Terminology Associated With Psychotherapeutic Agents

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Before discussing the various psychotherapeutic agents, some terms and their definitions will be presented. These terms will be used later in the discussion of the psychotherapeutic agents.

a. Fear. Fear is a feeling of apprehension caused by a real object in the environment. For example, a person who is unexpectedly confronted with a rattlesnake would probably display fear of the snake. If you closely observed such a surprised person, you would see such signs as increased blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, and increased heart rate. These physiological responses are mediated by the sympathetic nervous system.

b. Anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension that has no specific object. Most people have experienced the feeling of anxiety that occurs during test-taking time. Anxiety has both positive and negative components. On the positive side, anxiety motivates you to study for the exam rather than to go to the movies. On the negative side, anxiety can interfere with performance on the examination (that is, "black outs" during a pencil and paper test). Interestingly enough, a person who is frightened (that is, with a snake) or is anxious (as with a test) will display the same body signs such as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased respiratory rate.

c. Antianxiety Agent. An antianxiety agent is a drug that is used to calm a patient. Although the drug reduces the subjective feeling of anxiety, it will have no effect on the cause of the anxiety.

d. Depression. Depression is a disturbance of mood manifested by decreased self-esteem, decreased vitality, and increased sadness.

e. Antidepressant. An antidepressant is a drug that will, after a period, cause an improvement in a depressed patient's mood.

f. Antipsychotic Agent. An antipsychotic agent is a drug that will reduce specific symptoms (that is, hallucinations, delusions) in patients experiencing a psychosis.

g. Tranquilizer. The term tranquilizer refers to a wide-variety of drugs that produce a calming change in patient attitude and behavior. At one time, these drugs were categorized into two major categories: the major tranquilizers and the minor tranquilizers. The major tranquilizers are now generally referred to as antipsychotic agents and the minor tranquilizers are referred to as antianxiety agents.

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