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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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Defence mechanism: a method mobilized by the Ego in response to the internally-felt alarm signal of anxiety as a protection against both internal and external threats. Defence mechanisms are indispensable but may become dysfunctional in cases of massive employment of such mental processes.

Delirium: a state of mental alteration and confusion, with motor agitation and hallucinations. The term is also used to refer to a state of profound mental disturbance.

Denial: a defence mechanism, by means of which unpleasant aspects of reality are subconsciously avoided through the use of a fantasy that removes the unpleasant fact. Already present during infancy, in adulthood it may constitute an immediate reaction in the occurrence of catastrophic events, stress or traumas. The mechanism is pathological when it is not used in a transitory manner.

Depersonalization: a dissociative symptom which manifests with a sense of detachment from oneself and extraneousness, as if the mind were outside of one’s own body.

Derealization: a dissociative disturbance which consists in experiencing a strong sense of non-reality or detachment from reality.

Dereflection: in Logotherapy, a method aimed at helping a subject eliminate excessive attention directed towards the self and his/her own problems, emphasizing positive objects of attention.

Destrudo: in psychoanalysis, a source of negative and destructive energy. Underlying aggressiveness, the concept is opposed to that of ‘libido’.

Deviance: the breaking of social rules believed to be fundamental by the members of society.

Disengaged: in systemic/family therapy, a term used to define a family in which the relationships amongst its members are very rigid and lacking in intimacy. On the contrary, relationships with people outside the family unit are much more open. The opposite of ‘enmeshed’.

Displacement: a defence mechanism whereby an object acting as a substitute for another is invested with unpleasant sentiments relating to this first original object, and in which the relationship between the two objects is of the associative type. For example, in the Phobias, it may happen that the fear of one’s father (or someone or something else) is ‘displaced’ and projected on an animal of a certain kind.

Dissociation: a process characterised by an alteration of the integration of the functions of consciousness, memory, identity and perception. Can become manifest through the separation of a group of mental processes from consciousness or with the loss of the relation between and the rest of the personality, for example with an incongruence between one idea and another or between the content of thought and behaviour. See ‘Dissociative Disorders’.

Distress: stress of a negative type as it cannot be tolerated by the organism.

Dopamine: a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, the alteration of which appears to play a role in schizophrenia and Parkinson’s Disease.

Drawing test: a graphic, projection-type test invented by E. Wartegg, with the possibility of verbalization. The dynamic of this test is based on the concept of archetypes and Jung’s personality theory.

Drive: a drive is a need of psychic origin, an instinct, which drives a human being to act so as to achieve a particular goal by means of innate and instinctual schemes of action. A drive is an automatic impulse, if not the result of learning and is not a personal choice. Drives present a rather rigid relationship with objects and goals, in the sense that they would be unlikely to result in satisfaction from a different object.

Düss fable test: a test based on short ‘fables’ or stories in which a protagonist is in a certain situation that reflects one of the various stages of psycho-sexual development (oral, anal and Oedipic stages etc). The method requiring completion of these stories is a fast form of investigation, which can replace direct psychoanalytic questioning.

Dysarthria: imperfect articulation of speech due to an alteration of muscular control.

Dyskinesia: an alteration of voluntary movements with the appearance of involuntary muscular activity.

Dysphoria: a downward shift in the tone of mood (sadness) accompanied by irritability. The opposite of euphoria.

Dystony: a disorder characterised by unusual or involuntary movements or muscular spasms.

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