Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.Kofi Annan
I’ve decided to do my first ever blog series and I felt like it would be a good idea to create a mental health glossary. The next few blogs will be an informative look at each of my mental disorders and what they mean for me. While researching for the first blog, I realized that I had a lot of information and I decided I want to do two preface blogs. One of the main reasons that I missed my own diagnosis for so long was for lack of information. I couldn’t properly advocate for myself while engaging with my healthcare providers because I didn’t understand what was happening to me.
My first, aha!, moment while researching was reading about Executive Dysfunction and it’s connection to ADHD. I still didn’t think *I* had ADHD, but it planted a seed in my head that maybe there was something more going on with me than the doctors of yesteryear had let on. And so the story went, buzzword after buzzword. Recognizing my own soul in the descriptions of these words I had never heard of. I rarely hear them now, outside of neurodivergent spaces.
I’m creating this mental health glossary for people who are like me and are searching for answers, starving for knowledge about their own brains, and for those of you lovelies who will be following along over the next few weeks and might come across these terms. Many of my disorders have co-occurring symptoms (double and triple whammies!), so you will see them referenced often. Also, because I think this is important. I’m going to pin this post to the top of my main page and it will be a living document. I will continue to add vocabulary as I learn it.
*NOTE: Sorry they aren’t in alphabetical order…I didn’t think about it until I was halfway done and I can’t easily manipulate the rows in the columns. 😁
My Mental Health Glossary
Executive Function – the mental processes the enable us to plan, focus our attention, remember steps in instructional sequences, and multi-task successfully.
Executive Dysfunction – a range of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral difficulties caused by brain disorders or frontal lobe injury. This can include a vast number of wide-ranging symptoms and behaviors. I struggle with time blindness; I don’t realize how much or how little time has passed and I often can’t realistically gauge how long a task will take. Because of this, I often get overwhelmed by tasks that seem too big. This can also affect our ability to plan, affecting events as big as missing important deadlines to smaller, more personal things, like not being to take care of personal hygiene.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – a complex brain disorder. A developmental impairment of the brain’s executive functioning.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) – also known as clinical depression. Persistent and intense feelings of sadness for extended periods of time. One of the most common mental health conditions in the United States.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) – also known as dysthymia. A mild, but long-term form of depression. Can also be accompanied by Major Depressive episodes. What this means is that I feel a little depressed, *all* of the time and I still have to deal with the severe lows of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) from time to time. People with MDD have a bug that affects their operating system during certain periods. For people with dysthymia, depression *is* our operating system.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – excessive or unrealistic worry/anxiety over multiple aspects or situations in life; often accompanied by heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and trembling. Some anxiety is caused by unknown worry and it is sometimes hard to pinpoint a cause.
Panic Attack – sudden episode of intense fear, causing severe physical reactions when there is no real danger. Panic attacks can occur during a calm state or in an anxious state and do not always have a clear trigger. Panic attacks can include physical symptoms including rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking/trembling, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest and throat, nausea/diarrhea, faintness, a tingling sensation in the limbs, etc.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that make one feel driven to repetitive tasks and behaviors.
C-PTSD – Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A disorder with many or all of the symptoms of PTSD, but with additional symptoms. While PTSD is caused by severe trauma, C-PTSD is caused by being stuck in a prolonged traumatic situation, such as abuse during childhood or living within a warzone.
Hyperfocus – highly focused attention that can cause you to lose track of time. Hyperfocus can feel like a superpower when you are focused on the right tasks but can become a hindrance when you lose track of time and ignore responsibilities or personal needs. I’ve had to pee the entire time I’ve been writing these definitions, but I can’t seem to take a break and relieve myself. Hyperfocus, y’all.
Hyperfixation – a fixation, usually with a subject or activity (sometimes on a person, though I don’t recommend it) that can last up to weeks, months, and even years. A person with a hyperfixation will often infodump on their loved ones and trusted friends.
Infodumping – a very large amount of information supplied all at once, usually about a hyperfixation or special interest. I once heard someone say that infodumping is the neurodivergent person’s love language. If you have a neurodivergent person in your life and they constantly talk your ear off about their interests and hobbies, they feel safe and comfortable enough with you to share something very close to their heart. Be kind and engaging, if you can.
Intrusive thoughts – Unwelcome, involuntary thoughts, images, or unpleasant ideas that can become an obsession, cause distress, and can be hard to manage or get rid of. My own intrusive thoughts can range from annoying (*needing* to check the lock one more time, right as I fall asleep) to horrifying (“I should just drive into that retaining wall at 80 MPH”). When they are severe they can be frightening and make you feel out of control. Often accompanied by obsessive thoughts.
Obsessive thoughts – also known as rumination. An inability to gain control over recurrent, distressing thoughts, and images. Basically, obsessive and intrusive thoughts feed each other; make each other one hundred times worse. As an example, I had a night many years ago when I got the thought that someone might break into my car. Just a passing thought. But it turned into something I couldn’t let go of; I became *sure* that it was true. I spent the entire night checking my car out the window, until daylight, even though I had to work in the morning. After I’d slept, I knew that it was not normal behavior but, in the moment, I couldn’t stop myself.
Neurodivergent – differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered normal or typical. Not all people identify as neurodivergent. I, however, see validity in neurodivergency and I am proud to call myself a neurodivergent woman.
Neurodiversity/Neurodiverse – variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions. The term was coined in 1998 by Judy Singer.
Neurotypical – a person of typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities. What I liked to call, “the normal brained folks.”
That’s all I’ve got, for now. I hope this mental health glossary helped you become familiar with some terms you weren’t aware of. Remember to check back for updates; I will pin it to the top of my main blog page for ease of access. If you have any entries that you would like for me to add or if you would like for me to correct an entry, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to update.
Love and light! Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜