Glossary of Phobias

There are many types of phobias and the terms used by doctors are very specific to a condition. Here is a description of the various terms/jargon used by professionals – for lay people, so that they can understand the condition, symptoms and resulting treatment regimen. Here is a list of terms and their definitions.

Before we tackle the different phobia definitions, here’s a look at a couple of terms that are part of the terminology associated with healthcare.

Adaptations and Accommodations:

This refers to changes that people with serious medical issues make on a day to day basis to make life as normal as possible. One may not notice adaptations per se, as they are less obvious. Adaptations refer to changes made by an individual to improve their situation and lifestyle. Accommodations are changes made by others to help people live and work with comfort and ease.

Caregiver Stress:

This refers to the people who take on the role of caring for ill people – regardless of whether it is mental or physical. Caregivers of all ages can be found and they are considered to be hidden or undiscovered patients. The process of caring for sick people is quite stressful and they have to find ways of caring for themselves as well, so that they can stay healthy.

Glossary of Phobias, Related Terms - Brief Description:

Avoidant Personality Disorder:

Not to be confused with social phobia. Some of the symptoms are common to both; people with APD have very low self esteem, unable to form connections with other people, have trust issues and very sensitive to rejection. This condition makes it difficult for the sufferer to have a job or go to school.


According to the constructivist theory of learning, this is one of the methods by which people learn actively. The premise is that when a new task is attempted and the expected outcome does not happen, people change their beliefs to incorporate the new information.

Active-Imaginal Exposure:

Imaginal Exposure is a therapeutic tool in which a person has to imagine a situation or object which scares them. Different techniques are taught to patients to help them cope. Active-Imaginal Exposure is a method in which the person imagines and practices new coping behavior.

Adrenaline Junkies:

There is a segment of the population which is addicted to thrill seeking and situations in which fear is a big factor. The act leads to a rush of endorphins which gives them an energizing high, leading them to seek even more excitement and thrills by putting themselves in danger.


People who suffer with this condition are afraid of being trapped in a place or situation from which they cannot escape, especially when they have a panic attack. This fear happens in very specific situations.

Agoraphobia Cluster:

Agoraphobia is scary for the person who has this illness and tends to appear in clusters. A cluster is a collection of similar kinds of situations like being in public areas like shopping malls, being stuck in traffic etc. It is progressive, gets worse and untreated patients eventually don’t leave home at all.

American Health Benefit Exchange:

The AHBE is a health insurance resource for people who are looking for insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act of 2012, every state has to create one. Individual buyers can then choose from the variety of plans available through the Exchange – HMO, PPO, etc. managed by private insurance carriers.

Anticipatory Anxiety:

This is very common in people who suffer from anxiety disorders and phobias. It builds up and peaks before an event and can be pretty bad, even worse than the phobic reaction. This affects a person’s life quite dramatically and they look for ways to avoid the experience altogether.

Anxiety Disorder:

This includes a number of phobias and disorders. They are the most commonly diagnosed mentioned disorders in America. Different types under the heading of anxiety disorder are panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, stress disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic disorder (PTSD).


According to the constructivism theory, assimilation is a mode of learning which happens with every person. This is a way of absorbing new information into a preexisting framework. The person’s world view and their belief systems do not undergo a radical change – the information is incorporated into existing beliefs.

Automatic Thoughts:

This can be defined as “thought processes that are deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche and occur automatically as a response to situations.” Tools that work well in changing negative thought patterns to get rational behavior and responses are cognitive and cognitive behavioral therapies.


This is a very deliberate act of trying to limit one’s exposure to phobic triggers. This behavior or pattern may be conscious or unconscious – very often, people make great excuses to not take part in regular events. It can become severe with time and eventually, it can lead to a full-fledged case of agoraphobia.

Behavior Modification Plan:

Also known as a contract, a plan lays out specific steps that a person has to carry out to change his behavior. The consequences, in the form of rewards and/or punishments are set out in the contract. For the plan/contract to succeed, it has to be written with the patient’s involvement and set out clear goals and guidelines for getting rewards.


This is a school of thought in the field of psychology which attempts to explain human behavior and reactions in terms of how behavior is learned. Pavlov and BF Skinner are major proponents who defined conditioning and also coined concepts of reinforcement and punishment as a major part of their theories. Good behavior gets rewards and bad behavior gets punishment.


This is a category of medications/pharmaceutical formulations which are mildly sedative in nature and prescribed in the treatment of anxiety disorders and some phobias. The common medications are Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan. They help the person to calm down so that they are able to work out their problems.

Beta Blocker:

This is a class of medications which work by controlling the body’s response to elevated levels of epinephrine in the body. Epinephrine regulates heart rate and is crucial in controlling the fight or flight response in the nervous system. People with short term phobias are usually prescribed beta blockers for short term use.

Blank Slate:

In psychology, it refers to the belief that all human beings are born with the capability of becoming whatever or who they choose. It doesn’t take genetics and biology as much into consideration. The second version is used by therapists when they carefully avoid revealing personal information. This way the patient can project their thoughts and desires on to the therapist, who is a “blank slate”.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder:

This is a disorder in which the sufferer is unhappy with his/her body and perceives flaws in their appearance. They have such a distorted opinion that they spend a lot of time either grooming themselves or even go under the knife to get fixed. They are so unhappy with their appearance that they don’t believe their well wishers.

Brief Therapy:

This refers to a collection of options in therapy which focus on fixing a problem in the fewest number of sessions. Many practitioners of this kind of therapy see themselves as “educators” - they teach clients to manage their conditions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one such tool.

Classical Conditioning:

This is the earlier form of behaviorism and was formulated and championed by Ivan Pavlov. A neutral stimulus and a response stimulus are paired together. Over time a behavior is learned and the neutral stimulus will elicit a response. This technique was demonstrated by using dogs.

Cognitive Dissonance:

This refers to the feelings that come up in a person who is holding two opposing, yet valid points of view. Most people react to this kind of situation by discount/discomfort one view point for another. It can cause some level of anger and frustration too – depending on how well people are able to handle the issue.

Cognitive Reframing:

This is a technique used by psychologists – they teach a person to stop paying attention to his/her negative thought processes which are deeply ingrained in their psyche. This is replaced with affirmations and positive self talk, eventually helping them to change their lives for the better.

Cognitive Theory:

This is a learning theory postulated by psychologists in an attempt to explain human behavior by trying to understand the thought process. The underlying assumption is that all humans are logical and make choices that make sense to them. Behaviorism is rejected by this model in which human behavior is one of the cause and effect.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

This is a therapeutic method which is the most common in treating phobias. It focuses on getting people to stop their negative thoughts which occur automatically when they come into contact or the vicinity of a feared situation or object. People are taught to replace them by focusing on rational thoughts.

Collective Unconscious:

According to Carl Jung, this refers to the deepest part of the unconscious mind. This part of the mind consists of a number of different archetypal beliefs which are represented by what a person inherits and understands. These archetypes exist in different degrees in every human being. It is believed that the collective unconscious mind evolves and also changes over time to incorporate new information.

Community Mental Health Center:

This kind of center is considered as a one stop shop for treating any mental health problem. Psychiatrists are generally available to help with prescribing and managing a patient’s medication regimen. Psychologists and therapists are also on hand to help with testing and to direct patients to the right resources.


This term refers to rituals that a person with obsessive compulsive disorder performs to get over their anxiety over a particular situation. Compulsions may or may not be related to obsessive thinking –very often these acts/rituals have to be performed in a specific manner and a number of times, without interruption.


This particular learning theory endeavors to explain how people use tools actively to construct meaning from their surroundings and the rest of the world. Proponents of this theory believe that learning is an active and self directed task than any other learning theory. The focus is on person’s desire and ability to learn.

Conversion Disorder:

This disorder can be described as a psychological condition in which symptoms like speech impairment or paralysis seem to be of neurological origin. The fact is that these are not neurological but caused by psychological stress or conflict.

Coping Skills:

This refers to a person’s skill set which helps them to cope with every day issues or problems. They can be positive and help people get through situations with a measure of competence. Negative coping skills on the other hand are only a short term distraction, serving to highlight and worsen disadvantages.


According to psychoanalysis theory, counter transference takes place when a therapist projects his/her unresolved problems/conflicts onto the patient. In the normal course of things, this is considered to be a healthy part of therapeutic process – it can become damaging if the therapist cannot maintain neutrality.

Crisis of Faith:

In a religious context, this can be defined as a period in a person’s life where they question all their belief systems. In a few cases, links have been shown that such crises lead to an increased risk of phobias and anxiety disorders.

Definition of Cyberchondria:

Cyberchondria refers specifically to the fear of falling sick and having a serious disease. This problem can develop if and when a sufferer does research on the internet on a particular disease. They then begin to imagine and worry that they have the same symptoms.

Medical Student's Disease:

This is another form where medical students fear that they have a particular disease. They are so busy studying that they tend to develop symptoms of any new disease they study, for a temporary period.

Delusional Disorder:

This disorder is where a sufferer is convinced and has a steadfast belief that a particular situation which is imagined, but existence is possible. This belief stays with the person for a long time despite evidence to the contrary. Most of the people with this disorder don’t abuse drugs and are generally quite normal.


This refers to subjective changes in a person’s perception of reality. People with this problem may feel that their bodies have been altered and that they are observing all the happenings from outside themselves. The general feeling is that of living in a dream. It can be the side effect of some mental trauma.


This is a form of dissociation with the outside world – the sufferer feels disconnected and that he/she is looking at the world around them through a filter or veil. Some of them even may have serious changes in their sense of hearing or smell. They also have a sense of déjà vu(already seen).


The full form is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition. It is a publication put out by the American Psychiatric Association and contains all the criteria/standards for every medical disorder recognized by the medical establishment. Clinicians use it regularly to diagnose mental problems.

Eclectic Therapy:

This is a therapeutic style where the techniques used to treat patients come from different schools of thought. Most therapists stick to one method but eclectic therapy is pretty common. As an approach, it is flexible, allowing therapists to use different tools to tailor their treatment to individual patient needs.

Employee Assistance Program:

This is a benefit which is offered by many big companies and it is separate from the health insurance coverage. The basic aim of the program is to ensure short term and emergency assistance in the form of referrals and counseling sessions. It may cover issues like drug abuse problems, mental health issues, caregiver stress, legal advice etc.

Environmental Psychology:

The focus of this school of thought is on how the environment affects human behavior. According to this system, phobias are behaviors which are learned and also triggered by external factors. Some practitioners believe that this may be overly simplistic – genetics and brain chemistry have an equally important role in mental illness.

Evolutionary Psychology:

This human behavior theory takes into account the overall effects of evolution. Behaviors are governed by input from culture, individual makeup and family. Some behaviors are instinctive as well. Complex evolutionary theories attempt to explain how caution evolved into an instinctive reaction.

Exposure Therapy:

This is a process/technique in which the therapist puts the patient directly in contact with the feared situation or object, intentionally. One of the techniques used in Exposure Therapy is flooding. It is used to treat conditions like a fear of flying or being in social situations.


The role of a facilitator is to help people working in groups to debate and reach the best possible decision or conclusion. A facilitator handles all the logistics that go into organizing group meetings like setting up day/date/time and also reserving the meeting room. He helps the discussion stay on track, while staying impartial.

Family Therapy:

This form of therapy involves the client’s family members. It is a good tool to treat patients with phobia, most especially children.

Fight or Flight Response:

This response is triggered in people as well as animals during an episode or period of stress or intense fear. The nervous system releases a number of hormones which result in increased heart rate, spike in epinephrine and suppressed digestion, preparing the body for action.


A common condition in people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, patients relive the stressful events over and over. This is usually the case for people who have lived through a major disaster.


A treatment technique used to treat phobia patients with constant exposure so that they learn to tolerate the feared situation or object. Patients learn to recognize that the situation or object is not as threatening and the fear gradually goes down and then disappears.

Goals of Therapy:

The goal of any therapy session is to provide measurable and definite results. Goals will include primary (the desired outcome) and secondary (other benefits derived from the process) goals. These goals are usually outlined in the plan of treatment – as a collaborative effort between the patient and therapist.

Group Therapy:

This is a type of therapy where many patients are treated at the same time. Group therapy can be used to treat specific issues to PTSD, borderline personality disorder, the fear of flying etc.


This is a phenomenon which happens with groups of people where they form opinions to mirror group thinking. They put aside their critical thinking, faculties don’t hold their own thinking. This happens when they come in contact with a very persuasive leader who inspires them to see his way of thinking.

Guided Imagery:

This is a method of visualization which helps people to relax. Guided imagery is also very useful in helping people with phobias image that they are in a secure place and able to confront their phobia and overcome it. This method can also be used by an individual to get through stressful situations.

Health Anxiety:

This broad term covers a number of fears that people have about falling sick or having health issues. This is not a diagnosable issue as such but covers a number of probable diagnoses. There are other conditions with similar symptoms, so it is best to consult a professional.

Health Phobia:

It is defined as a one in which the focus is on a person’s general health or illness. People with health phobia include a fear of getting a particular disease, a fear of germs or even hypochondria. Health phobias are better classified as somatoform disorders.


This is a system of medicine in which the most important law is the one of like attracts like. Practitioners believe that diseases are caused by imbalances in the life forces in the body. By inducing similar symptoms, the body will react by expelling original cause of any disease or disorder.

Humanistic Psychology:

As a branch of humanism, it encompasses the entire gamut of existential beliefs and on renewing the focus on one’s self. The focus is on minimizing the effects of the unconscious mind and looks instead at the capacity of people to figure out their place in the world and relating to people around them.

Hypnotic State:

Being put into a hypnotic state involves deep relaxation where the hypnotized person responds to suggestions put forth. A hypnotic state is fairly benign and should not induce fear in a person. People also remain in control of every action and cannot be forced to do anything against their will.

Hypnotic Suggestion:

This technique is used by a therapist after the patient is put into a hypnotic state. During a hypnotic state when the mind is at its most relaxed and attentive, it is easier to focus on suggestions. It is used to help people get over phobias – a patient is in control of his actions in every step of the way.

Imaginable Exposure:

This is a technique used most often in cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions to treat phobias and disorders. Patients are put directly in contact with situations or objects which they fear. This way, people realize that their fear is bigger than the actual event and get over their phobia.

Individual Therapy:

This is one method in which a patient gets treatment on a one to one basis with a therapist. There are many different styles of treatment including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis.

Information Processing:

According to the cognitive psychology definition, this term is used to define the way a person’s thought process works. The human brain is considered to be on par with a computer – the hardware used to process thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Initial Diagnosis:

This is an informal term used to describe the diagnosis that a patient is given after the initial information is taken and processed by a clinician. Insurance companies usually need to be given a diagnosis before they approve payment for treatment.

Instinctive Response:

This term refers to a response that is deeply ingrained in the brain, probably as a part of evolution. Instinctive responses form the basis of many psychological diagnostic techniques. They are some of the most difficult to tackle behaviors as they are very powerful.

Intake Interview:

This term is used for the very first appointment that a patient has with his therapist. During this time, the therapist asks a number of questions to figure out what factors figure into the person’s condition and how to devise a treatment plan.

Learned Response:

As far as learning theories are concerned, this is the reaction which a person had a particular situation. Instinctive responses are reactions that are based in evolution and biology and a learned response is one which is taught. Such a response may be intentional or learned through interaction.

Learning Theory:

The learning theory model is one by which psychology explains in detail, a person’s responses through learning. There are several theories on how people learn – behaviorism, cognitive theory and constructionism to name a few.

Legitimate Phobia:

Though it is not used officially, this concept distinguishes a real phobia from a normal, run of the mill fear. It is used interchangeably with phobias and gives people who are not part of the mental health system and is a good idea to know how severe a person’s condition is.

Magical Thinking:

It is a clinical term used to describe irrational and non scientific beliefs that people sometimes have. They are on connections and correlations that people make between events. It is considered to be a symptom of some mental disorder like depression, OCD or even psychosis.


This term describes a person’s habit of trying to fake or exaggerate symptoms of some illness or the other to gain sympathy or something else. It can be confused with hypochondriasis but malingerers don’t experience illness/symptoms to the extent that they say.


It can be a word or group of words which serve to focus the mind during meditation. It is also used by some religions in the spiritual transformation process. As far as psychology is concerned, mantras are used to help people relax deeply and focus their mind.


The expanded form is monoamine oxidase inhibitor – it works by controlling the amount of the enzyme in the brain as it breaks down neurotransmitter enzymes like serotonin or norepinephrine. It has many side effects only when SSRIs don’t work as intended.

Mass Hysteria:

Mass hysteria falls under the category of groupthinking where people with the same mindset come together. The group is bound by a common fear which eventually leads to a panic situation. The group members feed off each other’s reactions and cause a panicky situation.

Medical Model:

This is a school of thought in psychology in which it is believed that mental disorders are the result of physiological factors. It treats mental problems/disorders as diseases in the body and medications are prescribed for treatment.

Medication Management:

Medications form the basis of treatment for many phobias. In quite a few states, only doctors are allowed to write prescriptions – now nurse specialists and physician’s assistants can prescribe them with a doctor’s supervision. Psychiatrist services are expensive, so people choose to see a doctor and therapist separately to keep costs down.

Mental Health Parity:

It refers to the fact that mental health conditions are treated with the same seriousness as physical ailments. Insurance companies usually limit benefits for mental illness whereby people who really need the help are able to access it for a very short time period.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy:

This is a disorder that is closely related to malingering. The patient will create illnesses in a child or other relative to draw attention to themselves. It is rare and difficult to diagnose. The signs or symptoms will keep changing and are difficult to pin down.

Negative Punishment:

According to the behaviorism theory, negative punishment happens when something that is desirable is withheld. This is done as a consequence to certain behaviors. This is done to reduce the frequency of the unwanted behavior.

Negative Reinforcement:

Again, according to the behaviorism theory, negative reinforcement happens when an unpleasant stimulus is removed and desired behavior occurs. It is very different from positive reinforcement – negative reinforcement actually makes a phobia worse.


This is defined as an irrational fear of having or getting a particular disease. It is closely related to hypochondriasis. The important difference between the two is the specific nature - a hypochondriac has real and physical symptoms – a homophobic is just fearful of getting a disease.

Object of Fear:

Very similar to a phobic trigger, a feared object is the focus of any phobia. There are particular phobias that may center on one object or situation, or there may be many objects.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a very complex anxiety disorder. Quite a few symptoms are similar to phobias, yet the two conditions are very different. OCD sufferers get fixated on one or more anxious thought patterns. People suffering from phobias don’t think about their problem till they have to deal with it, but OCD sufferers think about the issue all the time.

Operant Conditioning:

It is a form of behaviorism, pioneered by BF Skinner. The premise is that reinforcing a behavior will make people continue with it, whereas the ones which people get punished for, or if a behavior is not reinforced, it will go away.


This is when the heartbeat accelerates and the person can feel it. It is akin to a racing heart.

Panic Attack:

A panic attack is categorized by a period of intense fear with the following symptoms – sweating, trembling, chest pain, palpitations, choking sensation and shortness of breath. It is associated mostly with panic disorder but can happen on occasions.

Panic Disorder:

This is a specific kind of anxiety disorder and can be linked to certain phobias. Panic attacks occur quite frequently and are uncontrollable. This and other conditions can be diagnosed correctly only by a professional in the field of mental health – proper guidance is crucial.


This is a therapeutic technique and mostly conversational in nature. The therapist listens to what the patient has to say and repeats it back. The goals are to ensure that the therapist has listened and understood what he is being told and the patient can clarify his/her thoughts.


A phobia is defined as an extreme, irrational and very intense fear of a situation or things. There are three specific types of phobias – specific, social and agoraphobia. Left untreated, phobias can have debilitating consequences for the sufferer.

Phobic Reaction:

The simplest explanation of the term is any reaction to a phobia. It can be psychological in nature like severe anxiety, uneasiness or a sense of impending doom. Physical reactions include sweating profusely, crying or stomach related issues. Some or more symptoms may present together.

Phobic Stimulus:

Phobias are irrational fears which are triggered by some things or situations. The stimulus is in the form or an object or situation and causes a reaction.

Physiological Response:

When a person is suffering from a phobic reaction, the symptoms manifest in the body as physiological responses. Some common things are shaking, sweating, nausea and palpitations of the heart. It can be mild or severe – but not really dangerous. Always consult a physician to get the proper diagnosis.

Positive Punishment:

According to the Behaviorism theory, positive punishment is a method when a negative consequence is meted out in response to an unwanted behavior. Over a period of time, positive punishment will decrease a person’s likely chances of repeating the behavior.

Positive Reinforcement:

This is a technique used in accordance with Behaviorism – positive reinforcement is when a reward is handed out for a wanted behavior. Negative or bad behavior is ignored and over a period of time, only desired behavior will take place. It is an individualized plan of action.

Presenting Problem:

This is one of the main reasons that people go to a therapist and seek their help. Most schools of thought for therapy focus only on the problem at hand, while others try to figure out the underlying reasons for why the problem happened in the first place.

Psycho-Educational Group:

This refers to a specific type of group therapy tool whose focus is to educate patients about what their disorders are and how to cope. Quite a few of these groups consist of similarly diagnosed people. The focus of the education is to help people focus on coping mechanisms for their disorder.

Psychological Testing:

This includes a number of diagnostic tools available to therapists – these are designed to get a better and more accurate picture of a person’s mental health. Specific tests help to test things like personality, IQ and even specific disorders like depression.


Punishment is a tool used to take away privileges for unwanted behavior. Negative punishment is used to take something desirable away from a person who is not doing what they are told. Positive punishment is used in situations when a person has to do something they don’t want to as a consequence to their behavior.

Purposeful Breathing:

This is an all encompassing term that can be used for any number of different techniques in breathing. Most of us pay very little or no attention to how we breathe. Taking time to focus on breathing can slow a person down, bring calmness, relaxation and also lower the heart rate.


As per the Behaviorism theory, reinforcement is trying to get people to behave in a particular way. There are positive and negative consequences – and it depends on the event and also on how it is applied.


It is a process where a person spends a lot of time reflecting and thinking very deeply about something or a situation. This can get out of hand and have negative problems/effects like depression and phobias. One important hallmark is when people cannot stop thinking about a particular issue it turns into an obsession.

Runner's High:

This term refers to the chemical reaction where endorphins are released into the body after a long and hard exercise session. This particular concentration leaves a person feeling energized and relaxed at the same time. This feeling can be had by anyone who indulges/participates in every physical sports.

Self Medicating:

This is a fairly well used coping strategy used by many people to stave off symptoms of depression, anxiety and many other conditions. It can be quite unhealthy and even dangerous as one can suffer many serious side effects and even become addicted.


This refers to a very important concept – the degree of belief a person has in himself/herself to achieve a goal. It is not well understood and forms a very important part of learning. It also figures very conspicuously in the treatment of phobias and other disorders – a healthy degree of self efficacy in a person presents a high chance of recovery after treatment.

Social Phobia:

People with this disorder exhibit a marked fear of any social situation – it is always present regardless of the size of the function. Adults with this disorder do realize that their fear and reality are disproportionate.

Somatization Disorder:

This is a specific psychiatric condition by which a sufferer has a number of physical symptoms which cannot be explained by any particular disease. Some of the criteria include symptoms before age 30, 40 or more disparate symptoms in different parts of the body, symptoms in the GI area, neurological and sexual symptoms.

Somatoform Disorder:

There is specific class of mental disorders and listed in the DSM-4. Characterized by physical symptoms which are not easily explained by any medical condition, the only way to do so is to pin down physical symptoms. This helps to distinguish the disorder from conditions which are closely related like nosophobia and malingering.

Specific Phobia:

This issue is characterized by a singular and persistent fear of a very tangible situation or object. There are several categories like animal, situational, environment, medical and other phobia subheads. A person can have more than one problem and some people do realize that their fear is quite irrational and out of proportion.


The expanded form is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor – this is a class of medications which are antidepressants and regulate the level of serotonin (produced naturally in the brain). These are usually prescribed for people with phobias – social phobia – and used for therapeutic reasons for others. Common medications are Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac.

Stop! Technique:

This is a commonly used tool as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Taught to the patient, a person can use it to stop themselves when they are caught in a loop of obsessive worry or have racing thoughts. The person has to say out loud “Stop!” as a reminder and substitute a better and healthier thought.

Support Person:

This term is used for a person who is usually there to help in managing a phobia. This can be applied to one’s therapist or anyone else who is part of the team, a close friend or even a relative. These people are usually genuinely interested in the sufferer’s welfare and recovery process.

Survivor Guilt:

This feeling is officially recognized and listed in the DSM-IV – and is a fallout/symptom of PTSD. As the term states, it is an experience many people have after living through a disaster or war. People feel guilty for still being alive, especially if they have been rescued. It can lead to many other phobias or disorders.

Systematic Desensitization:

A common treatment tactic used to treat people with phobias – patients are taught different relaxation skills and the opportunity to practice. The practice process is done through gradual introduction to a feared situation or object. It is very commonly and successfully used as a part of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Therapeutic Milieu:

This term is used to describe a group setting, structured as well in which the group is a key force in influencing the outcome of the treatment process. Elements like trust, repetition, positive impact of peer pressure and a safety net, this milieu offers the perfect setting for people to work through their problems.

Therapeutic Rapport:

Rapport is a very important aspect of the relationship between a patient and the therapist. It is part of a therapist’s job to develop a rapport with the patients by being empathetic and understanding. This is essential to help patients in the long run with healing.

Therapeutic Role-Playing:

In therapy, role playing is a well used technique which allows people with phobias to practice a new behavior. The therapist plays the role of the threatening person or object – patients then get to use new techniques and tools learned in therapy to confront their fears. This is very helpful for people with germ, social and other phobias.


Transference is a process in which a patient’s feeling for a person gets projected on to the therapist. This becomes an obstacle as the patient might cut off the relationship to avoid discomfort or frustration. This provides important clues into the patient’s psyche and a therapist can help resolve deep seated issues going back a long way.

Treatment Plan:

This is a document in which the issues, treatment schedule and expected progress for therapy are outlined. This can be a formal document or even just notes – all of this depends on what documentation an insurance company requires. Treatment plans may change depending on how therapy is progressing.


A trigger is a situation or object which causes phobia related symptoms to appear. Triggers are different for each person – even if it is the same condition. The number of triggers that set off a person is determined by the severity of the problem. A therapist will be able to decide on a treatment plan after taking a detailed history.


This is a well documented medical condition where the symptoms range from dizziness, a feeling of spinning and also disorientation. It can be caused by any number of illnesses, one of which is inner ear problems. A doctor, as a trained professional should be able to diagnose vertigo.

White Coat Hypertension:

This condition refers to people who fear doctors. One can expect symptoms like measurably high blood pressure, anxiety or nervousness.

Behavior Modeling:

As the name suggests, it is a model in which expected behavior is demonstrated to those who have issues. According to the social learning theory, people learn by watching others as well as performing tasks. This is often used to help people change negative behaviors learned over time.

Treatment Outcome:

As part of the therapeutic process, outcome is usually a desired result. Outcome and goals of therapy usually match. In real life however, it doesn’t always happen according to plan. To get a good outcome, therapists do write up a plan and change the steps throughout the treatment process to get the desired outcome.


Parapsychology is an offshoot of the spiritual movement and a study of unexplained phenomena. At present it is not accepted as a legitimate field by the scientific mainstreamers. It is a highly subjective field and influenced by individual feelings.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

It is occasionally confused with phobias, most of all, social phobia. GAD and Social phobia have a number of similar symptoms and even overlap. People with either phobia are often irritable, socially isolated and have difficulty in sleeping. People with GAD are always anxious – regardless of how smoothly things are going in their life.

Racing Thoughts:

People who are manic or have bipolar disorders suffer from “racing thoughts” – a situation in which their thoughts move through ideas in a tangential and rapid fashion. This can afflict some people who have anxiety disorders as well. Thoughts are usually focused on an object or item that they fear and can cause a lot of anxiety.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

NLP is an approach – a bit controversial as well – which is used in a number of settings, especially business communication. As per NLP protocol, an event which happens to a person is not as important as the reaction. Personal behavior and reactions are logical to each person but have to be changed to get a desired outcome.

Legend Trip:

This refers to an outing which is organized to ferret out urban folklore or legends. These stories are cautionary tales warning people about events or a particular location. Some may be true and others wrong. The purpose of such a trip is to discover the truth – in the process, some people end up scaring themselves.

Urban Legend:

There are some stories which are considered modern folklore. They serve as cautionary and moral tales. Usually with a kernel of truth, some of the stories get inflated, can be fabricated or completely distorted. They usually spread like wildfire through social media and morph into something completely new.

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP):

EVP tackles the issue of spiritual communication that allegedly takes place and is recorded on different media. Such recordings are very often used by investigators of paranormal activity, as proof of the existence of supernatural phenomena.

Unconditional Positive Regard:

As a part of the psychotherapeutic process, UPR refers to the complete acceptance that one human being receives from another. The therapist doesn’t have to and will not agree with all of the client’s behavior and action – he acknowledges and accepts the worth inherent in that person. This helps to separate behavior from the person who commits certain acts.

Client-Centered Therapy:

This focuses on a person’s ability to determine and direct his own growth and pace of change. This particular technique was developed by the psychologist – Carl Rogers. It is a therapist’s job to ensure a safe environment and empathy so that the client can realize his potential by taking the requisite steps in the right direction.

Risk Aversion:

Though the term is mostly used in a business setting, it can also refer to a person’s tendency to choose certainty over uncertainty. People who are risk averse usually stick to the familiar instead of choosing new things. Some people even eat the same foods on particular days of the week as they are afraid of change.


It is very critical for a therapist to have this in their mental makeup. They should be able to empathize with their patients – they don’t have to agree. It allows them to understand what another person is feeling and become part of that experience. This gives them a unique insight into the person and to tailor their plans accordingly.

Fear of Being a Passenger:

Also known as amaxophobia, this is a very crippling mental condition. Many people are not able to drive themselves or even ride as passengers. Some people with a milder form of the condition do travel if they have a trusted companion; people with the severe version get around on foot most of the time.

Revolving Door Syndrome:

This term accurately describes the tendency of some people to go in for treatment and just as they are getting better, they leave and eventually return as patients. People with serious disorders like schizophrenia are mostly likely to experience this – of course, anyone with mental problems is just as likely to be at risk.

Impostor Syndrome:

This syndrome gets right to the heart of the fear of succeeding and the work of having to promote oneself. People who suffer from this syndrome are afraid of being found out that they are frauds – they usually understate their achievements and also do everything to avoid drawing attention to them, sometimes even turning down promotions.