Custom Search

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965)

The scale is a ten item Likert scale with items answered on a four point scale - from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The original sample for which the scale was developed consisted of 5,024 High School Juniors and Seniors from 10 randomly selected schools in New York State.
Instructions: Below is a list of statements dealing with your general feelings about yourself. If you strongly agree, circle SA. If you agree with the statement, circle A. If you disagree, circle D. If you strongly disagree, circle SD.

1.On the whole, I am satisfied with myself. SA A D SD
2.*At times, I think I am no good at all. SA A D SD
3.I feel that I have a number of good qualities.SA A D SD
4.I am able to do things as well as most other people.SA A D SD
5.*I feel I do not have much to be proud of.SA A D SD
6.*I certainly feel useless at times.SA A D SD
7.I feel that I’m a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.SA A D SD
8.*I wish I could have more respect for myself.SA A D SD
9.*All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.SA A D SD
10.I take a positive attitude toward myself.SA A D SD

Scoring: SA=3, A=2, D=1, SD=0. Items with an asterisk are reverse scored, that is, SA=0, A=1, D=2, SD=3. Sum the scores for the 10 items. The higher the score, the higher the self esteem.
The scale may be used without explicit permission. The author's family, however, would like to be kept informed of its use:
The Morris Rosenberg Foundation
c/o Department of Sociology
University of Maryland
2112 Art/Soc Building
College Park, MD 20742-1315

References with further characteristics of the scale:
Crandal, R. (1973). The measurement of self-esteem and related constructs, Pp. 80-82 in J.P. Robinson & P.R. Shaver (Eds), Measures of social psychological attitudes. Revised edition. Ann Arbor: ISR.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Wylie, R. C. (1974). The self-concept. Revised edition. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

The Impact of Event Scale

The Impact of Event Scale

Below is a list of comments made by people after stressful life events. Using the following scale, please indicate (with a ) how frequently each of these comments were true for you DURING THE PAST SEVEN DAYS.
(Mark your response with: Not at all Rarely Sometimes Often)

I thought about it when I didn't mean to
I avoided letting myself get upset when I thought about it or was reminded of it
I tried to remove it from memory
I had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of pictures or thoughts about it that came into my mind
I had waves of strong feelings about it
I had dreams about it
I stayed away from reminders of it
I felt as if it hadn't happened or wasn't real
I tried not to talk about it
Pictures about it popped into my mind
Other things kept making me think about it
I was aware that I still had a lot of feelings about it, but I didn't deal with them
I tried not to think about it
Any reminder brought back feelings about it
My feelings about it were kind of numb

Not at all = 0; Rarely = 1; Sometimes = 3; Often = 5
Total = total the scores.
Above written by: Ms. Estela Hutchings & Dr. Grant J. Devilly

Impact of Event Scale (IES)
(Horowitz et al., 1979)

Summary: Psychometrics of The Impact of Event Scale (IES; Horowitz et al., 1979). The IES is a 15 item questionnaire evaluating experiences of avoidance and intrusion which attempts to "reflect the intensity of the post-traumatic phenomena" (McGuire, 1990). Both the intrusion and avoidance scales have displayed acceptable reliability (alpha of .79 and .82, respectively), and a split-half reliability for the whole scale of .86 (Horowitz et al., 1979). The IES has also displayed the ability to discriminate a variety of traumatised groups from non-traumatised groups (see Brier, 1997 for review).
[Above from Devilly, G.J. and Spence, S.H. (1999). The Relative Efficacy and Treatment Distress of EMDR and a Cognitive Behavior Trauma Treatment Protocol in the Amelioration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13 (1-2), 131 - 157.]

Devised By: The IES was developed by Mardi Horowitz, Nancy Wilner, and William Alvarez to measure current subjective distress related to a specific event (Horowitz, Wilner, & Alvarez, 1979). Horowitz observed that the most commonly reported responses to traumatic stressors fell into 2 major response sets: intrusion and avoidance (Horowitz, et al, 1979; Weiss & Marmar, 1997). Measurements of responses to traumatic events at the time were confined to physiological measures such as galvanic skin responses or to self-reports on more general measures of anxiety, neither of which provided a measure of the current degree of subjective impact experienced following a specific traumatic event (Weiss & Marmar, 1997). The IES is considered one of the earliest self-report measures of posttraumatic disturbance ( Briere, 1997).

Type of Instrument: The IES is a broadly applicable self-report measure designed to assess current subjective distress for any specific life event (Horowitz, et al 1979; Corcoran & Fischer, 1994). It is an instrument that can be used for repeated measurement over a period of time. Its sensitivity to change renders it useful for monitoring the client's progress in therapy (Corcoran & Fischer, 1994).
The IES scale consists of 15 items, 7 of which measure intrusive symptoms (intrusive thoughts, nightmares, intrusive feelings and imagery), 8 tap avoidance symptoms (numbing of responsiveness, avoidance of feelings, situations, ideas), and combined, provide a total subjective stress score. All items of the IES are anchored to a specific stressor (Horowitz, et al, 1979; Briere, 1997). Respondents are asked to rate the items on a 4-point scale according to how often each has occurred in the past 7 days. The 4 point on the scale are: 0 (not at all), 1 (rarely), 3 (sometimes), and 5 (often).

Reliability: Corcoran and Fischer (1994) found that the subscales of the IES show very good internal consistency based on 2 separate sample groups. The coefficients ranged from .79 to .92, with an average of .86 for the intrusive subscale and .90 for the avoidance subscale.
In Horowitz' original study (Horowitz et al, (1979), their calculations on the data of 66 subjects with stress response symptoms on the 15-item IES gave a mean total stress score of 39.5 (SD=17.2, range 0-69). The mean intrusion subscale score (items 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14) was 21.4 (SD = 9.6, range 0-35). The mean avoidance subscale score (items 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15) was 18.2 (SD = 10.8, range 0-38).

Spilt-half/Cronbach's Alpha: The split-half reliability of the IES scale was high (r=0.86). Internal consistency of the subscales, calculated using Cronbach's Alpha, was also high (Intrusion = 0.78, avoidance = 0.82). A correlation of 0.42 (p>0.0002) between the intrusion and avoidance subscales indicates that the two subsets are associated, but do not measure identical dimensions.

Test-Retest Reliability: Horowitz et al (1979) administered the 15-item IES to a new sample (n= 30) twice with an interval of one week between each rating. Results indicated a test-retest reliability of 0.87 for the total stress scores, 0.89 for the intrusion subscale, and 0.79 for the avoidance subscale.

Alternate Form Reliability: NA
Inter-rater Reliability: NA

Criterion (or Predictive) Validity: The IES is found to be sensitive to change, in terms of detecting changes in clinical status over time, and in terms of detecting the relevant differences in the response to traumatic events of varying severity by different groups (Corcoran & Fischer, 1994; Weiss & Marmar, 1997). Corcoran and Fischer (1994) noted the significant changes in the IES subscales scores of outpatients being treated for bereavement over the course of treatment. This sensitivity to movement was reported by Horowitz et al (1979) in their study of 32 subjects with stress response syndromes. The IES was administered twice to each subject with a mean time of 11 weeks between first and second administration. The significant change in the scores on the IES confirmed the prediction of a marked decline in item, subscale, and overall scores; and supports its validity as a sensitive reflection of change.
Corcoran and Fischer (1994) noted support for the known-groups validity of the IES demonstrated by the significant differences in the scores of outpatients seeking treatment from bereavement, and 3 field samples. Briere (1997) noted that several studies involving combat veterans, natural disaster survivors, emergency services personnel, victims of crime, and adults sexually abused as children, have shown that the IES discriminates a variety of traumatised groups from their non-traumatised cohorts. This was also shown in the Horowitz et al (1979) study comparing the IES scores from a sample of patients who had experienced specific traumatic life events with a sample of medical students exposed to cadaver dissection. The major difference in effects was between the groups (F=212.1,p< 0.0001 for intrusion; F=73.0, p< 0.001 for avoidance; F=170.8, p< 0.0001 for the total stress score). Gender differences were also significant, but with much lower size of effect, with females scoring higher than males.

In a general population study by Briere and Elliott in 1996 (Briere, 1997), they found that Blacks scored substantially higher than Whites on the IES, and although this difference decreased when the relative degree of violence experienced by Whites versus Blacks was controlled for, it did not disappear. Briere suggests that interpretations of IES score differences should always take race into account.

Content Validity: In the original study, Horowitz et al (1979) developed 20 items in the questionnaire. All the items were endorsed frequently. The items most often endorsed, eg "Things I saw or heard suddenly reminded me of it" were acknowledged by 85% of the subject sample (n=66), and the item with the lowest endorsement was acknowledged by 38%. Six items that were most frequently reported had a mean weighted score of 3 or more, indicating that as a group, these subjects experienced such events at a high level of intensity or frequency.
In a 1982 study by Zilberg, Weiss, and Horowitz (Weiss & Marmar, 1997) of a group of outpatients with pathological grief (n=35) and a group of bereaved field subject volunteers (n=37), it was demonstrated that all items in the IES were endorsed frequently, with a range from 44% to 89% of the pooled sample. The comparison of the rank order of items based on frequency of endorsement between this study and the initial pulication of the IES produced a Spearman rank correlation of .86 (p,.001), suggesting that the content of experience following traumatic events, as represented in the IES item pool, was similar across types of events and patient/nonpatient population.
It is acknowledged that the 15 items of the IES capture the level of intrusive and avoidance symptomatology in response to a specific stressor as manifest in the past 7 days (Briere, 1997; Weiss & Marmar, 1997); however, Briere (1997) suggests that the brevity of the scale, its potentiality limited content domain, and its nonclinical focus renders it useful only as a screen for the presence of non-arousal-related posttraumatic stress, specially if used in isolation from other, more fully validated instruments.

Construct Validity: Cluster Analysis was applied to the original 20 items in the IES. Clusters were determined by a correlational measure of association and an average linkage algorithm. The primary and secondary clusters included 15 of the 20 items. Clusters 3 and 4 contained the five remaining items. The primary cluster contained items from the clinically derived intrusion subset, while the secondary cluster contained clinically derived avoidance subset. This finding was found to support the use of intrusion and avoidance subscales (Horowitz, et al. 1979). The number of items was reduced by selecting only those that empirically clustered and had significant item-to-subscale correlations beyond the 0.01 level of significance. Measure of intensity was discarded in favour of a single measure by frequency since scores derived by these variables indicated a degree of similarity that made a dual response for each item unnecessary. As well, subjects seemed able to score frequency more accurately than intensity.
Zilberg, Weiss and Horowitz (Weiss & Marmar, 1997) used factor analysis to assess the validity of the items assigned to the intrusion and avoidance subscales. Two factor were extracted via a varimax rotation. The first factor was defined by the avoidance items, with coefficients ranging from .39 to .86. whilst the intrusion items produced coefficients ranging from .09 to .34. The second factor had higher loadings of intrusion items, with coefficients ranging from .58 to .75, whilst avoidance items had coefficients ranging from .11 to .35. This was seen to show the strong coherence of the two subscale item sets .

Convergent Validity: Amongst specific PTSD measures investigated by Lauterbach et al (1997), it was found that IES has a low correlation (.36) with the Mississippi Scale for Civilian PTSD (CMS). In another study with a smaller sample (n=26) Devilly & Spence (1999) found IES to correlate with CMS (.51) in the moderate range.

Discriminant Validity: NA

Scoring Method: Each item was scored 0, 1, 3 or 5, with the higher scores reflecting more stressful impact. The scores for the intrusive subscale range from 0 to 35, and is the sum of the scores for items 1, 4, 5, 6, 0, 11, and 14. The scores for the avoidance subscale range from 0 to 40, and is the sum of the scores for items 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, and 15. The sum of the two subscales is the total stress score. It is suggested that the cut-off point is 26, above which a moderate or severe impact is indicated.
Wayne Corneil, Directory of Employee Assistance for the Department of Health and Welfare, Canada; Randall Beaton, PhD, Professor of Psychological Nursing at the University of Washington; and Roger Solomon, PhD, Department Psychologist for the Washington State Patrol, suggest that the IES can be interpreted according to the following dimensions:
0 - 8 Subclinical range
9 - 25 Mild range
26 - 43 Moderate range
44 + Severe range

Norms: Normative data cited by Corcoran & Fischer (1994) were derived from 2 samples. Sample 1 (n=35) comprised of outpatients who sought treatment to cope with the death of a parent. Sample 2 was a field sample (n=37) of adult volunteers who had a recently deceased parent. The mean age for Sample 1 was 31.4 with a standard deviation of 8.7 years. The mean score for the intrusive subscale was 21.02 (SD = 7.9). The mean score on the avoidance subscale was 20.8 (SD = 10.2). For Sample 2, the mean score for the intrusive subscale was 13.5 (SD = 9.1). The avoidance subscale mean was 9.4 (SD =9.6). All of the data were assessed 2 months after the stressful event had occurred.
In a study involving 505 individuals from the general population, the elevation of intrusion and avoidance scores were above normal levels (Briere, 1997).

Corcoran, K. & Fischer, J. (1994). Measures for clinical practice A Sourcebook 3rd Ed. Vol. 2 Adults. New York: The Free Press.
Briere, J. (1997) Psychological assessment of adult posttraumatic states. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Horowitz, M., Wilner, M., and Alvarez, W. (1979). Impact of Event Scale: A measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 41, 209-218.
Weiss, D. & Marmar, C. (1997). The Impact of Event Scale - Revised. In J. Wilson & T. Keane (Eds), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD. New York: Guildford.

General Health Questionnaire

General Health Questionnaire


We want to know how your health has been in general over the last few weeks. Please read the questions below and each of the four possible answers. Circle the response that best applies to you. Thank you for answering all the questions.

Have you recently:
1. been able to concentrate on what you’re doing?
better than usual(0) same as usual(1) less than usual(2) much less than usual (3)
2. lost much sleep over worry?
Not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
3. felt that you are playing a useful part in things?
more so than usual same as usual less so than usual much less than usual
4. felt capable of making decisions about things?
more so than usual same as usual less than usual much less than usual
5. felt constantly under strain?
Not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
6. felt you couldn’t overcome your difficulties?
Not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
7. been able to enjoy your normal day to day activities?
more so than usual same as usual less so than usual much less than usual
8. been able to face up to your problems?
more so than usual same as usual less than usual much less than usual
9. been feeling unhappy or depressed?
not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
10. been losing confidence in yourself?
not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
11. been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?
not at all no more than usual rather more than usual much more than usual
12. been feeling reasonably happy, all things considered?
more so than usual same as usual less so than usual much less than usual

General Health Questionnaire Scoring

Scoring – Likert Scale 0, 1, 2, 3 from left to right.

12 items, 0 to 3 each item
Score range 0 to 36.

Scores vary by study population. Scores about 11-12 typical.

Score >15 evidence of distress

Score >20 suggests severe problems and psychological distress

Conference on Innovative and Effective Ways to a Recovery-Orientation

Conference on Innovative and Effective Ways to a Recovery-Orientation

Join an outstanding collection of leaders from the US and around the globe who will be presenting at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation's State-of-the- Science Conference, "From Innovations to Practice: The Promise and Challenge of Recovery for All", held April 14 & 15, 2008 in Cambridge, MA. Come together with experts in transformation for the field of mental health, with over 90 presenters covering what you need to know to shift your agency, program and workforce to a recovery orientation.

Among the offerings included are:
Moving the System to a Recovery Orientation: Initiating Change Training Psychiatric Rehabilitation Vocational Practitioners: A Best Practice in Employment Support for People with Mental Illnesses
Outcome Studies: Research and Evaluation of Consumer-Operated Programs
Workforce Transformation: Making It a Reality
Peer Support: Serving One Another in Recovery
Reaching Out to Marginalized Groups and more!

See the complete list of presentations at

Check out the agenda at and the find out how the conference will be bringing people together to meet the promise and challenge of achieving recovery for all!

Participate in Survey on Cultural Competence in Consumer-Run Programs

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) National Research and Training Center, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Support, Technical Assistance, and Resources (STAR) Center, is conducting an online survey about cultural competence of consumer-run mental health programs. They hope to learn what peer programs do well and where they struggle in helping people from culturally diverse communities. Designed for completion by anyone who has experienced mental health difficulties, UIC and the STAR Center are particularly interested in hearing from individuals in recovery within the African American, Latino, Asian, Native American and other diverse communities. The survey is voluntary and anonymous. Visit to complete the survey, which is provided in both English and Spanish. This survey is funded by CMHS/SAMHSA.

Special Offer for Print and Online for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Don't miss the current issue of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal for state-of-the art information related to rehabilitation and recovery. The winter issue features a broad selection of article topics including a public education program developed primarily by consumers on the attitudes of high school students toward people with mental illnesses, a qualitative study of factors affecting job tenure for people with psychiatric disabilities; and an exploration of the perspectives of people who use mental health services on participation in mental health service planning and evaluation. View the complete list of articles available in this issue at or check out the archive of article titles also available online at

And, with the availability of the upcoming Special Issue on Supported Employment, you can take advantage of a time-limited significant discount on the print plus online subscription! Visit the Journal's Special Offer webpage for more details at

New Film Focuses on Work & Recovery
This new 28 minute video, "Work & Recovery: Stories of Employment and Mental Health", introduces five people whose stories are a clear reminder of how important work can be to a person's recovery journey. These individuals were assisted in their return to work by Howard Center's Westview Employment Services in Burlington, Vermont; an agency that uses evidence-based practice supported employment services. Their stories are full of hope and encouragement about people rejoining their community through work. Each story provides an excellent springboard for discussion with many audiences - people who are or might think about returning to work, employment support practitioners and their supervisors, clinical or other non-employment support staff, family, employers, advocates and students. And each story can be viewed independently of the others so that they can be used in a variety of time settings, showing them as either a single story or all at once. The DVD can be purchased for $22 at U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association's (USPRA) online store at

Last Call for Applications

The Certificate Program in Psychiatric Vocational Rehabilitation at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation announces its last call for applications.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: February 15, 2008.

This training offers a specific application of 25 years of research and technology development geared to the vocational services provider:

* Rehabilitation Readiness
* Personalized Vocational Assessment
* Achieving Vocational Placements
* Meeting the Needs of Culturally Diverse Service Recipients
* and more!

Class begins June 2, 2008.

For more information, visit or contact the Project Director, Debbie Nicolellis, at 617-353-3549.

Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment and Prevention Recommendations
The Co-Occurring Center for Excellence (COCE) was created by SAMHSA in 2003 to provide information and a range of services to mental health and substance abuse administrators and policymakers at state and local levels, their counterparts in tribal and Native populations, clinical providers, other providers, and all other agencies and systems through which clients may enter the treatment system. Central to the COCE approach is a series of overview papers and technical reports addressing key Co-Occurring Disorders topic areas. The overview papers and technical reports summarize the science base for each topic they address and make recommendations for practice, systems, and State and local laws and regulations that support treatment and prevention systems. Recently released for free download are the following:

COCE Overview Paper 6 - Services Integration

COCE Overview Paper 7 - Systems Integration

COCE Overview Paper 8 - The Epidemiology of Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Disorders

For a complete list of Overview Papers, visit COCE's website at

Friday, February 8, 2008



Psychosis is a psychiatric classification for a mental state in which the perception of reality is distorted. Persons experiencing a psychotic episode may experience hallucinations (often auditory or visual hallucinations), hold paranoid or delusional beliefs, experience personality changes and exhibit disorganized thinking (see thought disorder). This is sometimes accompanied by a lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of their behaviour and an inability to cope in society.

Psychosis is usually considered by mainstream psychiatry to be a symptom of severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic depression). It may also occur in severe cases of depression, brain injury or drug overdose. Chronic psychological stress cultures psychotic states, however the exact neurological mechanism is uncertain. Psychosis triggered by stress in the absence of any other mental illness is known as brief reactive psychosis. The direct effects of hallucinogenic drugs are not usually classified as psychosis, as long as they abate when the drug is metabolised from the body.
Psychosis is a descriptive term for a complex group of behaviours and experiences and as such is not a medical explanation in itself. Perhaps because of this, it is often confused with syndromes which may seem similar on the surface, or with words which may suggest, or seem to suggest a likeness.
The term psychosis should be distinguished from the concept of insanity, which is a legal term denoting that a person should not be criminally responsible for his actions. Similarly, it should be distinguished from psychopathy, a personality disorder often associated with violence, lack of empathy and socially manipulative behaviour. Despite the fact that both are colloquially abbreviated to 'psycho', psychosis bears little similarity to psychopathy's core features, particularly with regard to violence, which rarely occurs in psychosis, and the distortion of perceived reality, which rarely occurs in psychopathy.
It should also be distinguished from the state of delirium, in that a psychotic individual may be able to perform actions that require a high level of intellectual effort in clear consciousness. Finally, it should be distinguished from mental illness. Psychosis may be regarded as a symptom of other mental illnesses, but as a descriptive concept it is not considered an illness in its own right. For example, persons with schizophrenia can have long periods without psychosis and persons with bipolar disorder and depression can have mood symptoms without psychosis. Conversely, psychosis can occur in persons without chronic mental illness as a result of an adverse drug reaction or extreme stress.
Psychosis has been of particular interest to critics of mainstream psychiatric practice who argue that it may simply be another way of constructing reality and is not necessarily a sign of illness. For example, R. D. Laing has argued that psychosis is a symbolic way of expressing concerns in situations where such views may be unwelcome or uncomfortable to the recipients. Thomas Szasz has focused on the social implications of labelling people as psychotic, a label which he argues unjustly medicalises different views of reality so such unorthodox people can be controlled by society.
Etymology: The word psychosis was first used by Ernst von Feuchtersleben in 1845 as an alternative to insanity and mania and stems from the Greek psykhe (mind) and osis (diseased or abnormal condition). The word was used to distinguish disorders which were thought to be disorders of the mind, as opposed to neurosis, which was thought to stem from a disorder of the nerves.
Psychotic experience
A psychotic episode can be significantly coloured by mood. For example, people experiencing a psychotic episode in the context of depression may experience persecutory or self-blaming delusions or hallucinations, whilst people experiencing a psychotic episode in the context of mania may form grandiose delusions or have an experience of deep religious significance.
Although usually distressing and regarded as an illness process, some people who experience psychosis find beneficial aspects and value the experience or revelations that stem from it.
Hallucinations in psychosis
Hallucinations are defined as sensory perception in the absence of external stimuli. Psychotic hallucinations may occur in any of the five senses and take on almost any form, which may include simple sensations (such as lights, colours, tastes, smells) to more meaningful experiences such as seeing and interacting with fully formed animals and people, hearing voices and complex tactile sensations.
Auditory hallucinations, particularly the experience of hearing voices, is a common and often prominent feature of psychosis. Hallucinated voices may talk about, or to the person, and may involve several speakers with distinct personas. Auditory hallucinations tend to be particularly distressing when they are derogatory, commanding or preoccupying.
Delusions and paranoia
Psychosis may involve delusional or paranoid beliefs. Karl Jaspers classified psychotic delusions into primary and secondary types. Primary delusions are defined as arising out-of-the-blue and not being comprehensible in terms of normal mental processes, whereas secondary delusions may be understood as being influenced by the person's background or current situation.
Thought disorder
Thought disorder describes an underlying disturbance to conscious thought and is classified largely by its effects on speech and writing. Affected persons may show pressure of speech (speaking incessantly and quickly), derailment or flight of ideas (switching topic mid-sentence or inappropriately), thought blocking, rhyming or punning.
Lack of insight
One important and puzzling feature of psychosis is usually an accompanying lack of insight into the unusual, strange or bizarre nature of the person's experience or behaviour. Even in the case of an acute psychosis, the sufferer may seem completely unaware that their vivid hallucinations and impossible delusions are in any way unrealistic. This is not an absolute, however; insight can vary between individuals and throughout the duration of the psychotic episode.
In some cases, particularly with auditory and visual hallucinations, the patient has good insight and this makes the psychotic experience even more terrifying in that the patient realizes that he should not be seeing demons and angels or hearing voices, but does.
Medical understanding of psychosis
There are a number of possible causes for psychosis. Psychosis may be the result of an underlying mental illness such as Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), and schizophrenia. Psychosis may also be triggered or exacerbated by severe mental stress and high doses or chronic use of drugs such as amphetamines, LSD, PCP, cocaine or scopolamine. However, incidence of psychosis resulting from a single administration of any drug is rare, although cases have been reported in the medical literature suggesting a person's sensitivities to new compounds can be unpredictable. As can been seen from the wide variety of illness and conditions in which psychosis has been reported to arise (including for example, AIDS, leprosy, malaria and even mumps) there is no singular cause of a psychotic episode.
The division of the major psychoses into manic depression and dementia praecox (later renamed to schizophrenia) was made by Emil Kraepelin, who attempted to create a synthesis of the various mental disorders identified by 19th century psychiatrists, by grouping diseases together based on classification of common symptoms. Kraeplin used the term 'manic depression' to describe the whole spectrum of mood disorders, in a far wider sense than it is usually used today. In Krapelin's classification this would include 'unipolar' clinical depression, as well as bipolar disorder and other mood disorders such as cyclothymia. These are characterised by problems with mood control and the psychotic episodes appear associated with disturbances in mood, and patients will often have periods of normal functioning between psychotic episodes even without medication. Schizophrenia is characterized by psychotic episodes which appear to be unrelated to disturbances in mood, and most non-medicated patients will show signs of disturbance between psychotic episodes.
Psychotic episodes may vary in duration between individuals. In brief reactive psychosis, the psychotic episode is related directly to a specific stressful life event so patients may spontaneously recover normal functioning within two weeks. Patients who are undergoing brief reactive psychosis due to drugs or stress generally appear with the same symptoms as a person who is psychotic as a result of a mental illness, and this fact has been used to support the notion that mental illness has a biological basis.
Psychosis and brain function
The first brain image of person with psychosis was completed as far back as 1935 using a technique called pneumoencephalography1 (a painful and now obsolete procedure where cerebrospinal fluid is drained from around the brain and replaced with air to allow the structure of the brain to show up more clearly on an X-ray picture).
Pneumoencephalogram of person with psychosis, 1935Modern brain imaging studies, investigating both changes in brain structure and changes in brain function of people undergoing psychotic episodes have shown mixed results.
A 2003 study investigating structural changes in the brains of people with psychosis showed there was significant grey matter reduction in the cortex of people before and after they became psychotic2. Findings such as these have led to debate about whether psychosis is itself neurotoxic and whether potentially damaging changes to the brain are related to the length of psychotic episode. Recent research has suggested that this is not the case3 although further investigation is still ongoing.
Functional brain scans have revealed that the areas of the brain that reacts to sensory perceptions are active during psychosis. For example, a PET or fMRI scan of a person who claims to be hearing voices may show activation in the auditory cortex, or parts of the brain involved in the perception and understanding of speech.
On the other hand, there is not a clear enough psychological definition of belief to make a comparison between different people particularly valid. Brain imaging studies on delusions have typically relied on correlations brain activation patterns with the presence of delusional beliefs.
One clear finding is that persons with a tendency to have psychotic experiences seem to show increased activation in the right hemisphere of the brain4. This increased level of right hemisphere activation has also been found in healthy people who have high levels of paranormal beliefs5 or in people who report mystical experiences6. It also seems to be the case that people who are more creative are also more likely to show a similar pattern of brain activation7. Some researchers have been quick point out that this in no way suggests that paranormal, mystical or creative experiences are in any way by themselves a symptom of mental illness, as it is still not clear what makes some such experiences beneficial whilst others lead to the impairment or distress of diagnosable mental pathology. However, people who have profoundly different experiences of reality or hold unusual views or opinions have traditonally held a complex role in society, with some being viewed as kooks, whilst others are lauded as prophets or visionaries.
Psychosis has been traditionally linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, particularly an excess of dopamine in the limbic system (a structure deep within the brain). The development of effective antipsychotic medication played a large part in the success of this view, as the first effective antipsychotic drugs were dopamine blockers. In addition, drugs that increase the concentration of dopamine tend to trigger psychotic episodes.
Nevertheless, the connection between dopamine and psychosis is generally believed to be complex. First of all, while anti-psychotic drugs immediately block dopamine receptors, they usually take a week or two to reduce the symptoms of psychosis. Moreover, newer and equally as effective antipsychotic drugs actually block slightly less dopamine in the brain than older drugs whilst also affecting serotonin levels, suggesting the 'dopamine hypothesis' is vastly oversimplified. Psychiatrist David Healy has criticised pharmaceutical companies for promoting particular scientific theories that favour their medication and encouraging a purely biological account of mental illness8, whilst ignoring social and developmental factors which are known to be important influences in the aetiology of psychosis. See the article on the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis for further discussion of this issue.
Some theories regard many psychotic symptoms to be a problem with the perception of ownership of internally generated thoughts and experiences9. For example, the experience of hearing voices may arise from internally generated speech that is mislabelled by the psychotic person as coming from an external source.
It has also been argued that psychosis exists on a continuum as everybody may have some unusual and potentially reality-distorting experiences in their life. This has been backed up by research showing that experiences such as hallucinations have been experienced by large numbers of the population who may never be impaired or even distressed by their experiences10. In this view, people who are diagnosed with a psychotic illness may simply be one end of a spectrum where the experiences become particularly intense or distressing (see schizotypy).
Cannabis and psychosis
There is now growing evidence for a small but significant link between cannabis use and vulnerability to psychosis11. Some studies indicate that cannabis use correlates with a slight increase in psychotic experience, which may trigger full-blown psychosis in some people. Early studies have been criticized for failing to consider other drugs (such as LSD) that the subjects may also have used before or during the study, as well as other factors such as possible pre-existing mental health issues. However, more recent studies with better control have still found a small increase in risk for psychosis in cannabis users. It is still not clear whether this is a causal link, and it may be that cannabis use only increases the chance of psychosis in people already predisposed to it. The fact that cannabis use has increased over the past few decades, whereas the rate of psychosis has not, suggests that a direct causal link is unlikely for all users.
Non-psychiatric conditions and psychosis
Psychosis can be a feature of several diseases, often when the brain or nervous system is directly affected. However, the fact that psychosis can occasionally arise in parallel with number of ailments (including diseases such as flu or mumps for example) suggests that a variety of nervous system stressors can lead to a psychotic reaction. Psychosis arising from non-psychiatric conditions is sometimes known as 'secondary psychosis'. The mechanisms by which this happens is still not clear, but the non-specificity of psychosis has led Tsuang and colleagues to argue that "psychosis is the 'fever' of mental illness - a serious but nonspecific indicator"12.
There are some non-psychiatric conditions which are linked particularly to psychosis, which may include:
· Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (it is one of the 19 types of nervous system involvement in SLE).
· Sarcoidosis
· Brain tumours
· dementia with Lewy bodies
· Multiple sclerosis
· hypoglycemia
· intoxication
Formal thought disorder
In psychiatry, thought disorder or formal thought disorder is a term used to describe a symptom of psychotic mental illness.
It describes a persistent underlying disturbance to conscious thought and is classified largely by its effects on speech and writing. Affected persons may show pressure of speech (speaking incessantly and quickly), derailment or flight of ideas (switching topic mid-sentence or inappropriately), thought blocking, rhyming or punning or 'word salad' when individual words may be intact but speech is incoherent.
Subtypes in detail
Pressure of speech :
An increase in the amount of spontaneous speech compared to what is considered customary.
Distractible speech : During mid speech, the subject is changed in response to a stimulus. e.g. "Then I left San Francisco and moved to... where did you get that tie ?"
Tangentiality : Replying to questions in an oblique, tangential or irrelevant manner. e.g. "What city are you from ?", "Well, that's a hard question. I'm from Iowa. I really don't know where my relatives came from, so I don't know if I'm Irish or French".
Derailment : Ideas slip off the track on to another which is obliquely related or unrelated. e.g. "The next day when I'd be going out you know, I took control, like uh, I put bleach on my hair in California".
Incoherence (word salad) : Speech that is unintelligible due to the fact that, though the individual words are real words, the manner in which they are strung together results in incoherent gibberish, e.g. the question "Why do people believe in God?" elicits a response like "Because make a twirl in life, my box is broken help me blue elephant. Isn't lettuce brave? I like electrons, hello."
Illogicality : Conclusions are reached that do not follow logically (non sequiturs or faulty inductive inferences).
Clanging : Sounds rather than meaningful relationships appear to govern words. e.g. "I'm not trying to make noise. I'm trying to make sense. If you can't make sense out of nonsense, well, have fun".
Neologisms : New word formations. e.g. "I got so angry I picked up a dish and threw it at the geshinker".
Word approximations : Old words used in a new and unconventional way. e.g. "His boss was a seeover".
Circumstantiality : Speech that is very delayed at reaching its goal. Excessive long windedness.
Loss of goal : Failure to show a chain of thought to a natural conclusion.
Perseveraton : Persistent repetition of words or ideas. e.g. "I'll think I'll put on my hat, my hat, my hat, my hat, my hat, my hat, my hat, my hat..."
Echolalia : Echoing of other people's speech e.g. "Can we talk for a few minutes ?", "Talk for a few minutes".
Blocking : Interruption of train of speech before completed.
Stilted speech : Speech excessively stilted and formal. e.g. "The attorney comported himself indecorously".
Self-reference : Patient repeatedly and inappropriately refers back to self. e.g. "What's the time?", "It's 7 o'clock. That's my problem".
Phonemic paraphasia : Mispronounciation; syllables out of sequence. e.g. "I slipped on the lice broke my arm".
Semantic paraphasia : Substitution of inappropriate word. e.g. "I slipped on the coat, on the ice I mean, and broke my book".
Diagnostic issues
The concept of thought disorder has been criticized as being based on circular or incoherent definitions. For example, thought disorder is inferred from disordered speech, however it is assumed that disordered speech arises because of disordered thought. Similarly the definition of 'Incoherence' (word salad) is that speech is incoherent.

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric diagnosis denoting a persistent, often chronic, mental illness variously affecting behaviour, thinking, and emotion. The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek words (schizo, split or divide) and (phrenos, mind) and is best translated "shattered mind".
Schizophrenia is most commonly characterised by both 'positive symptoms' (those additional to normal experience and behaviour) and negative symptoms (the lack or decline in normal experience or behaviour). Positive symptoms are grouped under the umbrella term psychosis and typically include delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorder. Negative symptoms may include inappropriate or lack of emotion, poverty of speech, and lack of motivation. Additionally, neurocognitive deficits may be present. These take the form of reduction or impairment in basic psychological functions such as memory, attention, problem solving, and social cognition. The onset is typically in late adolescence and early adulthood, with males tending to show symptoms earlier than females.
Psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin was first to make the distinction between what he called dementia praecox and other forms of madness. This classification was later renamed 'schizophrenia' by psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler as it became clear Kraepelin's name was not an adequate description of the condition.
The diagnostic approach to schizophrenia has been opposed, most notably by the anti-psychiatry movement, who argue that classifying specific thoughts and behaviours as illness allows social control of people that society finds undesirable but who have committed no crime.
More recently, it has been argued that schizophrenia is just one end of a spectrum of experience and behaviour, and everybody in society may have some such experiences in their life. This is known as the 'continuum model of psychosis' or the 'dimensional approach' and is most notably argued for by psychologist Richard Bentall and psychiatrist Jim van Os.
Although no definite causes of schizophrenia have been identified, most researchers and clinicians currently believe that schizophrenia is primarily a disorder of the brain. It is thought that schizophrenia may result from a mixture of genetic disposition (genetic studies using various techniques have shown relatives of people with schizophrenia are more likely to show signs of schizophrenia themselves) and environmental stress (research suggests that stressful life events may precede a schizophrenic episode).
It is also thought that processes in early neurodevelopment are important, particularly those that occur during pregnancy. In adult life, particular importance has been placed upon the function (or malfunction) of dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway in the brain. This theory, known as the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia largely resulted from the accidental finding that a drug group which blocks dopamine function, known as the phenothiazines, reduced psychotic symptoms. These drugs have now been developed further and antipsychotic medication is commonly used as a first line treatment. However, this theory is now thought to be overly simplistic as a complete explanation.
Accounts that may relate to symptoms of schizophrenia date back as far as 2000 BC in Book of Hearts, a part of the ancient Ebers papyrus. However, a recent study1 into the ancient Greek and Roman literature showed that whilst the general population probably had an awareness of psychotic disorders, there was no condition that would meet the modern diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia in these societies.
This nonspecific concept of madness has been around for many thousands of years and schizophrenia was only classified as a distinct mental disorder by Kraepelin in 1887. He was the first to make a distinction in the psychotic disorders between what he called dementia praecox (a term first used by psychiatrist Benedict A. Morel) and manic depression. Kraepelin believed that dementia praecox was primarily a disease of the brain2, and particularly a form of dementia. Kraepelin named the disorder 'dementia praecox' (early dementia) to distinguish it from other forms of dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease) which typically occur late in life. He used this term because his studies focused on young adults with dementia.
The term schizophrenia is derived from the Greek words 'schizo' (split) and 'phrene' (mind) and was coined by Eugene Bleuler to refer to the lack of interaction between thought processes and perception. He was also the first to describe the symptoms as "positive" or "negative."22 Bleuler changed the name to schizophrenia as it was obvious that Krapelin's name was misleading. The word "praecox" implied precocious or early onset, hence premature dementia, as opposed to senile dementia from old age. Bleuler realised the illness was not a dementia (it did not always lead to mental deterioration) and could sometimes occur late as well as early in life and was therefore misnamed.
With the name 'schizophrenia' Bleuler intended the name to capture the separation of function between personality, thinking, memory, and perception, however it is commonly misunderstood to mean that affected persons have a 'split personality' (something akin to the character in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). Although it is commonly confused with multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia has nothing to do with the manifestation of distinct multiple personalities within a person. The confusion perhaps arises in part due to the meaning of Blueler's term 'schizophrenia'. Interestingly, the first known misuse of this term to mean 'split personality' (in the Jekyll and Hyde sense) was in an article by the poet T. S. Eliot in 19333.
Incidence and prevalence
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is found approximately equally in men and women, though the onset tends to be later in women, who also tend to have a better course and outcome.
The lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia is commonly given at 1%, however a recent review of studies from around the world estimated it to be 0.55%14. The same study also found that prevalence may vary greatly from country to country, despite the received wisdom that schizophrenia occurs at the same rate throughout the world. It is worth noting however, that this may be in part due to differences in the way schizophrenia is diagnosed. The incidence of schizophrenia was given as a range of between 7.5 and 16.3 cases per 100,000 of the population.
Schizophrenia is also a major cause of disability. In a recent 14-country study15, active psychosis was ranked the third most disabling condition after quadriplegia and dementia and before paraplegia and blindness.
While the reliability of the schizophrenia diagnosis introduces difficulties in measuring the relative effect of genes and environment (for example, symptoms overlap to some extent with severe bipolar disorder or major depression), there is evidence to suggest that genetic vulnerability modified by environmental stressors can act in combination to cause schizophrenia.
A recent review listed seven genes as likely to be involved in the inheritance of schizophrenia or the risk of developing schizophrenia26. Evidence comes from research (such as linkage studies) suggesting multiple chromosomal regions are transmitted to people who are later diagnosed as having schizophrenia. Some family association studies have demonstrated a relationship to a gene known as COMT that is involved in encoding the dopamine catabolic enzyme catechol-O-methyl transferase27. This is particularly interesting because of the known link between dopamine function, psychosis, and schizophrenia.
While highly heritable (close to 70%), schizophrenia is a disorder of complex inheritance (analogous to diabetes or high blood pressure). Thus, several genes interact to generate risk for schizophrenia. Genetic evidence for the role of the environment comes from the observation that identical twins do not universally develop schizophrenia. A recent review of the genetic evidence have suggested a 28% chance of one identical twin developing schizophrenia if the other already has it7.
There is also considerable evidence indicating that stress may trigger episodes of schizophrenia. For example, emotionally turbulent families8 and stressful life events9 have been shown to be risk factors for relapses or triggers for episodes of schizophrenia. Other factors such as poverty and discrimination may also be involved. This may explain why minority communities have much higher rates of schizophrenia than when members of the same ethnic groups are resident in their home country.
One particularly stable and replicable finding has been the association between living in an urban environment and risk of developing schizophrenia, even after factors such as drug use, ethnic group and size of social group have been controlled for29. A recent study of 4.4 million men and women in Sweden found a 68-77% increased risk of psychosis for people living in the most urbanised environments, a significant proportion of which is likely to be accounted for by schizophrenia30.
In addition to the risk factors listed above, researchers have curiously found that those suffering from schizophrenia are much more likely to have been born during the Winter months, particularly February and March. Researchers studying manic-depressive disorder have also found that this phenomenon applies to their patients as well.
Although no definite causes of schizophrenia have been identified, most researchers and clinicians currently believe that schizophrenia is primarily a disorder of the brain.
It is also thought that processes in early neurodevelopment are important, particularly during pregnancy. For example, women who were pregnant during the Dutch famine of 1944, where many people were close to starvation, had a higher chance of having a child who would later develop schizophrenia10. Similarly, studies of Finnish mothers who were pregnant when they found out that their husbands had been killed during the Winter War of 1939 - 1940 have shown that their children were much more likely to develop schizophrenia when compared with mothers who were found out about their husbands' death before or after pregnancy11, suggesting that even psychological trauma in the mother may have an effect.
In adult life, particular importance has been placed upon the function (or malfunction) of dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway in the brain. This theory, known as the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia largely resulted from the accidental finding that a drug group which blocks dopamine function, known as the phenothiazines, reduced psychotic symptoms. These drugs have now been developed further and antipsychotic medication is commonly used as a first line treatment.
However, this theory is now thought to be overly simplistic as a complete explanation. Partly as newer antipsychotic medication (called atypical antipsychotic medication) is equally effective as older medication, but also affects serotonin function and may have slightly less of a dopamine blocking effect. Psychiatrist David Healy has also argued that pharmaceutical companies have promoted certain oversimplified biological theories of mental illness to promote their own sales of biological treatments.
Much recent research has focused on differences in function in certain brain areas in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Studies using neuropsychological tests and brain scanning technologies such as fMRI and PET have shown that differences seem to most commonly occur in the frontal lobes, hippocampus, and temporal lobes13. These differences are heavily linked to the neurocognitive deficits which often occur with schizophrenia, particularly in areas of memory, attention, problem solving, and social cognition.
Diagnosis and presentation (signs and symptoms)
Like many mental illnesses, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is based upon the behaviour of the person being assessed. There is a list of diagnostic criteria which must be met for a person to be so diagnosed. These depend on both the presence and duration of certain signs and symptoms.
The most commonly-used criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia are from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the World Health Organisation's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). The most recent versions are ICD-10 ( and DSM-IV-TR (
Below is an abbreviated version of the diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV-TR, the full version is available here (
To be diagnosed as having schizophrenia, a person must display:
A) Characteristic symptoms: Two or more of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a one-month period (or less, if successfully treated)
. delusions
· hallucinations
· disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence). See thought disorder.
· grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
· negative symptoms, i.e., affective flattening (lack or decline in emotional response), alogia (lack or decline in speech), or avolition (lack or decline in motivation).
Note: Only one Criterion A symptom is required if delusions are bizarre or hallucinations consist of hearing voices.
B) Social/occupational dysfunction: For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, one or more major areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care, are markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset.
C) Duration: Continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least six months. This six-month period must include at least one month of symptoms (or less, if successfully treated) that meet Criterion A.
Historically, schizophrenia in the West was classified into simple, catatonic, hebephrenic, and paranoid. The DSM now contains five sub-classifications of schizophrenia. These are
· catatonic type (where marked absences or peculiarities of movement are present),
· disorganised type (where thought disorder and flat or inappropriate affect are present together),
· paranoid type (where delusions and hallucinations are present but thought disorder, disorganised behaviour, and affective flattening is absent),
· residual type (where positive symptoms are present at a low intensity only) and
· undifferentiated type (psychotic symptoms are present but the criteria for paranoid, disorganized, or catatonic types has not been met).
Symptoms may also be described as 'positive symptoms' (those additional to normal experience and behaviour) and negative symptoms (the lack or decline in normal experience or behaviour). 'Positive symptoms' describe psychosis and typically include delusions, hallucinations and thought disorder. 'Negative symptoms' describe inappropriate or nonpresent emotion, poverty of speech, and lack of motivation.
It is worth noting that many of the positive or psychotic symptoms may occur in a variety of disorders and not only in schizophrenia. The psychiatrist Kurt Schneider tried to list the particular forms of psychotic symptoms which he thought were particularly useful in distinguishing between schizophrenia and other disorders which could produce psychosis. These are called first rank symptoms or Schneiderian first rank symptoms and include delusions of being controlled by an external force, the belief that thoughts are being inserted or withdrawn from your conscious mind, the belief that your thoughts are being broadcast to other people and hearing hallucinated voices which comment on your thoughts or actions, or may have a conversation with other hallucinated voices. It now seems that 'first rank symptoms' are not a reliable method of diagnosing schizophrenia4, however the term might still be used descriptively by mental health professionals.
Diagnostic issues and controversies
It has been argued that the diagnostic approach to schizophrenia is flawed, as it relies on an assumption of a clear dividing line between what is considered to be mental illness (fulfilling the diagnostic criteria) and mental health (not fulfilling the criteria). Recently it has been argued, notably by psychiatrist Jim van Os and psychologist Richard Bentall (in his book Madness Explained), that this makes little sense, as studies have shown that psychotic symptoms are present in many people who never become 'ill' in the sense of feeling distressed, becoming disabled in some way or needing medical assistance.
Of particular concern is that the decision as to whether a symptom is present is a subjective decision by the person making the diagnosis or relies on an incoherent definition (for example, see the entries on delusions and thought disorder for a discussion of this issue). More recently, it has been argued that psychotic symptoms are not a good basis for making a diagnosis of schizophrenia as "psychosis is the 'fever' of mental illness - a serious but nonspecific indicator".5
Proponents have argued for a new approach that would use the presence of specific neurocognitive deficits to make a diagnosis. These often accompany schizophrenia and take the form of a reduction or impairment in basic psychological functions such as memory, attention, and problem solving. It is these sorts of difficulties, rather than the psychotic symptoms (which can in many cases by controlled by antipsychotic medication), which seem to be the cause of most disability in schizophrenia. However, this argument is relatively new and it is unlikely that the method of diagnosing schizophrenia will change radically in the near future.
The diagnostic approach to schizophrenia has also been opposed by the anti-psychiatry movement, who argue that classifying specific thoughts and behaviours as an illness allows social control of people that society finds undesirable but who have committed no crime. They argue that this is a way of unjustly classifying a social problem as a medical one to allow the forcible detention and treatment of people displaying these behaviours, which is something which can be done under mental health legislation in most western countries.
An example of this can be seen in the former Soviet Union, where an additional sub-classification of sluggishly progressing schizophrenia was created. Particularly in the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) this diagnosis was used for the purpose of silencing political dissidents or forcing them to recant their ideas by the use of forcible confinement and treatment. In 2000 similar concerns about the abuse of psychiatry to unjustly silence and detain members of the Falun Gong movement by the Chinese government led the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on the Abuse of Psychiatry and Psychiatrists to pass a resolution to urge the World Psychiatric Association to investigate the situation in China.
Western psychiatric medicine tends to favour a definition of symptoms that depends on form rather than content (an innovation first argued for by psychiatrists Karl Jaspers and Kurt Schneider). Therefore, you should be able to believe anything, however unusual or socially unacceptable, without being diagnosed delusional, unless your belief is judged to be held in a particular way. In principle this would stop people being forcibly detained or treated simply for what they believe. However, in practice the distinction between form and content is not easy, or sometimes possible, to make (see delusion). This had led to accusations by anti-psychiatry, surrealist and mental health system survivor groups that psychiatric abuses exist to some extent in the West as well.
The first line treatment for schizophrenia is usually the use of antipsychotic medication. The newer atypical antipsychotic medication (such as olanzapine, risperidone and clozapine) is preferred over older typical antipsychotic medication (such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol), as the atypicals have different side effect profiles, including less frequent development of extrapyramidal side-effects. However, it is still unclear whether newer drugs reduce the chances of developing the rare but potentially life-threatening neuroleptic malignant syndrome.
Atypical antipsychotics have been claimed to have additional beneficial effects on negative as well as positive symptoms. However, the newer drugs are much more costly as they are still within patent, whereas the older drugs are available in inexpensive generic forms. Aripiprazole a drug from a new class of antipsychotic drugs (variously named 'dopamine system stabilisers' or 'partial dopamine agonists') has recently been developed and early research suggests that it may be a safe and effective treatment for schizophrenia.
Hospitalisation may occur with severe episodes. This can be voluntary or (if mental health legislation allows it) involuntary (called civil or involuntary commitment). Mental health legislation may also allow a person to be treated against their will. However, in many countries such legislation does not exist, or does not have the power to enforce involuntary hospitalisation or treatment.
Psychotherapy or other forms of talk therapy may be offered, with cognitive behavioural therapy being the most frequently used. This may focus on the direct reduction of the symptoms, or on related aspects, such as issues of self-esteem, social functioning, and insight. There have been some promising results with cognitive behavioural therapy, but the balance of current evidence is inconclusive.
Other support services may also be available such as drop-in centres, visits from members of a 'community mental health team' and patient-led support groups.
In many non-Western societies, schizophrenia may be treated with more informal, community-led methods. A particularly sobering thought for Western psychiatry is that outcome for people diagnosed as schizophrenic in non-Western countries may be actually be much better18 than for people in the West. The reasons for this are still far from clear, although cross-cultural studies are being conducted to find out why.
This issue was recently addressed in a highly critical opinion piece (full article here ( in the American newspaper USA Today, which noted that the rate of recovery is much lower in the United States and other developed nations than in third world countries.
Quote: Most Americans are unaware that the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly found that long-term schizophrenia outcomes are much worse in the USA and other developed countries than in poor ones such as India and Nigeria, where relatively few patients are on anti-psychotic medications. In undeveloped countries, nearly two-thirds of schizophrenia patients are doing fairly well five years after initial diagnosis; about 40% have basically recovered. But in the USA and other developed countries, most patients become chronically ill. The outcome differences are so marked that WHO concluded that living in a developed country is a strong predictor that a patient never will fully recover.
Prognosis for any particular individual affected by schizophrenia is particularly hard to judge as treatment and access to treatment is continually changing as new methods become available and medical recommendations change.
However, retrospective studies have shown that about a third of people make a full recovery, about a third show improvement but not a full recovery, and a third remain ill.
There is an extremely high suicide rate associated with schizophrenia. A recent study showed that 30% of patients diagnosed with this condition had attempted suicide at least once during their lifetime. Another study suggested that 10% of persons with schizophrenia die by suicide.
Schizophrenia and drug use
Schizophrenia can sometimes be triggered by heavy use of hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD; but it appears that one has to have a predisposition towards developing schizophrenia for this to occur. There is also some evidence suggesting that people suffering schizophrenia but responding to treatment can have an episode as a result of use of LSD. Ironically, it was mainly for experimental treatment of schizophrenia that LSD administration was legal briefly before the popularity of that drug led to its criminalization. Methamphetamine, ketamine and PCP also mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, and can trigger ongoing symptoms of schizophrenia in those who are vulnerable.
There is now increasing evidence that cannabis use can be a contributing trigger to developing schizophrenia. The most recent studies suggest that cannabis is neither a sufficient nor necessary factor in developing schizophrenia, but that cannabis may significantly increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and may be, among others, a significant causal factor.
It has been noted that the majority of people with schizophrenia (estimated between between 75% and 90%) smoke tobacco. However, people diagnosed with schizophrenia have a much lower than average chance of getting and dying from lung cancer. While the reason for this is unknown, it may be because of a genetic resistance to the cancer, a side-effect of drugs being taken, or a statistical effect of increased likelihood of dying from causes other than lung cancer. It is argued that the increased level of smoking in schizophrenia may be due to a desire to self-medicate with nicotine. A recent study of over 50,000 Swedish conscripts found that there was a small but significant protective effect of smoking cigarettes on the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. Whilst the authors of the study stressed that the risks of smoking far outweigh these minor benefits, this study provides further evidence for the 'self-medication' theory of smoking in schizophrenia and may gives clues as to how schizophrenia might develop at the molecular level.
Delusional disorder
Delusional disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis denoting a mental illness that involves holding one or more non-bizarre delusions in the absence of any other significant psychopathology (signs or symptoms of mental illness). In particular a person with delusional disorder has never met any other criteria for schizophrenia and does not have any marked hallucinations, although tactile (touch) or olfactory (smell) hallucinations may be present if they are related to the theme of the delusion.
A person with delusional disorder can be quite functional and does not tend to show any odd or bizarre behaviour except as a direct result of the delusional belief.
It is worth noting that the term paranoia was previously used in psychiatry to denote what is now called 'delusional disorder'. The modern psychiatric use of the word paranoia is subtly different but now rarely refers to this specific diagnosis.
Delusional disorder may typically be one of the following types:
· Erotomanic Type
(see erotomania): delusion that another person, usually of higher status, is in love with the individual.
· Grandiose Type: delusion of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person (e.g. see Jerusalem syndrome)
· Jealous Type: delusion that the individual's sexual partner is unfaithful (see delusional jealousy).
· Persecutory Type: delusion that the person (or someone to whom the person is close) is being malevolently treated in some way.
· Somatic Type: delusions that the person has some physical defect or general medical condition (for example, see delusional parasitosis).
· A diagnosis of 'mixed type' or 'unspecified type' may also be given if the delusions fall into several or none of these categories.
An hallucination is a false sensory perception in the absence of an external stimulus, as distinct from an illusion which is a misperception of an external stimulus. Hallucinations may occur in any sensory modality - visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile or mixed.
The word 'hallucinatory' has its roots in the Latin hallucinari or allucinari, meaning 'to wander in mind'. The first usage of the word 'hallucination' in the English language is recorded as by the English physician Sir Thomas Browne in 1642. However, it was first used in its current sense by psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Esquirol in 1837.
Florid hallucinations are usually associated with drug use (particularly hallucinogenic drugs), sleep deprivation, psychosis or neurological illness.
However, studies have shown that hallucinatory experiences are common across the population as a whole. Previous studies, one as early as 18941, have reported that approximately 10% of the population experience hallucinations. A recent survey of over 13,000 people2 reported a much higher figure with almost 39% of people reported hallucinatory experiences, 27% of which reported daytime hallucinations, mostly outside the context of illness or drug use. From this survery, olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) hallucinations seem the most common in the general population.
Auditory hallucinations (particularly of one or more talking voices) are particularly associated with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, and hold special significance in diagnosing these conditions. This does not mean that the experience of 'hearing voices' is necessarily a sign of mental illness and many people may have these or similar hallucinations without ever becoming impaired or distressed in any way.
Various theories have been put forward to explain the occurrence of hallucinations. When psychodynamic (Freudian) theories were popular in psychiatry, hallucinations were seen as a projection of unconscious wishes and desires. As biological theories have become orthodox, hallucinations are more often thought of (by psychiatrists at least) as being caused by functional deficits in the brain. With reference to mental illness, the function (or dysfunction) of the neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to be particularly important.
Psychological research has argued that hallucinations may result from biases in what are known as metacognitive abilities. These are abilities that allow us to monitor or draw inferences from our own internal psychological states (such as intentions, memories, beliefs and thoughts). The ability to discriminate between self-generated and external sources of information is considered to be an important metacognitive skill and one which may break down to cause hallucinatory experiences.
Paranoia is excessive concern about one's own well being, sometimes suggesting the person holds persecutory beliefs concerning a threat to themselves or their property.
In the original Greek (paranoia) means self-referential, and it is this meaning which has been adopted in psychiatry, especially European psychiatry, in reference to a delusional belief (see delusions). Specifically, the term paranoia is used to denote a delusional belief that is self-referential (see also ideas of reference). The delusional belief may not necessarily be persecutory. For example, a person who has a delusional belief that they are an important figure (such as being Jesus, Napoleon, or the Dalai Lama) may be diagnosed as having a paranoid belief or, if they hold this belief in the context of schizophrenia, as having paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoia and delusions in general are considered an important (if not the most important) diagnostic feature of psychosis.
The term 'paranoia' was previously used in psychiatry used to describe an isolated delusion. The presence of one of these in the absence of other symptoms of dementia praecox led Emil Kraepelin to create the diagnostic category of 'pure paranoia'. This diagnostic category is covered by what is now classified as delusional disorder. That is, a mental illness that involves one or more non-bizarre delusions with the absence of any other psychopathology (signs or symptoms of mental illness).
Common paranoid delusions may include the belief that the person is being followed, poisoned or loved at a distance (often by a media figure or important person, a delusion known as erotomania or De Clerambault syndrome). Other common paranoid delusions include the belief that the person has an imaginary disease or parasitic infection (delusional parasitosis), that the person is on a special quest or has been chosen by God, that the person has had thoughts inserted or removed from conscious thought or that the person's actions are being controlled by an external force (see mind control).
Paranoia is often associated with psychotic illnesses, particularly schizophrenia, although attenuated features may be present in other primarily non-psychotic diagnoses, such as paranoid personality disorder.
Many despotic rulers (for example Stalin) allegedly suffered from paranoia. This presents an interesting question because in Stalin's case, it is quite likely that many people really were out to get him (some theories state he was finally poisoned). Might it be that with enough enemies, it is impossible to be clinically paranoid? This begs interesting philosophical questions about the criteria by which we can diagnose a belief as paranoid or delusional.
Clinically, paranoid beliefs can be categorised into a number of types, although these are now listed as sub-types of delusional disorder (see that article for more details).
Schizotypal personality disorder
Some people believe that schizotypal personality disorder represents a milder form of the much more serious schizophrenia. This particular personality disorder is most often characterized by a want for social isolation, odd forms of thinking and perception, the belief that they have extra sensory abilities, and over-elaborate speech patterns that are difficult to follow.


Anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder is a blanket term covering several different forms of fear, phobia and nervous condition, that come on suddenly and prevent pursuing normal daily routines including:
· general anxiety disorder
· social phobia
· specific phobias
· agoraphobia
· claustrophobia
· panic disorder
· separation anxiety disorder
· post-traumatic stress disorder

Anxiety disorders are often debilitating chronic conditions, which can be present from an early age or begin suddenly after a triggering event. They are strongly affected by life stress, and prone to flare up at times of high stress. Pharmaceutical companies have created a number of drugs to combat these disorders. Many of these disorders can also be treated with the aid of a good counselor and behavioural therapies such as cognitive therapy.
Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder. The name is literally translated as "a fear of the marketplace", from the Greek agora, and thus of open or public spaces. Many people suffering from agoraphobia, however, are not afraid of the open spaces themselves, but of situations often associated with these spaces, such as social gatherings. Others are comfortable seeing visitors, but only in a defined space they feel in control of--such a person may live for years without leaving his home, while happily seeing visitors and working, as long as they can stay within their safety zone.
An agoraphobic experiences severe panic attacks during situations where they feel trapped, insecure, out of control, or too far from their personal comfort zone. During severe bouts of anxiety, the agoraphobic is confined not only to their home, but to one or two rooms and they may even become bedbound until their over-stimulated nervous system can quieten down, and their adrenaline levels return to a more normal level. Agoraphobics are often extremely sensitised to their own bodily sensations, sub-consciously over-reacting to perfectly normal events. To take one example, the exertion involved in climbing a flight of stairs may be the cause for a fullblown panic attack, because it increases the heartbeat and breathing rate, which the agoraphobic interprets as the start of a panic attack instead of a normal fluctuation.
Agoraphobia can be successfully treated in many cases through a very gradual process of graduated exposure therapy combined with cognitive therapy and sometimes anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications.
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. Claustrophobes may suffer from panic attacks in situations such as being in elevators, trains or aircraft. Conversely, people who are prone to having panic attacks will often develop claustrophobia. If a panic attack occurs while they are in a confined space then they will be unable to escape the situation. Claustrophobes may also fear being in crowds. Claustrophobia can be treated in similar ways to other anxiety disorders, with a range of treatments including cognitive behavior therapy and the use of antidepressant medication.
The opposite of claustrophobia is chasmophilia.

General anxiety disorder
General anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by uncontrollable worry about everyday things. The frequency, intensity, and duration of the worry are disproportionate to the actual source of worry, and such worry often interferes with daily functioning. GAD sufferers often uncontrollably worry over things such as their job, their finances, and the health of themselves and their family. However, GAD sufferers can also constantly abnormally worry over more mundane things such as timeliness for appointments, keeping the house clean, and whether or not their workspace is properly organized. For a diagnosis of GAD to be made, worry must be present more days than not for at least six months.
Physical symptoms of GAD can include: cold, clamy hands; difficulty swallowing; gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea; jumpiness; muscle tension; nausea; and sweating. GAD sufferers also easily become tired and have trouble sleeping. They also tend to be irritable and complain about feeling "on edge". GAD can be difficult to diagnose, because it often lacks the more telltale signs of other anxiety disorders, such as with panic disorder. GAD can also occur alongside other anxiety disorders, as well as alongside depressive disorders and substance abuse.
Panic attacks
A panic attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort, typically with an abrupt onset and usually lasting no more than 30 minutes. Symptoms include trembling, shortness of breath and sensations of choking or smothering.
Most people report a fear of dying, "going crazy", or losing control of emotions or behavior. The experiences generally provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack begins and, when associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, frequently results in seeking aid from a hospital emergency room or other type of urgent assistance. The panic attack is distinguished from other forms of anxiety by its intensity and its sudden, episodic nature. Panic attacks are not always indicative of a mental disorder, and up to 10 percent of otherwise healthy people experience an isolated panic attack per year (Barlow, 1988; Klerman et al., 1991).
Panic attacks are often experienced by sufferers of anxiety disorders, agoraphobia and other psychological conditions involving anxiety. A phobic will often experience a panic attack as a direct result of exposure to their trigger. These panic attacks are usually short-lived and rapidly relieved once the trigger is escaped. In conditions of chronic anxiety one panic attack can often roll into another one, leading to nervous exhaustion over a period of days.
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
As described above, the symptoms of a panic attack appear suddenly, without any apparent cause. They may include
· Racing or pounding heartbeat
· Chest pains
· Dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea
· Difficulty breathing
· Tingling or numbness in the hands
· Flushes or chills
· Dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions
· Terror--a sense that something unimaginably horrible is about to occur and one is powerless to prevent it
· Fear of losing control and doing something embarrassing
· Fear of dying
· Flushed Face and Chest
A panic attack typically lasts for several minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions that a person can experience. Most who have one attack will have others. When someone has repeated attacks, or feels severe anxiety about having another attack, he or she is said to have panic disorder.
What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder is a serious health problem in the United States. At least 1.6 percent of adult Americans, or 3 million people, will have panic disorder at some time in their lives. The disorder is strikingly different from other types of anxiety in that panic attacks are so sudden, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling.
Once someone has had a panic attack--for example while driving, shopping in a crowded store, or riding in an elevator--he or she may develop irrational fears, called phobias, about these situations and begin to avoid them. Eventually, the pattern of avoidance and level of anxiety about another attack may reach the point where the individual with panic disorder may be unable to drive or even step out of the house. At this stage, the person is said to have panic disorder with agoraphobia. Thus panic disorder can have as serious an impact on a person's daily life as other major illnesses--unless the individual receives effective treatment.
Is panic disorder serious?
Yes, panic disorder is real and potentially disabling, but it can be controlled with specific treatments. Because of the disturbing symptoms that accompany panic disorder, it may be mistaken for heart disease or some other life-threatening medical illness. People frequently go to hospital emergency rooms when they are having a panic attack, and extensive medical tests may be performed to rule out these other conditions.
Others often try to reassure the person who is having a panic attack that he or she is not in great danger. Expressions such as "nothing serious," "all in your head," or "nothing to worry about" may give the incorrect impression that there is no real problem and that treatment is not possible or necessary.
What is the treatment for panic disorder?
Thanks to research, there are a variety of treatments available, including several effective medications, and also specific forms of psychotherapy. Often, a combination of psychotherapy and medications produces good results. Some improvement may be noticed in a fairly short period of time--about 6 to 8 weeks. Thus appropriate treatment of panic disorder can prevent panic attacks or at least substantially reduce their severity and frequency--bringing significant relief to 70 to 90 percent of people with panic disorder.
In addition, people with panic disorder may need treatment for other emotional problems. Depression has often been associated with panic disorder, as have alcohol and drug abuse. Recent research also suggests that suicide attempts are more frequent in people with panic disorder. Fortunately, these problems associated with panic disorder can be overcome effectively, just like panic disorder itself.
Tragically, many people with panic disorder do not seek or receive treatment. To encourage recognition and treatment of panic disorder, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is sponsoring a major information campaign to acquaint the public and health care professionals with this disorder. NIMH is the agency of the U.S. government responsible for improving the mental health of the American people by supporting research on the brain and mental disorders and by increasing public understanding of these conditions and their treatment.
What happens if panic disorder is not treated?
Panic disorder tends to continue for months or years. It typically begins in young adulthood, but the symptoms may arise earlier or later in life. If left untreated, it may worsen to the point where the person's life is seriously affected by panic attacks and by attempts to avoid or conceal them. In fact, many people have had problems with friends and family or lost jobs while struggling to cope with panic disorder. It does not usually go away unless the person receives treatments designed specifically to help people with panic disorder.
So, if you or someone you know has symptoms like those described in this article, it is important to see a health care professional for a correct diagnosis and proper treatment.
How Common Is Panic Disorder?
About 1.7% of the adult U.S. population ages 18 to 54 - approximately 2.4 million Americans - has panic disorder in a given year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder. Panic disorder typically strikes in young adulthood. Roughly half of all people who have panic disorder develop the condition before age 24.
What Causes Panic Disorder?
Heredity, other biological factors, stressful life events, and thinking in a way that exaggerates relatively normal bodily reactions are all believed to play a role in the onset of panic disorder. The exact cause or causes of panic disorder are unknown and are the subject of intense scientific investigation.
Studies in animals and humans have focused on pinpointing the specific brain areas and circuits involved in anxiety and fear, which underlie anxiety disorders such as panic disorder. Fear, an emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes an automatic, rapid protective response that occurs without the need for conscious thought. It has been found that the body's fear response is coordinated by a small structure deep inside the brain, called the amygdala.
The amygdala, although relatively small, is a very complicated structure, and recent research suggests that anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal activitation in the amygdala. One aim of research is to use such basic scientific knowledge to develop new therapies.
What Treatments Are Available for Panic Disorder?
Treatment for panic disorder includes medications and a type of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people how to view panic attacks differently and demonstrates ways to reduce anxiety. NIMH is conducting a large-scale study to evaluate the effectiveness of combining these treatments. Appropriate treatment by an experienced professional can reduce or prevent panic attacks in 70% to 90% of people with panic disorder. Most patients show significant progress after a few weeks of therapy. Relapses may occur, but they can often be effectively treated just like the initial episode.
Can People With Panic Disorder Also Have Other Illnesses?
Research shows that panic disorder can coexist with other disorders, most often depression and substance abuse. About 30% of people with panic disorder abuse alcohol and 17% abuse drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, in unsuccessful attempts to alleviate the anguish and distress caused by their condition. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of other disorders such as substance abuse or depression are important to successfully treat panic disorder.
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
A panic attack is a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort that is associated with numerous somatic and cognitive symptoms (DSM-IV). These symptoms include palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, sensations of choking or smothering, chest pain, nausea or gastrointestinal distress, dizziness or lightheadedness, tingling sensations, and chills or blushing and “hot flashes.” The attack typically has an abrupt onset, building to maximum intensity within 10 to 15 minutes. Most people report a fear of dying, “going crazy,” or losing control of emotions or behavior. The experiences generally provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack begins and, when associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, frequently results in seeking aid from a hospital emergency room or other type of urgent assistance. Yet an attack rarely lasts longer than 30 minutes. Current diagnostic practice specifies that a panic attack must be characterized by at least four of the associated somatic and cognitive symptoms described above. The panic attack is distinguished from other forms of anxiety by its intensity and its sudden, episodic nature. Panic attacks may be further characterized by the relationship between the onset of the attack and the presence or absence of situational factors. For example, a panic attack may be described as unexpected, situationally bound, or situationally predisposed (usually, but not invariably occurring in a particular situation). There are also attenuated or “limited symptom” forms of panic attacks.
Panic attacks are not always indicative of a mental disorder, and up to 10 percent of otherwise healthy people experience an isolated panic attack per year (Barlow, 1988; Klerman et al., 1991). Panic attacks also are not limited to panic disorder. They commonly occur in the course of social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder (DSM-IV). Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has experienced at least two unexpected panic attacks and develops persistent concern or worry about having further attacks or changes his or her behavior to avoid or minimize such attacks. Whereas the number and severity of the attacks varies widely, the concern and avoidance behavior are essential features. The diagnosis is inapplicable when the attacks are presumed to be caused by a drug or medication or a general medical disorder, such as hyperthyroidism.
Lifetime rates of panic disorder of 2 to 4 percent and 1-year rates of about 2 percent are documented consistently in epidemiological studies (Kessler et al., 1994; Weissman et al., 1997) (Table 4-1). Panic disorder is frequently complicated by major depressive disorder (50 to 65 percent lifetime comorbidity rates) and alcoholism and substance abuse disorders (20 to 30 percent comorbidity) (Keller & Hanks, 1994; Magee et al., 1996; Liebowitz, 1997). Panic disorder is also concomitantly diagnosed, or co-occurs, with other specific anxiety disorders, including social phobia (up to 30 percent), generalized anxiety disorder (up to 25 percent), specific phobia (up to 20 percent), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (up to 10 percent) (DSM-IV). As discussed subsequently, approximately one-half of people with panic disorder at some point develop such severe avoidance as to warrant a separate description, panic disorder with agoraphobia.
Panic disorder is about twice as common among women as men (American Psychiatric Association, 1998). Age of onset is most common between late adolescence and midadult life, with onset relatively uncommon past age 50. There is developmental continuity between the anxiety syndromes of youth, such as separation anxiety disorder. Typically, an early age of onset of panic disorder carries greater risks of comorbidity, chronicity, and impairment. Panic disorder is a familial condition and can be distinguished from depressive disorders by family studies (Rush et al., 1998).
Psychologists use the term phobia, which comes from the Ancient Greek word for fear (φόβος, fovos), for a number of psychological conditions that can seriously disable their carriers.
Phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorder. An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 5.1 and 21.5 percent of Americans suffer from phobias. Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common psychiatric illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than 25.
Most psychologists divide phobias into three categories:
social phobias - fears to do with other people and social relationships such as performance anxiety, fears of eating in public etc.
specific phobias - fear of a single specific panic trigger, like dogs, flying, running water and so on.
agoraphobia - a generalised fear of leaving your home or your small familiar 'safe' area, and of the inevitable panic attacks that will follow. Agoraphobia is the only phobia regularly treated as a medical condition.

Many specific phobias, such as fears of dogs, heights, spider bites, and so forth, are extensions of fears that everyone has. People with these phobias treat them by avoiding the thing they fear.
Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics and brain-chemistry combine with life-experiences to play a major role in the development of anxiety disorders and phobias.
Phobias vary in severity among individuals, with some phobics simply disliking or avoiding the subject of their fear and suffering mild anxiety. Others suffer fully-fledged panic attacks with all the associated disabling symptoms.
The name of a phobia generally contains a Greek word for what the patient fears plus -phobia. Creating these terms is something of a word game. Few of these terms are found in medical literature. It is possible for a sufferer to become phobic about virtually anything.
Common phobias include:
· Arachnophobia - Fear of spiders.
· Anthrophobia - Fear of people or society
· Aerophobia - Fear of drafts, air swallowing or airborne noxious substances.
· Agoraphobia - Fear of the outdoors, crowds or uncontrolled social conditions.
· Claustrophobia - Fear of confined spaces.
· Acrophobia - Fear of heights.
· Cancerophobia - Fear of cancer.
· Astraphobia - Fear of thunder and lightning.
· Necrophobia - Fear of death or dead things.
· Cardiophobia - Fear of heart disease.
· Dental phobia - Fear of dentists, dental surgery, or teeth.
Some therapists use virtual reality to desensitize patients to the feared thing. Other forms of therapy that may be of benefit to phobics are graduated exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Anti-anxiety medication can also be of assistance in some cases. Most phobics understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their initial panic reaction.
Graduated Exposure and CBT both work towards the goal of desensitising the sufferer, and changing the thought patterns that are contributing to their panic. Gradual desensitisation treatment and CBT are often extremely successful, provided the phobic is willing to endure some discomfort and to make a continuous effort over a long period of time. Practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) claim to have a procedure that can be used to alleviate most specific phobias in a single therapeutic session, though this has not yet been verified scientifically.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), formerly and colloquially called shell shock (this is a World War One term), battle fatigue (World War II), and operational exhaustion (Korean War), is a term for the psychological consequences of exposure to stressful, life-threatening and traumatic experiences. Symptoms include nightmares and flashbacks, sleep abnormalities, extreme distress resulting from personal "triggers", and emotional detachment with the possibility of simultaneous suffering of other psychiatric disorders. Experiences likely to induce the condition include rape, combat exposure, and childhood physical abuse. Unlike brief reactive psychosis, PTSD is a chronic condition.
PTSD is distinguished from normal grief and adjustment with traumatic events in that the normal emotional effects of traumatic events will tend to subside after several months or years, while in PTSD the emotional effects are ongoing. Most people who experience traumatic events will not have PTSD.
In earlier times and even today, shell shock has been regarded as simple cowardice, an unwillingness to put one's welfare at risk when danger is at hand. The modern psychological evaluation disagrees strongly. Shell shock is a mental condition in which the individual involved is perilously close to a break from reality, usually by succumbing to any of several neuroses or psychoses.
PTSD was first recognized in combat veterans following many historical conflicts; the term "shell shock" dates to World War I. At first, the medical community believed that shell shock resulted directly from the stress caused by the noise of repeated shell explosions. The modern understanding of the condition dates to shortly after the Vietnam War. PTSD may be experienced following any traumatic experience or series of experiences that do not allow the victim to readily recuperate from the detrimental effects of stress. It is believed that of those exposed to traumatic conditions, around 9% will experience some symptoms. In peacetime, 30% of those that suffer will go on to develop a chronic condition; in wartime, the levels of disorder are believed to be somewhat higher.
PTSD is treated by psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy are popular) and drug therapy (Prozac, Effexor, Seroquel, and Zoloft). Talk therapy may prove useful, but only insofar as the individual victim is enabled to come to terms with the trauma suffered and successfully integrate the experiences in a way that does not further damage the psyche. PTSD may co-occur with depression.
Treatment of trauma
Two controversial techniques for the treatment of trauma are EMDR and TIR:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming) is a technique developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, in which the client supposedly uses the movement of his or her eyes to access the traumatic event and allow the integration of emotions and sensations that occurred during the traumatic event.
TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction) is a less well known technique for reducing and eliminating the effects of a traumatic event. TIR is more of a graduated exposure technique that is controlled by the client. In TIR the client retells the trauma and releases the emotions held in check. In addition the client remembers the event and allows the conscious mind to process any decisions, intentions and cognitive distortions that might have occurred during or after the trauma. Practitioners who have been trained in both EMDR and TIR report that TIR is safer because it is focused on a single event and EMDR can occasionally trigger several events and multiple emotions. Interviews with these practitioners have suggested that, while they continue to use both techniques, TIR is the preferred intervention for known traumatic events where the client wants insight and understanding about the event and the aftereffects of the trauma.
Separation anxiety disorder
Separation anxiety disorder (or simply separation anxiety) is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive anxiety regarding separation from home, or from those with whom the individual has a strong attachment. Separation anxiety is often characterized by some of the following symptoms:
· Recurring distress when separation from home or subject of attachment is anticipated
· Persistent, excessive worry about losing subject of attachment
· Continuing reluctance or refusal to leave the home or subject of attachment elsewhere because of fear of separation
· Excessive fear about being alone without subject of attachment
Social anxiety
Social anxiety, sometimes known as social phobia or social anxiety disorder (SAD), is a common form of anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to dread the social interactions and public events of everyday life, e.g. parties, meetings, or even making a phone call or walking into a shop to purchase goods.
Many people have 'butterflies' or minor nerves before a date, party, or some other event that will put them on public display, but that usually does not prevent them from attending. A true social phobia is an overwhelming fear, which in extreme cases can keep the sufferer housebound and isolated for long periods of time. They are abnormally afraid of being judged, watched and possibly humiliated in public as a result of their actions, behaviour or appearance.
Social phobia should not be confused with panic disorder. Sufferers of panic disorder are convinced that their panic comes from some dire physical cause, and often go to the hospital or call for an ambulance during or after their attacks. Social phobics may experience a panic attack when triggered, but they are aware that it is extreme anxiety they are experiencing, and that the cause is an irrational fear. Few social phobics would willingly go to a hospital in that instance, because they fear rejection and judgement by authority figures (e.g. medical staff.) Dealing with authority figures is particularly difficult for most social phobics, as is making phone inquiries, attending dates, parties and job interviews.
The most common social phobia is glossophobia, the fear of public speaking or performance, also known as stage fright.
Examples of specific social phobias (as opposed to generalized social phobia) include fears of writing in public, blushing (erythrophobia), eating in public, and using public restrooms (see paruresis.)
Social phobia has only recently been recognised as a legitimate medical disorder in its own right, rather than being considered a manifestation of other problems. It can often be successfully treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and group therapy. Anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants can also sometimes be useful therapeutic agents.