Key Terms

Helpful language tools and guidance for discussing mental health concerns with youth.
Part of the Well Beings Mental Health Language Guide.

ABLEIST LANGUAGE: Referring to words, phrases, and sentiments that are offensive
and/or exclusionary to people with disabilities
AGENDER: A person who does not identify as any gender.
ADJUSTMENT DISORDER: An emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or
change in a person’s life.
ANOREXIA: An eating disorder characterized by restriction of food intake
leading to low body weight, typically accompanied by intense
fear of gaining weight and disturbed perception of body weight
and image.
ANXIETY: Feeling uneasy, worried, and/or nervous about what is to come;
a reaction to stress.
ASYLUM: The protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their
native country as a political refugee.
AVOIDANT FOOD INTAKE DISORDER: An eating disorder in which people avoid eating or eat only a
very narrow range of foods.
BINGE EATING: The consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of
time, typically as part of an eating disorder.
BIPOC: Referring to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
BIRTH TRAUMA Shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
after childbirth.
BIPOLAR DISORDER A mental condition that causes atypical changes in mood, ability
to concentrate, level of activity, performing and day-to-day
BODY DYSMORPHIA A mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in
BODY IMAGE How one perceives and feels about their physical self, but it may
or may not bear any relation to how one actually appears.
BULIMIA: An eating disorder characterized by regular, often secretive
bouts of overeating followed by self-induced vomiting or
purging, strict dieting, or extreme exercise, associated with
persistent and excessive concern with body weight.
BULLYING: The act of harming, coercing, and/or intimidating a person who
appears vulnerable.
CISGENDER: A person whose gender assigned at birth matches their gender
COMPENSATORY BEHAVIORS: Eating disordered behaviors designed to counteract the effects
of eating in order to avoid weight gain or to alleviate guilt
associated with eating.
DEADNAME: To refer to a transgender person by their birth name, as opposed
to the name they chose in transition.
DEPRESSION: Feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest that hinder one from
participating in or enjoying typical activities.
EATING DISORDER: Any of a range of mental conditions in which there is a persistent
disturbance of eating behavior and impairment of physical or
mental health.
GENDER: A social construct that dictates the characteristics of those who
fall along the spectrum.
GENDER IDENTITY: The way in which a person expresses their gender. Can
correspond with a person’s sex at birth or differ from it
GENDERQUEER: Referring to a person who does not conform to binary gender;
non-binary (note: not a derogatory term).
HUMAN MIGRATION: The movement of people from one place to another with
intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new
HYPERVIGILANCE: A condition in which the nervous system is inaccurately filtering
sensory information and the individual is in an enhanced state of
sensory sensitivity.
INSECURITY: An anxiety-inducing feeling of uncertainty in oneself; lack of
LIVED EXPERIENCE: Personal knowledge of the world based on first-hand
participation in events rather than through other people’s
MENTAL HEALTH: The state of a person’s emotional and psychological well-being,
this includes one’s ability to cope with everyday stresses and
working productively.
MISGENDER: To refer to a transgender person in a manner that does not
coincide with their gender identity.
MICROAGGRESSION: A discriminatory comment or action that negatively impacts
a marginalized group of people, these can be intentional or
NON-BINARY: A person who identifies as neither male, nor female;
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD): Characterized by recurring thoughts and fears (obsessions)
that compel an individual to engage in repetitive actions
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER: A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after
experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDER: An irregularity of the mind that results in lasting behaviors that
seriously affect day-to-day functioning, also referred to as a
mental disorder.
REFUGEE: Someone who has been forced to flee their country because of
persecution, war or violence.
RESETTLEMENT: The process of moving people to a different place to live,
because they are no longer allowed to stay in the area where
they used to live.
SCHIZOPHRENIA: A lifelong condition that affects the individual’s ability to
interpret reality normally; effects may include delusions,
hallucinations, and disabling thinking and behaviors that may
impair daily functioning.
SEX: Physical distinguishers determined at birth, based on biological
STIGMA: Shame and/or dishonor placed upon a person based on their
SUICIDE: The act of taking one’s life.
SURVIVORS GUILT: A condition of persistent mental and emotional stress
experienced by someone who has survived an incident in which
others died.
TRIGGER: A sensory reminders (person, place or thing) that cause painful
memories and emotional truama to resurface.
TRANSGENDER: A person who identifies as a gender different from the one they
were assigned at birth.

WellBeings.org is a mental health resource, not a crisis or suicide response website. If you are in crisis, or experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. The service is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.