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PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY GLOSSARY

The 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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Anosmia: loss of the sense of smell. A possible symptom in Conversion Disorder.

Anticipation (defence): a subject contends with emotional conflicts or stressful internal or external factors, experiencing emotional reactions in advance with respect to possible future events, or anticipating the consequences of these events, and taking into consideration realistic alternative responses or solutions.

Anticipation anxiety: also referred to as anticipatory anxiety, this disturbance is a state of worry which prepares a person to cope with a certain situation. It becomes pathological when it is so intense that a person is paralyzed and cannot react. Its dysfunctional form may affect people who suffer from panic attacks for example, when the fear of having an attack blocks the person’s normal functioning.

Antidepressant: psychotropic medication which raises the tone of a patient’s mood. This particular kind of medication is so called on account of the fact it is chiefly used in the treatment of depressive disorders.

Antipsychotic medication: psychotropic medication (also known as neuroleptics) with the function of tranquillizing a person suffering from psychotic episodes and disorders without altering the level of consciousness.

Anxiety: a sensation of profound malaise and distress determined by the pervasive impression of a vague but imminent danger, with respect to which one is helpless and utterly impotent. The state is accompanied by disorders of a somatic nature, such as palpitations, sensations of suffocation, a ‘lump in the throat’, pains of various kinds, dizziness and diarrhea.

Anxiogenic: which generates anxiety.

Apathy: a state of indifference towards the surrounding world (cfr. Gr. literal meaning: ‘without feeling” or “without passion”).

Aphasia: an impairment of the comprehension or the communication of ideas by means of language in all forms, such as reading, writing or discourse. The disturbance is caused by a lesion or disorder involving the cerebral areas involved in the production and decoding of natural language.

Aphonia (aphony): the partial or complete loss of the capacity to speak with a normal tone of voice. This may be a symptom presenting in Conversion Disorder.

Apraxia: loss of the capacity to produce voluntary movements. Persons suffering from this disorder present a difficulty in producing on demand certain responses they would however easily produce when not thinking about them.

Archetype: in Jungian Analytical Psychology, an element forming part of the Collective Unconscious, and the fruit of a sedimentation of human experiences repeated over many thousands of years. The archetype is an image or a thought inherited from our ancestors and shared by the entire human species. Examples of archetypes are the Great Mother, the Old Sage and the Young hero.

Arousal: a state of psychophysical activation of variable intensity in response to a stimulus significant for the individual. See ‘Stress’.

Assertiveness: the capacity to attribute an appropriate level of importance to one’s needs, rights and desires and then to satisfy them. The satisfaction of one’s needs however must be attained without harming or undermining the rights and needs of others.

Astereognosia: an incapacity to recognise objects when touching them, not attributable to sensory impairment or mental retardation.

Ataxia: the partial or complete loss of the coordination of voluntary muscular movement.

Attachment: a notion valorised in particular by John Bowlby, according to which a child is genetically predisposed towards seeking and maintaining closeness with the members of its species and in particular with its mother. In children, the second six-month period of the first year of life is believed to be the particularly ‘sensitive’ period for the establishment of a good attachment modality.

Attitude: a relatively constant disposition to respond in certain ways during all situations experienced in life. Originating in past experience, which in some way guides or in any case influences a subject’s behaviour.

Attraction: the desire to approach or face a situation. The opposite of 'avoidance'.

Autogenous training: a method of self-relaxation induced by psychic concentration, which allows for the modification of psychic and somatic conditions. Characterised by the gradual learning of a series of interrelated 'passive psychic concentration' exercises, which aim at attaining progressive modifications of muscular tone, vascular functionality, cardiac and pulmonary activity, the neurovegetative equilibrium and the state of consciousness.

Aversive therapy: in the cognitive-behaviour approach, this is a form of therapy which associates an unpleasant stimulus such as an electric shock with undesirable situations an individual is attracted towards.

Avoidance: the attempt to subtract oneself from a stimulus or situation considered unpleasant. The opposite of 'attraction'. See 'Anxiety' and 'Stress'.

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