation’, the subject receives gratification either by ‘substitution’, by means of an alternative form of compensation, or through the response received from others.
Alzheimer’s Dementia: a form of dementia caused by the progressive death of neurons in the cerebral cortex, the cause of which remains unknown.
Amnesia: a more or less permanent (or complete) loss of memory.
Anaesthesia: the weakening or loss of sensation. Normally the loss involves tactile sensations but the disturbance may involve other senses and the anomaly may be a symptom of Conversion Disorder.
Anaffectiveness: the incapacity to experience emotion, as found especially in cases of psychosis. An anaffective person is incapable of experiencing sentiments and emotions, even of modest entity, as if there were a void within the individual.
Anal phase: the second stage of psycho-sexual development in infants, between 18 and 36 months, according to the Freudian model. The stage is distinguished by interest on the part of a child in the anal area of its body and by the sense of gratification procured by the acquisition of mastery over sphinteric movements.
Anhedonia: the generalized incapacity to experience pleasure in the practice of activities formerly considered a source of gratification.
Anomia: a phonological deficit which causes the impossibility of recovering the names of objects from one’s mental lexical storage space. The objects are recognised but their names cannot be recalled.