HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps to prevent low mood.

AC (before food)

AC is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean before food (from the Latin word 'ante cibum') when they prescribe medicine. The medicine works best with as little food as possible in the stomach. You could take it one hour before a meal or two hours after a meal.


Acute is a term used to refer to something severe and often sudden, for example you may have an acute reaction to a medication.


Addiction is not having control over doing, taking or using something harmful. As well as drugs and alcohol, a person can become addicted to sex or gambling.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of  symptoms that include attention problems, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It is often treated with medication including Methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Adolescent Inpatient Unit

A hospital for young people (normally 12-18 years old) with serious mental health problems. Young people will usually live in the unit and take part in lots of different activities which are designed to help them understand their mental health problems and find better ways of coping with them.  There is also a team of mental health specialists at the unit who work with young people to help them to feel better.

Adverse effect

A side-effect that may be caused by the medicine, and is not part of the good effect that it is supposed to have on your symptoms. An adverse effect could also come from taking too much.


An Advocate is someone who can offer independent support and advice on getting help with a mental health issue.


Agoraphobia is a type of Anxiety people feel when they have an intense fear of being caught or trapped in situations when they can’t get help. Agoraphobia can be brought on by repeated panic attacks and over time, if untreated, can lead to the fear of leaving one’s house.


An ‘over- reaction’ by the body to a medicine, for reasons we do not really understand. It might affect some people but not others. An example is that some people have an allergy to penicillin antibiotics. The symptoms can be very serious, such as breathing problems, and can even cause death if they do not get help straight away.

AMHS: Adult Mental Health Services

The name given to NHS Mental Health services for people who are over the age of 18. 

Anorexia Nervosa

An Eating Disorder characterised by restricting food intake, weight loss and rituals around food. People with Anorexia may believe they are fat when in fact they are very underweight. Anorexia is very dangerous and can be life threatening.

Anti Anxiety

Anti-Anxiety medication is a group of drugs which may be used to treat the symptoms of Anxiety. It includes medications such as Olanzapine.


A medicine to help to lift mood by rebalancing chemicals in the brain. There are different groups of antidepressants, like SSRIs (like fluoxetine and citalopram) and tricyclics (like amitriptyline).


A medicine that can be used to treat allergies or hayfever. They sometimes have a side-effect of drowsiness.


Medicine used to treat psychosis

First generation antipsychotics:
Older antipsychotic including haloperidol, chlorpromazine and prochlorperazine. Sometimes called “Typical antipsychotics”.

Second generation antipsychotics:
Newer medicines to treat psychosis including olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, aripiprazole. Sometimes called “Atypical antipsychotics”.


Anxiety can make you feel worried, frightened, irritable and fidgety. It can also make you feel sick, give you a stomach-ache and make you want to go to the loo a lot. Everyone feels anxious sometime, but some people have anxiety difficulties, which means that they feel very worried  about things for a lot of the time. This is sometimes treated with medication (See Anti-anxiety).


Medicines used to treat anxiety including diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam. Sometimes antipsychotics or betablockers are also used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Approved Mental Health Professional

An approved mental health worker is a mental health worker who has received special training to provide help and give assistance to people who are being treated under the Mental Health Act. They can help to assess whether a person needs to be compulsorily detained (sectioned) as part of their treatment.


Individuals that are Autistic fall into a spectrum of which range from mild to severe.


Aspergers is an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which is characterised by problems with communication, interacting with others and imagination.

Atypical antipsychotic

Newer medicines used to treat psychosis – including olanzapine, quetiapine,  risperidone and aripiprazole. Sometimes called "second generation antipsychotics".


A development condition that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people and the world around them. Autism is seen a spectrum of conditions (See ASD).

Autoimmune disease

An illness where the body's immune system is fighting against the person's own body to cause sickness. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.


Very old group of medicines no longer used for mental health conditions. They are sometimes used in the treatment of epilepsy.

BD (bis die)

Twice a day (Latin). Every 12 hours if possible, so an example might be 8am and 8pm.

BDD: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

BDD is a condition where people have a distorted view of how they look which causes them a great deal of anxiety. For example they may think that a small, barely noticeable scar is much worse than it is and that everyone is staring at it. BDD can be treated with talking therapies and sometimes medication.

BED: Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is a Eating Disorder where people feel an overwhelming urge to overeat on a regular basis and often eat when they are not hungry or as a reaction to Depression or Anxiety. BEDcan be treated with talking therapies and sometimes medication.


The good effect that you can get from taking a medicine.


A group of medicines used to treat anxiety and sleep problems. Examples are diazepam and lorazepam.


Bereavement is a term that describes the feelings you have when someone dies. Bereavement can consist of a whole series of emotions and can be delayed or take a long time to get over fully.

Bipolar Disorder

Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) may swing from moods of deep depression to periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times. Bipolar Disorder is often treated using medication.

BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD is something known as a Personality Disorder. People with BPD may have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, such as feelings about themselves and others.

Branded medicine

A name that the company gives to its medicine. Not the actual medicine name. For example, Prozac® is one brand name for the medicine fluoxetine.

British National Formulary (BNF)

Reference book for health professionals about all medicines available in the UK.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is an Eating Disorder that is characterised by periods of overeating known as bingeing followed by the sufferer “purging” or getting rid of the food, e.g. making themselves sick. It can be difficult to tell if someone has Bulimia as sufferers often are often a healthy weight or overweight but it is a very dangerous condition and can be life threatening. Bulimia is treated with talking therapies, Antidepressants and sometimes a hospital stay.


These are services that are available in every local area to help children and young people who have mental health difficulties. These services can help their families too. Mental health specialists work in teams to make sure that each person gets all the help they need. You can be referred to CAMHS by your GP.


Medicines that you take by mouth. Often oval shaped to help you swallow them. They may contain gelatin.

Care Co-ordinator

A professional who makes sure that all the people involved in your care are working together. You should speak to your Care Coordinator if you are having any issues or questions about your treatment.

Care Plan

This is a plan agreed by you, your family and your doctor or the person working with you. It should look at what your needs are, and what is going to happen to meet those needs and help you


A Carer is someone who looks after a person who is ill, frail, disabled or mentally ill. This could be a family member or friend or you may have a carer who you employ to help you.


Cognitive Analytic Therapy. A 'talking therapy' which helps you to see how early relationships and experiences have affected how you see yourself, other people and how you behave. It usually takes about 16 weekly sessions and focuses on problems that are important for you.

CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT is a talking therapy involves working with people to help them change their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. It can be especially helpful for conditions like anxiety, depression and OCD and usually takes 6-12 sessions.


Pharmacist – health professionals working in community pharmacy shops and hospitals who are trained to give advice about medicines.


The term chronic means long term and may refer to a mental health condition, e.g. a chronic case of Depression.

Chronic Medication Service (Scotland)

A service offered by community pharmacists (chemists) in Scotland for NHS patients who have long term conditions requiring medicines. It includes a repeat prescription service and review of your medicines by the pharmacist.  

CMHT: Community Mental Health Team

A team of mental health professionals who work together, each with different skills, to provide care for those with mental health issues who are not in hospital.

Community Pharmacy Urgent Supply Service (CPUS) (Scotland)

A service for NHS patients in Scotland. The community pharmacist can supply a small amount of medicines for long term illnesses if the doctor is not available (for example at the weekend). A service for NHS patients in Scotland.


Comorbidity is a term used to describe one patient with more than one mental health condition. It can also describe a patient who has a physical illness and a mental health condition.


Any information you give to your doctor or the person looking after you should be kept private, unless there are concerns about your safety, and they should tell you if they are going to share your information with anyone else.

Controlled drug

A medicine which is covered by special rules and laws regarding its supply on prescription. These medicines are normally stored in a locked cupboard in the pharmacy or on the hospital ward. Examples include temazepan and methylphenidate.

Controlled release

A medicine which is absorbed by the body slowly when it is taken. An example is a controlled release tablet which is taken once every 24 hours (compared to the normal release tablet which is taken two or three times daily).


Counselling is a talking therapy that usually deals with a recent distressing event. It can last several weeks, or longer, depending on the individual’s needs and response to therapy.

CPA: Care Plan Approach

Health providers and social services work together to provide care and treatment to people with mental illness who are not in hospital.  It is made up of four parts – Assessment, Care Plan, Key Worker and Regular reviews.

CPN: Community Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses who work mostly outside of a hospital, through GPs’ surgeries, community mental health teams, mental health centres or psychiatric units


How an individual responds to a traumatic event or experience. A person experiencing a crisis may need counselling, support or a review of regular medication.

CTO: Community Treatment Order

An order given to a patient when they leave hospital to make sure that they continue treatment. This might involve agreeing to take your medication so you don’t get ill again.

CYPIAPT: Children & Young People Improving Access to Psychological Therapies

Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYPIAPT) programme aims to improve access to talking therapies in the NHS for young people under the age of 18 by providing more local services and therapists. For over 18s see IAPT.


Dialetical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a talking therapy for people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and helps you manage your emotions.


False beliefs that are firmly held, often despite evidence to the contrary. For example you might have a delusion that someone is trying to harm you or your family. Delusions are often a symptom of Psychosis and related conditions and can feel scary but are treatable.

Dependence (drug dependence)

Being dependent (on drugs or alcohol for example) means you don’t feel you can function without them. If you have a high level of dependence you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. See also: Addiction.


Depersonalisation is a  feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation, objects feel they have changed, and the world has become vague, dreamlike or less real

Depot injection

An injection of medicine which is given into the muscle of the arm, leg or buttock. It allows medicine to be released into the body very slowly over weeks or months. Usually depot injections of antipsychotics are given weekly, fortnightly or monthly.


A medicine or substance which can bring on a low mood. Alcohol can act as a depressant in some people.


Everyone feels sad sometimes but people with depression feel very sad for a long period of time and can see no way forward. Depression is often treated with a combination of talking therapies and medication including Anti-depressants.


A feeling of being separated or unfamiliar with your surroundings. Can feel like you are living in a film. Sometimes a feeling of being disconnected with people you know well and care about.


The label given by doctors to a particular set of signs and symptoms. Examples of diagnosis types in the area of mental health include depression, schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder.

Discontinuation symptoms

Uncomfortable effects that can happen if you stop a medicine quickly.


Dissociation is a term in psychology describing a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from reality. It may be a symptom of a condition such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

A condition where a person has two or more distinct identities or personality states (alters). DID is a very complex disorder which often has roots in childhood trauma such as abuse.


A chemical which is made by the brain. It affects mood, emotions and movement. People with Parkinson’s disease have too little dopamine in the brain. Levels of dopamine can be affected by some medicines for schizophrenia.


The number of tablets or capsules or spoonfuls that you have to take at one time, and how often you have to take it. An example may be ‘One tablet twice a day’.


An American book which lists mental health issues and their symptoms to help doctors make a diagnosis. The DSM is not used in the UK where we use the ICD-10 instead.

Dual Diagnosis

A term used to describe someone who has both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem such as alcoholism or drug addiction.

Early Intervention

It is important to get help for a mental health problem as soon as you can. Early Intervention is a way of picking up the early signs of a mental illness and getting treatment. For example Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIiP) Services.

Eating Disorder

The name given to conditions which involves unhealthy eating patterns, most often too little or too much food. Common Eating Disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder (BED).


A medical test which records the electrical activity of the heart. You might have an ECG if you are having chest pains  or an abnormal heart rate. It is a painless procedure that can be carried out by your GP or at a hospital.

eCPA: Electronic Care Plan Approach

A Care Plan that is stored online, see CPA.


ECT is a treatment for severe Depression. It involves a small electric current being passed through your brain. It is very rarely used on children and young people.


Stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. A diagnosis given for someone who has disordered patterns of eating but does not fit into the full symptom criteria for anorexia nervosa (LINK) or bulimia nervosa (LINK) EDNOS is the most commeon eating disorder diagnosis and includes binge eating disorder.


A medical test which records the electrical activity of the brain. It can be used to diagnose and manage a range of conditions including Epilepsy and Insomnia as well as brain injuries. An EEG is painless, takes 30-45 minutes and rarely causes any side effects.


A service which works with people after their first experience of psychosis. Services usually work with people aged 14-35 and provide a range of support and treatments which may include medication. See Anti-Psychotics.

Emergency supply

A method where a community pharmacist can give a small amount of prescription only medicine without a doctor’s prescription if the doctors surgery is closed. Usually only used at weekends or evenings for medicines that should be taken continuously. The pharmacist can only supply medicines that the patient has been prescribed before by their doctor.

First generation antipsychotic

Sometimes known as Typical Antipsychotic. The first group of antipsychotics to be available for patients. They have a different set of side effects to the newer Second Generation Antipsychotics.


A recurrence of a memory, feeling, or experience from the past, flashbacks can be the result of experiencing or witnessing something traumatic like a crime. They are a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and can be distressing to the person experiencing them.

Formal Patient

A formal patient is someone is not in hospital voluntarily but has been detained or “sectioned” under the Mental Health Act. See also: Informal patient.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder. A condition where you have anxiety symptoms on most days for many weeks.

Generic medicine

A medicine that is an exact copy of an original brand of a medicine. It works in the same way as the original but may be cheaper as the manufacturer does not have to pay for the cost of research of the new medicine.


General Practitioner. A doctor who works in a surgery in the local community. Can treat a wide range of illnesses. Will refer people to hospital doctors or outpatient clinics if the illness cannot be treated quickly in the community.


Substances that can cause temporary hallunications (LINK) when taken into the body (eg swallowed, injected or inhaled). Can include some drugs, medicines or herbs.

Home Treatment Team

Home treatment (sometimes called Crisis Resolution Services) is a way of helping people at home rather than in hospital when they are having a crisis or struggling with a severe mental health issue.

IAPT: Improving Access to Psychological Therapies

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme aims to improve access to talking therapies in the NHS by providing more local services and therapists. For young people under 18 see CYPIAPT.


International Classification of Diseases - World Health Organization (WHO) system for classifying physical and mental disorders of which ICD-10 is the most recent (1992). See also: DSM-V.


Intensive Care Unit. A ward in a hospital which provides intensive treatment or therapy such as a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit).

IM (intramuscular)

Some medicines and vaccines are given IM which means they are injected into the muscle by a nurse or doctor. Usually the top of the arm, side of the leg or the buttock area is used.

Informal Patient

A patient who has gone into hospital voluntarily and not detained under the Mental Health Act. See also: Formal patient, Sectioning.


Someone who stays in hospital to receive care and treatment. People who get treatment outside of hospital are known as Outpatients.


Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. Insomnia is often treated with medication.

IV (intravenous)

Some medicines are given IV. This means they are injected directly into a vein. IV medicines act very quickly so they are useful in emergency situations or in a hospital. Some drugs of misuse are also taken this way.


This is a named individual who is designated as your main contact and support worker within a service.

Licensed medicine

A medicine that has been approved by the health authority of a particular country for use to treat certain illnesses.

Lithium toxicity

Lithium is a medicine commonly prescribed to treat bipolar affective disorder. If the dose of lithium is too high the patient can get lithium toxicity. The person will experience side effects from the lithium such as nausea, tremor and kidney problems. The doctor will usually reduce the lithium dose or may stop lithium treatment. People who are prescribed lithium will have regular blood tests to look for early signs of lithium toxicity.


A form of medicine that allows it to be swallowed from a spoon instead of taken as a tablet or capsule.

Long-acting injection

An IM injection that is given weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The medicine is slowly released into the body to avoid the need for daily doses. Some antipsychotics are available as long-acting injections.

Major Depressive Disorder

A diagnosis that is sometimes also called “clinical depression” or simply “depression”.(LINK). It is applied when a person has symptoms of low mood consistently for at least two weeks.

Major tranquiliser

The old name for antipsychotics.


A name for the “high” stage experienced by people with bipolar disorder.

Manic Depression

The old name for Bipolar Disorder.


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. A type of antidepressant. This group of antidepressants can interact with some foods that contain tyramine. People that are prescribed them have to follow a careful diet.

mcg (microgram)

A measure of weight. Some medicines are prescribed in doses of micrograms.

Medicines Use Review (MUR) (England and Wales)

A free service offered by community pharmacists. The pharmacist will discuss your medicines with you in private. They will help you with any problems with your medicines, answer questions you may have and help you to get the best from your medicines. Any pharmacist can do this for you but there is a formal scheme for this in England and Wales.

Medium secure unit

Medium Secure Units, also known as MSUs, provide hospital care for people with complex mental health problems who may have become involved in the criminal justice system

Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act 1983 is the main Act of Parliament setting out the rights of people receiving mental health services. It allows the hospital to either compel you to be admitted to hospital or prevent you from leaving hospital. Health workers use the law when they believe that it will be a risk to you or to others if you are not in hospital.

mg (milligram)

A measure of weight. Some medicines are prescribed in doses of milligrams. There are 1000mg in one gram.

Minor tranquiliser

The old name for anxiety treatments.

ml (millilitre)

A measure of volume. Some liquid medicines are prescribed in millilitres. There are 1000 ml in one litre.

Mood Disorder

A range of conditions which disturb a person’s mood e.g. Depression.

Mood Stabiliser

A group of medicines used to treat bipolar affective disorder. They help to balance moods to avoid periods of mania or depression. They are usually taken long term (for several months or years).


This is the old name for the group of medicines called antipsychotics.


Neurosis is the term used to describe anxiety disorders, like anxiety, stress and phobias. A highly neurotic person may find that anxiety and fear becomes so strong that it takes over their life- it is then that the fear develops into a phobia.

New Medicines Service (NMS)

This is a service provided by community pharmacies which provides support for people with long-term conditions newly prescribed a medicine to help improve medicines adherence. It is initially focused on particular patient groups and conditions.


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. 


Not Otherwise Specified. Some people’s symptoms may fit part of but not all of the criteria for a mental health disorder, for example you may have some of the symptoms of Anorexia but not all of them and would be diagnosed with EDNOS.

Occupational Therapist

These are therapists who assist individuals to develop the skills they may need, to enable them to live independently. They are often based in hospitals, but some are based at Community Mental Health Centres.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical and mental health conditions using specific, purposeful activity to prevent disability and promote independence in all aspects of daily life


Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic (long-term) mental health condition that is usually associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. OCD is often treated with medication.

OD (once a day)

OD is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean once a day when they prescribe medicines.

Off label

When medicines are made the drug manufacturer applies for a license which means the medicine has been approved for a specific condition and group of people. ‘Off-label’ use means that the medicine is being used in a way that is different to that described in the licence. Doctors may have found that the medicine works very well for another condition, and the use may be supported by expert groups, but the drug manufacturer has not extended the licence.

OTC-Over the Counter

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are medicines you can buy without a prescription from a shop e.g. paracetamol.


If you get mental health treatment in the community you are known as an Outpatient. See also Inpatient.


An overdose is when a drug is taken in quantities that are larger than recommended, either on purpose or by accident. It can result in serious illness or death. IF YOU HAVE TAKEN AN OVERDOSE on purpose or by accident call 999 immediately.

Panic attack

A period of intense anxiety, with feelings of intense fear and alarm and usually physical symptoms such as palpitations (fast heart rate), shortness of breath, sweating, and trembling. Someone who is experiencing a panic attack may feel that they are dying. Sometimes called an anxiety attack.


Being paranoid means being suspicious without reason, and believing that others are trying to harm you in some way. Paranoia can be a symptom of several mental health conditions including Psychosis and Schizophrenia.

PC (with or after food)

PC is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean after a meal (from the latin word ‘post cibum’) when they prescribe medicines. Some medicines are affected by food and so should be taken at meal times. 

Personality Disorder

Personality disorders are a range of conditions that affect a person's thoughts, emotions and behaviour. They are usually not diagnosed under the age of 18 although young people may be given a diagnosis of “emerging personality disorder”. See also Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).


A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who is a medicines expert and focuses on safe and effective medication use. They can work in a high street pharmacy or in a hospital. See pharmacy.


The study of how medicines act on living organisms. This can lead to new drug discoveries, as well as a better understanding of the way in which the human body works.


Pharmacy is the science and technique of preparing and dispensing medicines. A place where pharmacy is practiced is called a pharmacy, a chemists or a dispensary.


A persistent fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous

PICU: Psychiatric Intensive Care

A specialist place in a hospital to provide intensive treatment to people with mental health problems for a short period of time. See also ICU: Intensive Care Unit.

PO (by mouth)

PO is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean by mouth (from the Latin word ‘per os’) when they prescribe medicines.

PR (per rectum)

PR is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean by rectum (from the Latin word ‘per rectum’) when they prescribe medicines.

Prepayment certificate

If you usually pay for your prescriptions in England and are prescribed more than three medicines a month, it will work out cheaper to get a prepayment certificate from the NHS. You can buy 3 or 12 month certificates.


An instruction written by a medical practitioner (usually a doctor) that authorises a patient to be issued with a medicine or treatment. Prescriptions are then taken to a pharmacy to get the medicines dispensed. 

PRN (pro re nata)

PRN is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean when required (from the latin word ‘pro re nata ’) when they prescribe medicines.


A medical doctor who is trained in and specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. You may be seen by a Psychiatrist at CAMHS or Adult Mental Health Services.


A psychologist is someone trained in psychology, which is defined as the study of mental processes and behaviour. Clinical psychologists have further training in recognising and treating mental health problems.You may be seen by a Psychologist at CAMHS or Adult Mental Health Services.


Psychosis is a condition that affects a person’s mind and causes changes to the way that they think, feel and behave.  A person who experiences psychosis may be unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination. Psychosis can be treated by Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIiP) Services and may include taking Anti-Psychotic medication.


Psychotherapists go deeper than counsellors. The aim is to help you to understand why you feel the way you do, and what lies behind your responses to other people and to things that happen to you. You may be seen by a Psychotherapist at CAMHS or Adult Mental Health Services.


Psychotherapy is a Talking Therapy that aims to help a person overcome a period of distress. A therapist will spend time helping the person to analyse his or her past experiences to understand what may be the cause of their current feelings of unhappiness and distress.

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A type of anxiety disorder caused after a traumatic event or experience. Someone with PTSD may struggle with flashbacks, nightmares and may avoid situations that remind them of the trauma.

Q [x]h

Q [x ]h is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean every x number of hours when they prescribe medicines. The x will be replaced by a number and this is how frequent they want the medicine to be used.

QDS or QID (4x a day)

QDS or QID is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean four times a day when they prescribe medicines.

QQH (every 4 hrs)

QQH is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean every four hours when they prescribe medicines.


A relapse occurs when a person is affected again by a condition that affected them in the past. This could be a medical condition such as Depression, Bipolar disorder or an addiction to a drug.


A period in which symptoms are absent or under control. The illness may be said to be "in remission".

Royal College of Psychiatrists>

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is the main professional organisation of psychiatrists in the United Kingdom. See psychiatrists.

SAD light

One of the treatments for SAD. This treatment consists of sitting in front of a special bright light for a session each day.

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

A type of Depression that occurs at certain times of the year (normally winter). SAD can be treated with talking therapies, medication or a SAD light.


A condition that includes psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions – where a person finds it hard to distinguish ‘reality’ from their own thoughts and imagination.

Second-generation antipsychotic

These are the newer types of antipsychotics, also called atypical antipsychotics. Examples include risperidone, quetiapine and aripiprazole.


Doctors can keep you in hospital for assessment or treatment of your mental health if they think you are a danger to yourself or others, and if you are too unwell to make decisions or understand that you need help. They do this by detaining you under a ‘section’ (paragraph) of the Mental Health Act 1983. Putting you under this section is called sectioning.

Secure unit

A locked hospital ward. They can be to protect young people who are placing themselves or others at risk of harm through a range of behaviours. The  unit is not used as punishment but to ensure the young people's safety.


Self-harm is a way that some people deal with very difficult feelings that build up inside them. People deal with these feelings in different ways. For instance cutting or burning themselves. 


Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Imbalances of serotonin are involved in Depression.

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is a group of symptoms that are associated with too much serotonin in the body. This can occur from a combination of medicines which increase serotonin e.g. antidepressants, or too much of a medicine which increases serotonin e.g. overdose.

Service user

Someone who uses or has used health and/or social care services because of illness or health problems. They may also be referred to as a client, patient or consumer.

Short-acting injection

Short-Acting injectable medicines work fast and are used by doctors when they need the medication to start working very quickly — like during a crisis episode or hospitalisation. They commonly include lorazepam (a benzodiazepine) and haloperidol (an antipsychotic)

Side effect

A symptom from using your medicine that can be uncomfortable. Different people get different side-effects.

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is used to describe all of the day-to-day things you can do which may make you sleep better e.g. having a good bedtime routine.

SNRI: Serotonin Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors

SNRIs are a type of antidepressant which works on two chemicals (serotonin and noradrenaline) in the brain. An example is venlafaxine

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder (also know as Social Phobia). If you have a social phobia, the thought of being seen in public or appearing at social events can make you feel very anxious and frightened. Like all Anxiety Disorders it can be treated with talking therapies and medication.

SSRI: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant which works on serotonin in the brain. Examples include fluoxetine, sertaline or citalopram. citalopram and fluoxetine.


If something has a negative association attached to it, this is called a stigma. Unfortunately mental illness is still surrounded by stigma despite many media campaigns to help this.


Stimulants can be used as legal substances, prescription medicines or illicit drugs. Stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamine and cocaine. On prescription amphetamines are used for the treatment of ADHD.


People usually feel stressed when they are under a lot of pressure, for example during exams. Feeling stressed can sometimes be a good thing but if people feel stressed a lot they may feel scared, anxious or depressed.

Suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a medical term for thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide.


This is a formulation of medicines in a lquid form.

Sustained release

Sustained release tablets release the active ingredient over an extended period of time, meaning more constant drug levels, fewer side effects and less frequent dosing.


This is a formulation of medicines which are taken by mouth.

Talking therapies

Therapies such as counselling, CBT, group therapies and psychotherapy in which change is achieved by talking to one or more other people in a controlled environment.

Tardive dyskinesia

This is a side effect of long term use of typical antipsychotics which results in abnormal movements.

TDS (3x a day)

TDS is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean three times a day when they prescribe medicines.

Therapeutic Community

Therapeutic community is a term applied to a participative, group-based approach to long-term Mental illness, Personality disorders (LINK) and Drug addiction. The approach is usually residential, with the clients and therapists living together.


Tics are rapid, repetitive, involuntary contractions of a group of muscles. They can be motor tics (body movement) or vocal (sounds). They may be a symptom of Anxiety or Tourettes.

TID (three times a day)

TDS is an abbreviation used by doctors to mean three times a day when they prescribe medicines.


Tourette’s syndrome is a condition affecting the brain and nervous system (a neurological condition) that is characterised by involuntary, random sounds and movements, known as tics.


Trichotillomania is a condition in which people pull their hair out. It may be hair on the head or hair in other places, such as the eyebrows or eyelashes and is related to Anxiety.


This is a type of antidepressant used to treat depressant. Examples includes lofepramine, imipramine and clomipramine.

Trigger and Trigger warning

In some publications a "trigger warning" may appear at the beginning of certain articles. These are to warn that the articles contain disturbing themes that may trigger traumatic memories for sufferers. People may view these as a means of protecting the mental health of their readers or simply common courtesy. Trigger warnings are also placed at the start of television programmes that contain upsetting images, or flashing lights that could start seizures in people with epilepsy.

Typical antipsychotics

Also known as first generation antipsychotics, these are the original or older type of antipsychotics.


When medicines are made the drug manufacturer applies for a license which means the medicine has been approved for a specific condition and group of people. Unlicensed medicines are ones that are do not have a license in the UK. They may be imported from another country where they are licensed, or specially made liquid formulations of a medicine. Unlicensed medicines are only prescribed after careful consideration of other options.


The World Health Organisation is a part of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health.

Withdrawal symptoms

Uncomfortable effects that can happen if you stop a medicine quickly.

‘Yellow Card’ system

A system for the public and health professionals to report side-effects from medicines.

Z drugs

This is a class of medicines that are used for insomnia, if people are having problems sleeping. They should only be used for a short time as they can lead to dependence, and should be used alongside sleep hygiene. Examples include zopiclone and zolpidem.

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