Medical terms explained


Medication used to prevent blood clots.


Medication used mainly to treat epilepsy.


Medication used to treat depression and some anxiety problems. Antidepressants work by increasing the activity and levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help to lift a person's mood.

Antipsychotic medication

Medication used mainly to treat psychosis (the main symptoms of which are hallucinations and delusions).


Meeting with a health or social care professional to discuss your mental and physical health, family background and everyday life, to find out what the problem is, how severe it is and the most suitable treatments.


Medication used to treat sleep problems, agitation, seizures and muscle spasms. Examples include chlordiazepoxide, diazepam and lorazepam

Botulinum toxin

A substance used mainly to treat conditions such as muscle spasms, and for some cosmetic procedures.


A system of reading used by blind and partially sighted people. The fingers are used to feel letters and numbers as groups of raised dots.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT for short)

A psychological therapy that is based on the idea that the way we feel is affected by our thoughts and beliefs and by how we behave. Negative thoughts can lead to negative behaviour (such as avoiding doing things), which can affect how we feel. CBT encourages people to engage in activities and to write down their thoughts and problems. It helps them to identify and counteract negative thoughts.

CBT-based supported self-help

A treatment in which a person works through a book, often called a self-help manual.


A common mental health problem, the main symptoms of which are losing pleasure in things that were once enjoyable and losing interest in everyday activities and other people.

Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy

A surgical procedure that involves cutting some of the nerves beneath the armpit.

Mindfulness-based interventions

Psychological therapies that help people to become aware of negative thoughts and reduce the tendency to react to them. The aim is to encourage people to feel differently about their negative thoughts rather than to change the content of their thoughts.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitor

A type of antidepressant. Examples include phenelzine and moclobemide. NICE has recommended phenelzine for off-label use in some circumstances. Please see the NICE guidance on social anxiety disorder (available from for details.

Psychological therapy

A treatment that involves meeting with a therapist to talk about feelings and thoughts and how these affect behaviour and wellbeing.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

A type of antidepressant sometimes used to treat anxiety. Examples include escitalopram, fluvoxamine, paroxetine and sertraline. NICE has recommended fluvoxamine for off-label use in some circumstances. Please see the NICE guidance on social anxiety disorder (available from for details.


An expression of personal distress involving people physically harming themselves. Common methods of self-harm include cutting oneself or taking too many tablets or recreational drugs.

Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy

A psychological therapy that is called 'dynamic' because it focuses on the different forces (or dynamics) in a person's life that may be causing them difficulties. The aim is to examine, understand and work through the dynamics and difficulties, which may have begun in childhood. It should include information and discussion about social anxiety, a focus on any relationships that might be linked to the person's social anxiety and exploring any feelings of shame. The therapist should encourage the person to confront any social situations they are anxious about and help them improve their social skills.

Side effects

Unwanted symptoms caused by a medication or other treatment.

St John's wort

A plant extract that can be bought from health-food shops, herbalists and pharmacies.

Supportive therapy

A type of psychological therapy in which the therapist supports the person to feel comfortable in discussing their personal experiences and to understand problems in their relationships.


An antidepressant sometimes used instead of an SSRI.

  • Information Standard