Lexicon

The Wyn Lexicon is a growing collection of terms related to mental and emotional health.

 

Terms

 

Definitions

Bonding
A process of attachment that occurs between individuals, starting between infant and parent. When healthy the experience is characterized by trust, affection and a sense of safety and value.
Catalyst
A person, event or thing that precipitates change.
Counseling Basics
If you are thinking about seeing a counselor, you probably have a lot of questions about what to expect. Most people are confused about counseling or “therapy” because of stereotypes on television or various stories they’ve heard from friends. Here are some basics to get you started on your search for the right counselor:

1. There are many names for counselors that all mean just about the same thing: counselor, therapist, psychotherapist, licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, licensed mental health counselor. Look for someone who is properly licensed in your state or country.

2. Not all counseling styles and methods are the same. If you want short-term therapy (10-12 sessions) focused on addressing one specific problem and you tend to be a practical thinker, cognitive behavioral therapy or brief therapy might be best for you. If you feel that you need to go in depth to explore trauma, childhood issues, or think more abstractly, you might want someone who will see you for a longer or open-ended period of time. This type of therapist will also be more likely to focus on family systems and analytical approaches.

3. Think about how you want to pay for therapy. If you plan to use insurance in the United States, you can ask your insurance company for a list of providers in-network or, if you have a specific counselor in mind, you can ask if he/she takes that type of insurance. If you have to pay out of pocket, ask if the counselor offers a sliding scale fee.

4. Most counselors will be happy to have an initial phone or in-person consultation if you want to interview a few prior to choosing. Ask the counselor if he/she offers this; you may have to pay out-of-pocket for this initial consultation or interview.

5. Ask your friends. If you know people who have been to counselors in your area, find out about their experiences. There are bad counselors out there, so it helps to hear reviews from people you trust.

6. Be honest about your needs. If you are frustrated with your counselor after a few sessions, talk to him/her about how you feel and what you are looking for. Most counselors are happy to hear feedback and can adjust their approach when needed.

Cutting
Cutting is a type of self-harm that often is seen in teenagers but can occur at any age. Often a person who cuts experiences depression or low self-esteem and may also have experienced abuse or trauma. Often a person who cuts herself will tell you that she is not trying to kill herself but just wants to “feel.” Others cut as a form of punishment, feeling they deserve to be hurt. Some cut as a means of control (“If I am going to be hurt, I’m not going to let others do it; I’ll do it myself”). Others can become fixated on seeing their own blood, which connects them with their own pain in a unique way. Cutting can become a habit because the body releases chemicals in the brain in response to pain that can mimic a type of high (similar to an adrenaline rush).

Many who cut are severely injured after cutting a nerve and causing permanent damage, or you can be hospitalized after a severe loss of blood. These injuries are not what you intend, but they are real risks of self-injury.

If you struggle with cutting, there are alternatives. Here are some other strategies to try that can help you feel those strong feelings without risk of severe injury or death: hold an ice cube in your hand for a full minute, stand in a freezing cold shower for at least 30 seconds, write your feelings in a journal pressing down hard with a pen or using a thick marker, call a friend and vent your anger, see a counselor to express the pain you feel inside, call a crisis line. If you feel you are unsafe or in crisis, go to an emergency room or call your local emergency number.

For more information and help, visit www.selfinjury.com. This website is for a program in Missouri, USA, but you can click on the “Referrals” tab and look for their list of therapist referrals. You will also find a list of crisis hotlines as well.

Differentiation
In the relational sense, this is the healthy opposite of bonding (above). Just as an infant feels love an acceptance through a merging with ‘other’ (the parent or caregiver), so the young adult feels love and acceptance for being recognized as a separate individual with her own needs and capacity to make good choices for herself.
Dysthymia
This term was coined in the late 70s to replace the term “depressive personality.” It is diagnosed by length, a low-grade depression that lasts at least two years (one year in children or adolescents).

Because it is so long and familiar it may never be treated, being seen (as the original name suggested) as part of an individual’s personality. Overcoming dysthymia involves learning new behavior patterns, ways of seeing the world, and one’s place in it.

Emotional Abuse
Attempting to control a relationship partner by manipulating their emotions is emotional abuse. You are in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner or friend is shaming you, threatening you, or scaring you with words and/or emotions.

An emotionally abusive person will often make the victim believe the abuse is their fault or that it isn’t happening at all. An abuser may minimize the abuse (“It’s no big deal”) or even deny that it happened (“You are remembering that wrong”).

Victims may drastically change their behavior to prevent an outburst by the abuser. This self-denial, along with the accusations and blame the abuser heaps on the victim, can lead the victim to lose their sense of personal value.

Sources:
Psychology Today
Wikipedia

Expectations
Expectations is like “defining terms” for a debate.

In a debate, fair combatants save a great deal of time by defining their terms in advance to verify they are discussing the same thing. Some debates may be avoided completely once both sides recognize that they are either already in agreement or no compromise is possible.

Similarly, when a pair of individuals in an ongoing relationship share similar definitions for their roles and activities in relation to their interaction, many areas of conflict may be smoothed over before becoming a problem.

For example, a mother and daughter may have the understanding in place that Mother will not comment on Daughter’s parenting choices unless she’s concerned about an actual danger. Mother may check with Daughter about specific choices like television or food options.

Every time Mother does this, she builds up her reliability score in Daughter’s eyes (much like a credit score is enhanced by consistent payments).

For Daughter’s part, she may give Mother freedom to choose gifts or activities when the children are in her care. She makes the choice to accept what the children come home with, or else make arrangements for the purple alien to live at Mother’s house. In no case is she to complain about something she has consciously given permission for.

Lines of communication should be open to allow for fine-tuning and adjustment, but before taking offense at some new infraction, either hurt party must begin by asking themselves, Have we already talked about this? Am I expecting something without having said so?

This does not solve all problems, and issues exist in some relationships that will make this sort of arrangement to be set up or enforced, but in those relationships where this is a goal actively pursued, peace becomes part of the structure.

Gaslighting
Gaslighting is the attempts of a person of influence to reframe your perception of reality in a way that benefits them more than you.

Example: a boyfriend convincing his girlfriend that her cheerful way of smiling at everyone (including men) makes her look immature and foolish. The benefit to him is her increased self-doubt around men, Making him feel more-secure in his place in her life.

Example: a mother questioning her child’s parenting choices without giving reasons other than a general doubt in the grown-child’s competence. The benefit to her is undermining the grown child’s confidence and cementing herself as the standard or single voice of authority in this thing called parenting. It is an effort to maintain control or relevance in the power shift that comes with parenting grown children.

Neither of these examples *have* to be deliberately manipulative, but they are both destructive, and invalidate {link} the personhood of the individual being gaslighted.

The term gaslighting is a relatively recent naming of a specific form of manipulation. It comes from a fictional situation where a psychologically abusive husband challenged his wife’s sanity when she (accurately) perceived the gas lights in their early-20th-Century home did not burn as brightly as they used to. The husband used the forcefulness of his personality to intimidate his wife and make her afraid to challenge his interpretation of reality.

Grief
Grief is a normal emotional reaction to a loss. It’s not limited to a loss through death. Grief can accompany many types of losses—a loss of health, loss of a home, loss of or change in a relationship, job loss, loss of a hope or dream, and many other losses.

Even positive changes, like graduation or marriage, can cause a grief reaction, because some amount of loss is inherent in any change.

There is no standard timeline for traveling through grief to acceptance and healing. Don’t beat yourself up over the time it takes your grief to heal.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about five stages of grief in 1969 (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and later said, “There is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.” http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm

Grief eventually fades away in the face of growing acceptance. The extreme emotions subside, though events that remind you of the loss may trigger grief reactions in the future.

If your grief does not eventually subside, consider the possibility that you’ve developed clinical depression or are experiencing “complicated grief.” Seek professional counseling to help you get a proper diagnosis and the right treatment.

Invalidation
Invalidation involves words or behavior from other people that negate, devalue, minimize, or otherwise write-off elements of personhood in someone else.

This can be calculated abuse (telling a lonely girl no one likes her because she is selfish and ugly) or it can be thoughtlessness (the distracted father asking a musical child to stop singing).

If the lonely person pushes others away because of self-centeredness, she can be taught by a loving adult to change her behavior, and it doesn’t need to be about her personhood.

A musical child can be redirected, and offered another chance to be heard, teaching valuable skills of awareness and consideration.

But, in both these examples, the person has been written off, and given no place to go or way to be other or better than they are. They have been informed of why they don’t belong, and that is the end of the story rather than the beginning.

Kindling
Retriggering depression through the heightened sensitivity that depression itself creates.

The psyche can be bruised enough from real, even nameable, things that smaller, less-obvious things can trigger depression as well.

Margin
Margin is the space between what we are capable of (100%) and what we are committed to. Maintaining a margin is a highly personalized and essential part of building a healthy life. Sometimes the most recognized elements of mental or emotional distress are our bodies trying to tell us we’re asking for more than we can give.

Margin is about making a deliberate effort to not live at the limits of your capacity so that unforeseen challenging events, extra demands, or getting worn out over time do not force you into living and acting in ways that are unhealthy or unsustainable. Some areas where developing a margin can be helpful are
• Money—Choosing to spend less and save more so that unforeseen but necessary expenses don’t result in crippling debt

• Time—Choosing to not overload your schedule so that time remains for rest, healthy living activities like exercise, and cultivating relationships even when life is busy

• Emotions—Being mindful of how many of your own and other people’s problems you can be meaningfully engaged with before your ability to cope suffers

Mindfulness
A psychological practice centered around focusing one’s attention. Studies have indicated its effectiveness in managing or neutralizing the sources and symptoms of stress, overwhelm, depression and anxiety.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most stereotyped and misunderstood mental health diagnoses out there. You may think of someone who washes their hands all the time or hoards newspapers. While sometimes people with OCD have these behaviors, there are many with OCD who do not. On the other hand, many people say, “I’m so OCD sometimes” if they have trouble moving on from an issue or are fixated on something. This kind of assumption is also a misunderstanding of the diagnosis.

In fact, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV TR (DSM) lists two disorders with “Obsessive Compulsive” in the title: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. The first is an anxiety disorder that is rooted in intense fear or worry. You may realize that these fears are unreasonable, but you feel compelled to act in ways that help you avoid the fear being realized. For some, that may be a fear of germs and disease that leads to repetitive hand washing. For others, it may be extensive and intrusive bedtime routines for fear of insomnia or repeated door-locking behaviors linked to fears of being robbed. Ultimately the person with OCD cannot put these repetitive fears out of her mind and has extreme anxiety when prevented from performing the rituals that calm the fears.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is very different. Personality disorders have symptoms that occur across multiple areas of life, affecting every relationship as well as jobs, school, and home life. This disorder is characterized by an intense preoccupation with order and perfectionism. According to the DSM IV TR, at least four of these symptoms must be present in this disorder:
• preoccupation with details, rules, lists, and order to the point that the meaning of the activity is lost
• extreme perfectionism that interferes with the ability to complete a task
• excessive focus on work that diminishes ability to engage in pleasure activities
• over-conscientiousness and rigidity in ethics/morals beyond the norm of their religious group
• inability to throw away even worn-out or useless items (hoarding)
• inability to hand over a task to others unless it is done to their specification
• rigidity with money to the point of hoarding or “miserliness”
• overall stubbornness or inability to be flexible

If you are a person who would say, “I am so OCD” but you do not experience these disordered behaviors, you may have difficulty feeling resolution after conflict or are “obsessed” with how others view you. These types of issues may relate to self-esteem issues or trust issues and you may want to explore these feelings with a counselor who can help you understand the symptoms you are facing.

Postpartum Depression / Postnatal Depression
Often simply referred to as PPD or PND. A type of clinical depression affecting women after childbirth. Symptoms may begin to appear as early as three days postpartum or as late as one year. Symptoms do not go away after one week, and include, but are not limited to:

• Crying for no clear reason
• Trouble making decisions
• Loss of appetite
• Feelings of doubt / insecurity about ability to care for baby
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Lack of interest in the baby
• Trouble doing “every day” tasks at home or on the job
• Feelings of anger/resentment towards the baby or “motherhood” in general
• A need to isolate/lack of desire to socialize
• Fears of harming the baby
• Thoughts of self-harm/suicide

PPD/PND is a clinical illness and not a character weakness. It is believe that one of the main contributing factors to postpartum depression is the sharp decrease in the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the hours after delivery. This change is like an amplified version of what happens before a woman’s menstrual cycle, triggering mood swings and tension. It has also been confirmed that hormone levels produced by the thyroid gland decrease sharply after birth as well, and when those level are too low it causes nervousness/anxiety, trouble sleeping, tensions, and mood swings in the mother as well.

Exterior circumstances can exacerbate the problem, including: lack of family support, unwanted/unplanned pregnancy, difficult pregnancy, financial difficulties, and a history of mental health issues.

PPD/PND can often be mistaken for what is known as the “baby blues”—a normal reaction to the decrease in hormones after delivery. What distinguishes the “baby blues” from PPD is if the symptoms do not improve by at least one week postpartum or if they worsen.

Someone who believes she may be dealing with PPD/PND should consult her doctor. The most important step to recovery is acknowledging the problem.

Sources:
Medical News Today (UK)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental and emotional condition that can develop in response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Traumatic events can include witnessing the death of another, witnessing or experiencing assault, sexual abuse, or other fear-creating harmful events.

It is normal to experience negative emotions in the immediate aftermath of a negative event, but in the case of PTSD, sufferers experience ongoing reactions over a longer period of time that interfere with their quality of life. Symptoms may emerge soon after the traumatic event or be triggered by anniversaries or subsequent related events or stresses. Symptoms can include:
• Mentally re-living the event or having nightmares about it
• Anxiety symptoms like sweating, trouble breathing or being over-alert to potential danger
• The strong desire to avoid situations that remind you of the traumatic event
• Depression or grief
• Guilt that you were somehow responsible or that you survived when others did not
• Anger towards yourself, others, or the situation
• Difficulties sleeping, concentrating, or remembering things

Treatment for PTSD usually involves assistance from a psychologist to work through the memories of the event and to develop healthy thinking patterns and ways of living. Medications may also sometimes be used in addition to psychological treatments in some cases.

Sources:
“Taking care of yourself and your family” by John Ashfield, published by Beyond Blue
“Post-Traumatic Disorder” (Fact sheet) by Beyond Blue and The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health

Spouse’s Depression
Being the spouse of someone with depression is hard. It is emotionally and mentally draining and can be like walking on eggshells and riding a rollercoaster at the same time.

Even though you know that it is something they cannot help, you may find yourself feeling angry, sad, frustrated, hurt, stressed, alone, and responsible. You may feel like you have to hold together two people (yourself and your spouse) and sometimes even shield children from knowing too much. You may feel like you cannot fall apart yourself, because someone needs to hold it all together. You may even find yourself thinking that your spouse is using their depression as an excuse or a crutch. Sometimes, the thought might cross your mind that they somehow enjoy it, or are comfortable in it, even though you know that is not the case at all.

This is okay. This is normal. You are not a horrible, heartless person.

If at all possible, find a confidant, mentor, or counselor that you can really talk to. You must not, cannot, and do not have to travel this alone. Your spouse’s depression is not your fault, and there is nothing you can do to fix it, so the best thing you can do is to look after yourself as best you can. Research has shown more than one third of carers experience depression, and that caring for someone with depression can be a leading cause, [1] so take every precaution to care for yourself.

Sources:
The Beyondblue Guide for Carers – Supporting and caring for a person with
depression, anxiety and/or a related order: Caring for others, caring for yourself is available free to download, or, if in Australia, to order by calling 1300 22 4636.

[1] Australian Unity Wellbeing Index: The Wellbeing of Australians – Carer Health and Wellbeing, Survey 17.1, Report 17.1, 2007.

Triggers
A trigger is an experience of the senses that brings up memories of trauma to a victim. Sights, sounds, smells, words, places, and other things can all be triggers. A situation or combination of sensory inputs that are similar to the trauma situations can be a major trigger.

Triggers can cause flashbacks. Triggers can cause trauma victims to react emotionally similarly to their reaction to the original trauma.

Sources:
Psych Central

Validation
An expression of respect and acknowledgment that communicates belief that another’s opinions are real, legitimate and heard, regardless of whether or not the listener actually agrees with the content. The other is treated with genuine respect, and the expression of their feelings is treated as valued, rather than marginalized or dismissed.
Repression
When certain desires or emotions cause us anxiety or seem unacceptable in our culture, we can repress them by refusing to allow them into our consciousness. This is unhealthy and can be a factor in mental illnesses.
Vulnerability (positive)
The truest modern measure of courage. A life-enhancing decision of voluntary openness and connection with others as you truly are, without masks or expecting to receive anything in return.
Vulnerable (negative)
To be unsafe. To be in a position of helplessness, unease and potential danger.
Extravert-Introvert
Extraverts are identified by their ability to draw energy from activity, volume, and large groups of people. Typically they are most interested in what is going on around them, often in the breadth of activities, with an emphasis on experiencing life, and not-alone.

Introverts’ worlds are more internally focused. They draw energy from solitude and focus best on one element at a time. Their interests tend to be on knowing fewer things with greater depth. There is often more interest in observing life, or taking things at the individual’s speed, than actively participating “at the speed of life.”


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