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When faced with important events (stressors) that are threatening or very hard to deal with (cope) with, people experience stress. Psychological symptoms of stress include anxiety and tension, uncontrollable worrying, irritability, distractibility, and difficulty in learning new things. Physical symptoms include difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite or excessive appetite, fatigue, and aches and pains.


A neurosis is characterized by anxiety, internal tensions and conflicts, uncontrollable avoidance of threatening situations, and ineffective coping. Examples include panic, phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress.


A neurotic disorder in which people channel their anxieties, worry, and obsessional thinking into the conviction that they have a specific physical illness (e.g., cancer of the colon). That is, they are preoccupied with having an illness, even though tests and reassurances by medical personnel indicate that they do not have this illness. People with this disorder spend a lot of time and money visiting doctors and undergoing various tests. Their relationships with doctors and nurses are often conflictual, to the point where a real sickness may well be overlooked by those who are tired of the person's previous unrealistic insistence that they are ill.

allSomatization Disorder

A rare disorder, but it is time-consuming and infuriating for medical personnel. The person, usually a woman, has a long, complicated medical history and series of dramatic but vague physical symptoms which "demand the doctor's immediate attention." The complaints usually involved a combination of gastrointestinal, gynecological, and sensorimotor symptoms, coupled with "aches and pains." The personalities and lives of people with this disorder are typically dramatic and chaotic.

allFactitious Disorder

Individuals with this disorder create the appearance of a physical illness (e.g., by "doctoring" blood samples) in order to become the center of medical attention and/or to obtain various types of drugs. When they are questioned or challenged about inconsistencies in their symptoms or stories, they usually become evasive and belligerent, and will probably escape the hospital or clinic at the first opportunity, only to try somewhere else. Many people with this disorder have the same type of "histrionic" or "borderline" personality as those with somatization disorder.


A set of severe psychological symptoms which make it very hard to work, play, and be with other people. "Positive" symptoms include delusions (irrational beliefs), hallucinations (sensory experiences in the absence of stimuli), incoherent thought and speech, intense and uncontrollable anxiety or paranoia, and bizarre behavior. "Negative" symptoms include loss of both emotional experiences and emotional expressiveness, loss of willpower and initiative, inability to experience pleasure or interest in things, and withdrawal from contact with others.


In general, this refers to high levels of suspicion and mistrust, usually seen in the person's belief or delusion that he or she is the target of other people's hate, jealousy, and resentment. In paranoid schizophrenia, the person has delusions that he or she is being persecuted by "others" (for example, neighbors, the government, being from outer space), often because the person is someone special such as "the messiah" (a delusion of grandiosity). In paranoid personality disorder the person appears normal, but is actually suspicious, mistrustful, hostile but guarded, controlling, and quick to develop resentment (grudges) and jealousy. Some men who batter their wives or girlfriends have this disorder.


A severe emotional problem in which the person cannot stop feeling sad or "down" or "empty," and constantly feels helpless and hopeless. Depressed people often struggle with anxiety and irritability, a lack of motivation, a loss of pleasure in things they used to like to do, and problems with eating, sleeping, and aches and pains. Many depressed people have suicidal thoughts, and 10-15% will eventually take their own lives.


A period of time (usually a week to a month-long) in which the person is (and feels) very excited, talkative, active, and impulsive. In most episodes of mania, the person is unusually happy and confident, but some people are edgy and irritable. Manic people seem to have endless energy (they are "driven") and do not need more than a few hours of sleep at night if they sleep at all. In its mild form (hypomania) the person may be very creative and productive at work. In its severe forms, the person becomes "psychotic." That is, the person loses the ability to think straight and make realistic judgments, and may experience delusions and hallucinate

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