Glossary of Terms


State Government of Victoria, Australia, Department of Health: Victorian Mental Health Services 

2015 factsheet: A Guide To Mental Health Terminology

A Guide To Mental Health Terminology

This guide aims to provide a quick reference for anybody seeking to understand terms commonly used by mental health services.

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Paranoia/Paranoid State

In common use, this term means suspicion or mistrust of others. Mental health professionals use the term paranoia to describe persecutory ideas held by a person which are not quite as intense as delusions. For example, a person may believe someone close to them is poisoning their food.

Personality Disorder

A group of disorders characterised by patterns of disruptive and dysfunctional behaviour well established by early adulthood, and continuing through out a person's life. The person with a personality disorder typically has marked problems and frequent crises in personal and social relationships including threatened or actual self-injury. People with this disorder often have a history of inadequate or abusive parenting.
See also borderline personality disorder; severe personality disorder.


See psychogeriatric assessment and treatment services.


A persistent and unreasonable fear of specific places, events or objects which leads to avoidance of that situation and significantly impacts upon a person's life. For example, fear of crowds, public places, public speaking, insects or blood.

Primary mental health and early intervention teams (PMHEI)

These teams support and enhance the capacity of primary care providers, especially general practitioners and community health services, to recognise and respond to mental disorders more effectively. They provide consultation, liaison, education and training services to primary care providers for both low and high prevalence disorders. The teams have a particular focus on disorders such as depression and anxiety, and also provide some short-term direct care treatment and assessment for these high prevalence disorders.


The predicted course of a person's mental illness or their interpersonal, emotional or social functioning, based on specialised psychiatric knowledge, assessment of the client's current mental state and an understanding of his her personal circumstances and environment.

Psychiatric Assessment

A thorough assessment of a client by a mental health professional which includes identifying a person's current mental state, personal and social history, social situation and any relevant past psychiatric history. The psychiatric assessment enables selection of the most appropriate form of treatment for the client.
See also mental state examination, intake assessment.

Psychiatric Crisis

Psychiatric crisis describes the situation where a person with a mental illness or severe mental disorder experiences thoughts, feelings or behaviours which cause severe distress to him/her and those around him/her requiring immediate psychiatric treatment to assess and manage risk and alleviate distress. The acute stage of a mental illness is characterised by infrequent yet severely distressing symptoms that require immediate treatment. This may be the person’s first experience of mental illness, a repeat episode or the worsening of symptoms of an often continuing mental illness.

Psychiatric Disability

The effects of mental illness that severely impair functioning in different aspects of a person's life such as the ability to live independently, maintain friendships or maintain employment.

Psychiatric Disorder

See mental illness, severe mental illness.

Psychiatric Inpatient Admission

A voluntary or involuntary hospital admission for the treatment end management of a person who has a severe mental illness.

Psychiatric Inpatient Service

Publicly funded psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric units of general hospitals able to admit involuntary and security patients as well as voluntary patients.

Psychiatric Nurses

Registered nurses who specialise in the nursing care and treatment of people with mental illness. Psychiatric nurses work in community mental health services and psychiatric inpatient services. Their role includes administration of medication, counselling and long term support, and may include psychological therapies.

Psychiatric Services Division

The section of the Department of Human Services which develops and establishes the policy and program framework for the delivery of client focused mental health services.

Psychiatrically Disturbed

See severe mental illness.


See consultant psychiatrists.

Psychogeriatric Assessment and Treatment Services

Specialist community mental health services that provide assessment, treatment and support for people aged sixty-five and over, who have a mental illness.


Clinical psychologists have specialist training in the assessment of behaviour and mental functioning, and in a range of interventions aimed at changing how people think, feel and act towards themselves and others.

Psychosocial Assessment

An assessment procedure that is used to identify a person's abilities and difficulties in his/her personal, domestic and social functioning, and that assists in the development of his/her individual service plan.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation

A range of interventions aimed at improving a client's personal, domestic and social functioning, so that they can live independently in the community.


A term used to describe a condition in which a person is unable to tell what is real from what is imagined, as occurs with the experience of hallucinations or delusions. The condition may also include features of thought disorder, disorientation or confusion.

Public Mental Health Services

The range of mental health services providing local and statewide specialist treatment and support for people with mental illness and associated psychiatric disability. These services are provided free of charge by the Government. They include child and adolescent mental health services, adult mental health services and aged persons' mental health services and specialist statewide services.

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