Mental Health and Addiction Acronyms to Know

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ADHD, PTSD, SSRIs—there’s a lot of acronyms in the mental health field, and while you might recognize one or two, it can be hard to keep track of what each one means. We’ve put together a cheat sheet for you and your teen to help you identify common acronyms.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder, characterized by difficulty paying attention, lack of control over actions, as well as overly active behavior. ADHD is typically diagnosed in childhood or the early teenage years.


Behavioral Health Services (BHS) provide treatment for individuals who have issues with alcohol abuse, drug abuse and mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder or depression.


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by impulsive behavior, erratic changes in emotions and unstable relationships. BPD usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that works to change unhelpful thinking and behavioral patterns in patients. Originally designed to treat depression, CBT is now used to treat a variety of mental illnesses.


Child and Youth (C&Y) is an umbrella term used to refer to any service for children and youth in order to differentiate it from services open to anyone regardless of age. You’ll often see it used in terms like C&Y worker, C&Y services, C&Y mental health provider or C&Y clinic.


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy designed to help people identify their strengths in order to reduce unsafe behavior patterns, such as self-harm, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts. A specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, DBT was originally intended for people with BPD but it is often effective for people with other mental illnesses as well.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a form of anxiety characterized by constant, exaggerated worry about everyday life events. People with GAD can’t stop worrying about things like health, money and friendships, and their anxiety can interfere with how they function in life.


Hospital-Based Inpatient Psychiatric Services (HBIPS) refers to psychiatric services that are accessible to those staying overnight at a hospital. The services include social workers, therapists or doctors who assist patients in the psychiatric ward.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that can develop after someone experiences a traumatic event like abuse, assault or the threat of death. Symptoms may include anxiety, disturbing thoughts and attempts to avoid anything that they may associate with the traumatic event.


Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI) is a term used to describe mental illnesses with complicated symptoms. These issues entail ongoing health management and treatment. Some examples include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a group of medications used to treat depression by blocking a receptor in the brain that reabsorbs serotonin. Common types of SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil.

These acronyms might come up in conversation with friends or doctors, but you or your teen might not remember the exact meaning. Next time you’re stuck, use this cheat sheet for a quick reference.

Feature Image: Aaron Burden