Mental Health Terminology Demystified

abandoned mental hospital night

Mental health is a world within a world, complete with its very own vocabulary. These idiosyncratic names, phrases and expressions may seem odd, even bizarre, to newcomers and outsiders alike. However, if you intend to successfully navigate the crooked concrete corridors that lead, eventually, to sanity – familiarity with this specialized lexicon is strongly advised.

Below is a list of commonly encountered mental health verbiage, followed by helpful definitions.

1. Cured
This term describes a patient whose health insurance has run out.

2. Tibet’s Syndrome
A patient who believes all mental health maladies can be cured by studying Eastern religion.

3. Mentalpause
The state of being that separates mental play from mental fast-forward. It is characterized by tropical island fantasies and irritability.

4. Paranormia
Paranormia describes an irrational fear of being abducted by aliens and forced to watch tedious, poorly produced movies of their summer vacations. It combines fear of the nearly impossible with resentment resulting from being disappointed by the nearly impossible, even though it hasn’t yet happened.

5. Gazebo Effect
The gazebo effect refers to a strategy in which a physician uses psychology to heal a patient. The patient’s normal medication is replaced with a sugar pill, or “gazebo”, without the patient’s knowledge. The patient is then instructed to sit in an English garden, preferably near a pond with swans. Since the patient believes they are still benefiting from the actual medication, they continue to get better, even though the only force healing them is the illusion that they are a gazebo.

6. Best Man-ic Depression
This rare, awkward condition describes what happens when the Best Man at a wedding considers his sorry existence, (a bleak contrast to the cheerful celebration surrounding him), and becomes so depressed he is completely incapable of performing his duties.

Instead of providing support he spoils the joyful occasion by reciting interminable passages from Nausea and No Exit by J.P. Sartre, all the while weeping voluminously as the bride and groom vainly attempt to console him.

7. Psycholalia
The weird sensation of living inside a giant echo chamber experienced by psychoanalytic patients who realize after some time that their psychiatrists simply repeat everything they say (followed, after an appropriate pause, by a thoughtful “Hmmmmm”.)

8. Sleep Appnia
Individuals who suffer from Sleep Appnia download apps to their iPhones while asleep. (See also Drunk Dialing.)
This is only a partial list, of course; I’ll demystify other mental health terms in blogs to come.

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Alistair McHarg

Alistair McHarg was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved immediately to Edinburgh, and three years later moved to Amsterdam. At 6 he settled in Philadelphia and for 16 years was confused by Quaker education; Germanton Friends School and Haverford College. A Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Louisville nudged him even closer to unemployability. Convinced at an early age that fate had chosen writing as his calling, Alistair followed a characteristically slow and circuitous path. He has found work as deck hand on a Norwegian tramp freighter touring South America, Bureau of Land Management Emergency Fire Fighter in Alaska, guide at a Canadian wilderness survival camp, truck driver crisscrossing Colorado's continental divide, and inner city cabbie. Alistair has been arranging words on paper for a living since 1983.