Abusive Cycle - This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.

Adult Children - An adult child is a term commonly used to describe any grown adult who was exposed to emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.

Aggression- See Raging.

Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.

"Always" and "Never" Statements - "Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.

Amygdala - The Amygdala is a small region of the brain which plays a key role in emotional regulation, emotional memory and responses to emotional stimuli.

Amygdala Hijacking - An “amygdala hijacking” is a term first used by Daniel Goleman to describe immediate and intense emotional reactions which are out of proportion to the triggering event, and which take over the cognitive areas of the brain; feelings are ramped up while thinking is slowed. In the case of CPTSD the amygdala becomes over-reactive and hyper sensitive due to ongoing trauma. Thus, when someone with CPTSD perceives danger or a threat, the amygdala triggers more quickly and intensely than other people and resulting in what is referred to as an Emotional Flashback.

Angering - Angering is a one of four “processes of grieving” (angering, crying, verbal ventilation and feeling) in recovery from CPTSD described by Pete Walker in his book “CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” (2013, pp. 222 to 225).  It involves expression of one’s deeply held feelings of hurt, anger and even rage over the abuse or neglect at the hands of the perpetrator. It is important to point out that angering is not directed at the person who inflicted the trauma, but against the internalized version which in CPTSD commonly takes the form of a virulent and vicious Inner Critic. 

Attachment Needs - The term “attachment” refers to a lasting, emotional/psychological bond that is forged between people. Attachment needs are particularly important in infancy when children form a bond with primary caregivers and develop a sense of safety, security and self-esteem. Adults with CPTSD who grow up in an abusive or neglectful household do not have these needs met and, as a result, struggle with forming and maintaining healthy, intimate relationships in adulthood. According to Pete Walker (2013) in his book “CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” emotional neglect (unmet attachment needs) is the core wound in CPTSD.

Autophobia - Self-Loathing.


Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing - This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Borderline Personality Disorder - Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – Individuals with CPTSD are often misdiagnosed with BPD. The cluster of symptoms associated with BPD includes: transient dissociation; a feeling of chronic emptiness; intense anger; identity disturbance; impulsivity; self-harming behaviours; and, affective instability. While these overlap with both PTSD and Complex PTSD in the DSM-V, BPD is considered distinct from both based on two additional diagnostic criteria: terror of abandonment or rejection, and alternating idealization and devaluation of others. Further, while the etiology of both PTSD and CPTSD relates solely to trauma, the development of BPD is multi-factored in nature, often stemming from severe attachment insecurity and disorganization, and as a personality disorder extends beyond both PTSD and CPTSD. Reference: Ford, J. D. & Courtois, C. (2014). Complex PTSD, affect dysregulation, and borderline personality disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation , 1(9). Retrieved from http://www.bpded.com/content/1/1/9.

Boundaries - Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.

Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Bupropion - a type of antidepressant medication. Common brand names for Bupropion include Wellbutrin or Zyban.


Catastrophizing - The habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Celexa -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Click Here for more info on SSRI's.

Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Childhood Abuse and Neglect – Childhood abuse and neglect refers to emotional/sexual abuse/physical abuse perpetrated when a person is a child or teen. Underlying all forms of childhood abuse and neglect is emotional abuse and ultimately emotional abandonment of children. That is, children do not receive the love, support, guidance and safety they need from parents/caregivers during their developmental years and essentially are left emotionally to fend for themselves. When childhood abuse and neglect is repeated or ongoing it can lead to developmental arrests and CPTSD that carries into adulthood.

Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.

Clean Up Rule - The Clean Up Rule says that everybody gets to clean up their own messes. It is a principal that encourages us to take responsibility for dealing with our own messes and leave other people to clean up theirs.

Codependency - A Codependency is a relationship in which an otherwise mentally-healthy person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected by an addiction or mental illness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of therapy based on the belief that thoughts - not outside circumstances - control our feelings and behaviors and that our feelings and behaviors are consequently under our own control. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured form of therapy based on the belief that thoughts - not outside circumstances - control our feelings and behaviors and that our feelings and behaviors are consequently under our own control.

Cognitive Dissonance - A psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values.

Cognitive Healing – Cognitive healing is a term used by Pete Walker (2013, pp. 24-28) to describe recovery work in which the CPTSD sufferer uses various cognitive strategies to replace negative thoughts patterns with more positive, self-compassionate and realistic thinking.

Comorbidity - Comorbidity is a psychological term used to describe the occurrence of more than one diagnosis in a single patient. Comorbidity is common in the diagnosis of psychological disorders.

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) – This therapeutic approach focuses on helping clients to develop their arrested/depressed social safetysystem by adopting a nurturing, positive and caring relationship with the self and counteract the blaming, condemning inner critic with a healthier, more compassionate inner voice. Much like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, CFT strives to stimulate different areas of the brain than are normally used by clients who exhibit shame-based, and highly self-critical thinking (as is the case in CPTSD). For additional information search Paul Gilbert and CFT.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) - Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, disempowerment, captivity or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim. CPTSD is also referred to as “Complex Trauma,” “Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS)” or “Developmental Trauma” in the case of children. (For more indepth information search Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, Pete Walker, and/or Christine Courtois.)

Compulsive Lying - Compulsive Lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences to others and without having an obvious motive to lie. A compulsive liar is someone who habitually lies.

Confirmation Bias - The tendency to pay more attention to things which reinforce your beliefs than to things which contradict them.

"Control-Me" Syndrome - This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.

Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands and converts protein into energy. When a person feels unsafe or threatened in some manner, the amygdala signals the endocrine system which releases cortisol and causes an increased heart rate and a rise in blood pressure arises in preparation for a defensive response such as fight or fright. In people with CPTSD, chronic stress can cause high levels of cortisol to be released.

Cymbalta -an SNRI antidepressant medication. Click Here for more info on SNRI's


DEAR - Describe, Express (what you want), Assert (the benefit) and Reinforce (the benefit). - The DEAR acronym was developed by pioneering BPD Researcher Dr. Marsha Linehan as an effective way to ask for something you want.

Denial - Denial is the practice of believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Denial of Autonomy - Denial of autonomy is when a person is denied the right to make decisions for themselves.

Denial of Subjectivity - Denial of subjectivity describes a condition where a person is treated as if there is no need to show concern for their feelings.

Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Depersonalization – This is one of a number of symptoms of CPTSD and is a form of dissociation in which a person feels as though they are not real, that they are disconnected from themselves, and are somewhat distant or detached from what is happening to them. This maladaptive strategy is used to when CPTSD sufferers face overwhelming trauma they cannot escape from (as in childhood abuse).

Depression - People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

Derealization This is one of a number of symptoms of CPTSD and is a form of dissociation in which a person feels as though the world around them is not real, that they are in a dreamlike state and detached from their feelings . This maladaptive strategy is used when CPTSD sufferers face overwhelming trauma they cannot escape from (as in childhood abuse).

Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - The American Psychiatric Association's published criteria for mental disorders. The 5th Revision DSM-V was released in 2013.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) - Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a psychosocial treatment developed for patients with borderline personality disorder which combines intensive individual and group therapy.  DBT is a cognitive-behavioural treatment which is helpful for people who struggle with difficulties in managing their emotions. DBT normally involves weekly individual and group therapy sessions that focus on learning skills in managing attention (mindfulness skills), managing and coping with emotions (emotion regulation skills), dealing effectively with interpersonal relations, and tolerating emotional distress.

Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS) – DESNOS is an earlier, alternative term used to describe the cluster of symptoms associated with CPTSD (included in the DSM-IV under Associated Features of PTSD).  ( See Luxenberg, T.,  Spinazzola, J. &  van der Kolk, B.  (2001). Complex Trauma and Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS) Diagnosis, Part One: Assessment. )

Dissociation- Dissociation- Dissociation is a central feature of Complex PTSD in which one or more parts of the person’s psyche becomes fixated on avoiding and/or defending the self from the painful emotions of re-experiencing trauma (defense action systems), while other parts manage the tasks required of daily living (daily living action systems).  According to van der Hart and his colleagues (2005), there are three levels of dissociation (primary - PTSD; secondary - CPTSD; and,  tertiary - Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID) which span a continuum in terms of a person’s sense of continuity of self and relate to the degree to which trauma interrupts integration of the psyche’s daily life and defence action systems.  Reference:  van der Hart. O., Nijenhuis, E. & Steele, K.  (2005). Dissociation: An insufficiently recognized major feature of Complex PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(5). 

Dissociation: Left Brain, Right Brain – Left brain dissociation involves keeping constantly busy to distract oneself the “obsessive-compulsive flight” type of defense), while right brain dissociation involves the “freeze” type ofdefence in which the person distances or numbs themself (watching TV, daydreaming, sleeping a lot, using drugs, overeating).  Walker, P. (2013). CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. US: Azure Coyote Books, pp. 114-118.

Dopamine - dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Dysfunctional - Unhealthy, characterized by abuse or conflict, as in a dysfunctional family or dysfunctional relationship.

Dysthymia- Dysthymia is a psychological term for prolonged depression, generally lasting 2 or more years.


Earned Secure Attachment - Earned secure attachment refers to adults who suffered childhood trauma and did not learn how to develop secure attachments to others (e.g., spouse, children, friends). By reflecting on the past (e.g., in therapy) and constructing a clear narrative of the past - events, perpetrators, feelings – the trauma is integrated into the self thereby allowing the adult to develop “earned secure attachments” with others. For additional information search the work of Mary Main.

Effexor -an SNRI antidepressant medication. Click Here for more info on SNRI's.

EMDR - EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychological technique sometimes used in the treatment of post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR is based on Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) which proposes that psychological distress is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs the client’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner. This treatment approach targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, and focuses on decreasing or eliminating distress from the disturbing memory. EMDR has been used in the treatment of PTSD to deal with a specific incidence of trauma, as opposed to the ongoing nature of trauma common to CPTSD.  It is recommended, therefore, that sufferers of CPTSD check that a therapist has training and experience with CPTSD before undergoing EMDR treatment.

Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG) Emotional abuse of children which is ongoing can lead to developmental arrests (i.e., cognitive, emotional, psychological and/or social) and result in CPTSD. Emotional abuse can include: ignoring  the child’s physical/psychological needs; rejection/abandonment of the child in terms of emotional care and support; isolating the child from others; exploitation – making the child engage in inappropriate or illegal behaviors; verbal assault – shaming , belittling, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child; terrorizing – threatening or bullying the child;  and, neglect -  including neglect of the child’s emotional, physical, educational and/or medical needs. Emotional abuse may be thought of as an assault on the child’s psyche just as physical abuse is an assault on the child’s body (Reference: Besharov, D. (1990). Recognizing Child Abuse: A Guide for the Concerned. New York: The Free Press.)

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Emotional Flashbacks – Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states (e.g., anger, shame, fear) that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations. For example, a person who grew up with a parent who was angry and abusive may react with sudden intense fear to a minor conflict at work and not understand what is happening or why because often people with CPTSD do not connect these feelings to past trauma.  Emotional flashbacks are contrasted by the visual flashbacks experienced withPTSD where sufferer sees the traumatic event replayed in their mind’s eye. For additional information please see Pete Walker’s article on (EF’s) here - http://www.pete-walker.com/pdf/emotionalFlashbackManagement.pdf

Emotional Intelligence - Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate one's own emotions and to demonstrate empathy and social skill in dealing with the emotions of others.

Enabler - A person who habitually attempts to placate another by sacrificing their own or other family members needs in a misguided attempt to keep the peace.

Enabling - Enabling is a pattern of behavior, often adopted by abuse victims, which seeks to avoid confrontation and conflict by absorbing the abuse without challenging it or setting boundaries. The perpetrator of the abuse is thus "enabled" to continue their pattern of behavior.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

Enmeshment - See Engulfment


False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Family of Choice (FOC) – The family a person choses to be with.

Family of Origin (FOO) – The family that a person was born or raised in.

Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Fawn Response - See also the Four F’s. “Fawn types seek safety by merging with the wishes, needs and demands of others. They act as if they unconsciously believe that the price of admission to any relationship is the forfeiture of all their needs, rights, preferences and boundaries. They often begin life like the precocious children described in Alice Miler's The Drama of the Gifted Child, who learn that a modicum of safety and attachment can be gained by becoming the helpful and compliant servants of their parents. They are usually the children of at least one narcissistic parent who uses contempt to press them into service, scaring and shaming them out of developing a healthy sense of self: an egoic locus of self-protection, self-care and self-compassion.” Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Fear, Obligation & Guilt - The acronym FOG, for Fear, Obligation and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail and describes feelings that a person often has when in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder. Our sister site, Out of the FOG, is named after this acronym.

Fear of Abandonment - An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.

Feelings of Emptiness - An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.

Fight Response – See also the Four F’s. “Fight types are unconsciously driven by the belief that power and control can create safety, assuage abandonment and secure love. Children who are spoiled and given insufficient limits (a uniquely painful type of abandonment) and children who are allowed to imitate the bullying of a narcissistic parent may develop a fixated fight response to being triggered. These types learn to respond to their feelings of abandonment with anger and subsequently use contempt, a toxic amalgam of narcissistic rage and disgust, to intimidate and shame others into mirroring them and into acting as extensions of themselves…. Unlike the other 4Fs, fight types assess themselves as perfect and project the inner critic's perfectionistic processes onto others, guaranteeing themselves an endless supply of justifications to rage. Fight types need to see how their condescending, moral-high-ground position alienates others and perpetuates their present time abandonment.” Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

FlashbacksEmotional and Visual - Emotional flashbacks (EFs) are one of the most common symptoms of CPTSD and involve mild to intense feeling states (e.g., anger, shame, fear) that were felt in past trauma, and are layered over present day situations. For example, a person who grew up with a parent who was angry and abusive may react with sudden intense fear to a minor conflict at work and not understand what is happening or why because often people with CPTSD do not connect these feelings to past trauma.  Emotional flashbacks are contrasted by the visual flashbacks experienced in PTSD where the sufferer sees the traumatic event replayed in their mind’s eye. 

Flight Response - See also the Four F’s.  “... .obsessively and compulsively driven by the unconscious belief that perfection will make them safe and loveable. ……They relentlessly flee the inner pain of their abandonment and lack of attachment with the symbolic flight of constant busyness. When the obsessive/compulsive flight type is not doing, she is worrying and planning about doing. Flight types are prone to becoming addicted to their own adrenalization, and many recklessly and regularly pursue risky and dangerous activities to keep their adrenalin-high going. These types are also as susceptible to stimulating substance addictions, as they are to their favorite process addictions: workaholism and busyholism. Severely traumatized flight types may devolve into severe anxiety and panic disorders.”Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Freeze Response – See also the Four F’s.  “ Many freeze types unconsciously believe that people and danger are synonymous, and that safety lies in solitude…. The freeze response, also known as the camouflage response, often triggers the individual into hiding, isolating and eschewing human contact as much as possible....  It is usually the most profoundly abandoned child - "the lost child" - who is forced to "choose" and habituate to the freeze response (the most primitive of the 4Fs). Unable to successfully employ fight, flight or fawn responses, the freeze type's defenses develop around classical dissociation, which allows him to disconnect from experiencing his abandonment pain, and protects him from risky social interactions - any of which might trigger feelings of being reabandoned. Freeze types often present as ADD; they seek refuge and comfort in prolonged bouts of sleep, daydreaming, wishing and right brain-dominant activities like TV, computer and video games. They master the art of changing the internal channel whenever inner experience becomes uncomfortable. When they are especially traumatized or triggered, they may exhibit a schizoid-like detachment from ordinary reality.” Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.

Four F’s (Four Basic Responses to Trauma in CPTSD) - Walker (2013) outlines four basic defenses that most people use in life, but which in CPTSD become fixated and maladaptive due to ongoing trauma.   These include the Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn and a number of hybrid types. When the Fight response is healthy an individual will have solid boundaries and the ability to be assertive when need be, whereas in CPTSD the person will become overly reactive and aggressive towards others.  With a healthy Flight response, the individual is able to recognize when a situation or person is dangerous and withdraw or disengage whereas those with CPTSD will tend to isolate themselves socially to avoid threat. A healthy use of the Freeze response ensures that a person who is in a situation where further action will exacerbate things, stops and reassesses.  And finally a fawn response ensures that the individual listens and compromises with others, while someone with CPTSD will adopt a people pleasing approach to others. Reference: Walker, P. (n/d). The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD.


Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Golden Child - TBA

Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.


Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Highly Sensitive Person - TBA

Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Hyperarousal – Hyperarousal is a main symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and refers to: having a difficult time falling or staying asleep; feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger; having difficulty concentrating; feeling constantly on guard or like danger is lurking around every corner; being jumpy or easily startled.  Those with CPTSD may also suffer from this symptom of PTSD.

Hypervigilance - Hypervigilance refers to a tendency to constantly scan the environment for threats. Threats can vary from signs of being excluded socially to impending physical attack. Sufferers are hyperaware of their surroundings in a way that makes them feel tense, anxious, and constantly on guard. Hypervigilance in CPTSD survivors starts out as a coping strategy, a normal reaction to an abnormal, highly traumatic situation, but over the long term it becomes a maladaptive coping strategy. That is, as an adult the sufferer now has ways of escaping from or dealing real threats, but continues to act as though danger is ever-present.


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

Ideation - Ideation is a psychological term meaning thoughts and ideas. Most commonly used in the context of Suicidal Ideation.

Identity Disturbance - A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Inertness - An Assumption of Inertness describes when a person is treated as if they lack the capacity to act for themselves.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Inner Critic – TBA – Shrinking, Defueling

Instrumentality - Instrumentality is when a person is treated like a tool for another person's own purposes.

Intermittent Reinforcement - Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.

Internalized Parents - TBA

Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) - Intimate Partner Violence is any kind of physicalemotional or verbal abuse perpetrated by one domestic partner on another.


JADE - Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. To avoid circular conversations, don't Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain.

Journaling - Journaling is a technique of writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind on a topic without taking a break, stopping to think or slowing down to correct spelling & punctuation.



Lack of Conscience - Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

Lack of Object Constancy - An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Learned Helplessness- Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe that they have no control over a situation, even when they do.

Lexapro -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Click Here for more info on SSRI's

Lies, Liars, Lying – There are several distinct kinds of Lying including White Lying, Selfish Lying, Compulsive Lying, Dissociative Lying and Pathological Lying. Click Here for More Information about Lies, Liars & Lying.

Limited Contact – Curtailing most forms of non-essential correspondence, communication and personal contact with a disordered loved one or family member for one’s own protection.

Lightbulb Moment - A Lightbulb Moment is the description many non-personality-disordered individuals use when they first discover the existence of personality disorders. For the first time, they have discovered a plausible explanation for the strange and frightening behaviors of a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder and learn that their situation is not uncommon. It is as if a light were just turned on.

Lost Child - TBA

Low Self-Esteem - A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.


Magical Thinking - Looking for supernatural connections between external events and one’s own thoughts, words and actions.

Manipulation - The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Minimization - TBA

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)- a psychological test commonly performed in custody evaluations to evaluate the psychological characteristics of the divorcing parents.

Mirroring - Imitating or copying another person's characteristics, behaviors or traits.

Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.


Name-Calling - Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.

Narcissist - A person who behaves with a pattern of selfishness, grandiosity, need for admiration, self-focus and a lack of empathy or consideration toward others. The name comes from the Greek Mythological Character Narcissus, who rejected love from others and fell in love with his own reflection in the water.

Neglect - A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

Neuroplasticity of the Brain - TBA

No Contact (NC) - Going "No Contact" means cutting off all forms of correspondence, communication and personal contact with a person who suffers from a personality disorder in order to protect yourself from recurring abuse.

Norepinephrine- norepinephrine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Normalizing - Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.

"Not My Fault" Syndrome - The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one's own words and actions.

No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options


Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Out of the FOG - our sister site - dedicated to providing information and support for those with a family member or loved one who suffers from a personality disorder.

Out of the Storm - this site - dedicated to providing information and support to those who suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Outer Critic - TBA


Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Parentification - A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior - Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

Pathology – A Pathology is a psychological term for an abnormal or unhealthy mental condition.

Pathological – Pathological is a psychological term meaning "abnormal" or "unhealthy".

Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Paxil -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Perfectionism Attacks – TBA

Personal Safety - Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen. It contains ideas on when to stop the conversation, when to leave the room and when to call the police.

Physical Abuse - Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.

Placebo Effect - The Placebo Effect is when a medical patient is given a "placebo" or fake medicine - one in which there is no ingredient known to have any effect on their stated medical condition, but the patient, believing that the medicine is real, starts to feel better or reports an improvement in their symptoms.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Prozac - an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Pseudo-Cyclothymia – TBA

Psychoeducation - TBA

Psychological Evaluation - A Psychological Evaluation is a procedure, typically carried out as part of a court proceeding, in which a mental health professional is appointed by the court to determine a diagnosis or label for a person's psychology, behavior or personality and to make recommendations which a judge can take into account when making a ruling.

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Put Children First - Put Children First means making decisions based on "what is in the best interests of the children", regardless of the consequences for the parents and any other parties involved.

PUVAS - Pay attention, Understand, Validate, Assert, Shift/Share responsibility - The PUVAS Acronym was created by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger in the book: "Stop Walking on Eggshells" as a method of responding to rages or outbursts.



Relational Intelligence - TBA

Relational Therapy - The primary goal of this therapeutic approach is to empower the client with the skills necessary to recognize and create productive and healthy relationships. The therapist strives to address any and all past and present relationship traumas or impressions that have served to create discord in the present life circumstances of the client.

Reparenting – TBA


Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

SCID-II - Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II Personality Disorders - a standardized instrument for diagnoses of the 10 DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders, plus Depressive Personality Disorder, Passive-aggressive Personality Disorder, and "Personality Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified".

Selective Competence - Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia - The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Selective Mutism - TBA

Self-Aggrandizement - A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.

Self-Care – Self-Care is anything you do to reduce stress and take care of your physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual health and well-being. Those with CPTSD expend a lot of time and energy dealing with internal chaos and real/perceived external dangers. This is energy that they do not have to truly take care of themselves in a healthy, nurturing and life affirming fashion. One major aspect of recovery from CPTSD involves (re)learning how to care for the self (e.g., physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually, socially, financially).

Self-Fathering - TBA

Self-Harm - Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing - An extreme hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.

Self-Mothering - TBA

Self-Protection – TBA

Self-Regulation - Self-Regulation is the ability to modify our thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Self-regulation skills let us become aware of our emotions and our responses to people and situations, and they let us change those as needed. They enable us to control our impulses long enough so we can consider the possible consequences of our actions or come up with alternative actions that would be more appropriate. One main symptom of CPTSD, however, is managing emotions, thoughts and impulses in unhealthy and even self-destructive ways (e.g., addiction can be seen as an individual’s maladaptive way of soothing chaotic emotions and thoughts).  Treatment and recovery involves (re)learning self-regulation skills such as: the appropriate expression of feelings; using healthy strategies to calm, soothe and nurture the self; and, undertaking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to change one’s thinking). .

Self-Victimization - Casting oneself in the role of a victim.

Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Serotonin - Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased levels of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - has been found to reduce depression. This is the basis for most modern antidepressant medications.

Sexual Abuse - TBA

Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID) - Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID) is a common occurrence in disputed child custody cases in which one parent makes false or exaggerated claims about sexual abuse of a minor child at the hands of the other parent.

Sexual Objectification - Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.

Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Silent Treatment - A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

Situational Ethics - A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.

Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.

Smear Campaign - A series of false accusations.

Social Anxiety (SA) – A mild to intense feeling of discomfort or fear and concern about being judged negatively, evaluated, or looked down on by others. It can happen during the actual situation or in anticipation of an event which is referred to as anticipatory social anxiety).   At the moderate to severe level SAD can interfere with daily living, work, friendships and intimate relationships, and cause sufferers to isolate themselves.  SAD is distinguished from Introversion by the lack of choice sufferers feel; that is, introverts choose not to be very social whereas SAD sufferers avoid social situations because of fear, discomfort and concern. SA is a common symptom of CPTSD.

Somatic Therapy – TBA

Somatic Healing – TBA

Spiritual Healing - TBA

SSRI - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for people who suffer from personality disorders. Popular SSRI's include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, & Zoloft.

Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Stinkin' Thinkin' - The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking - Stinkin' Thinkin', also known as 'Stinking Thinking or Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking', is a popular list of common negative thought patterns from The Feeling Good Handbook, by David D. Burns, M.D.

Stockholm Syndrome - Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage, kidnap victim or abuse victim develops a sense of loyalty or co-operation towards their captor or abuser, disregarding the abuse or the danger and protecting or sustaining the perpetrator.

Stunted Emotional Growth - A difficulty, reluctance or inability to learn from mistakes, work on self-improvement or develop more effective coping strategies.

Suicidal Ideation - Suicidal thoughts.


Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm - Any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.

Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought-Correction - TBA

Thought Policing - Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person's thoughts or feelings.

Thought-Stopping – TBA

Thought-Substitution - TBA

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Time Out - A Time-Out is a decision to temporarily disengage from an argument, conversation, interpersonal situation or conflict.

Titration - TBA

Top 100 Traits - The Top 100 Traits is a list of behaviors you might encounter when you are living in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder. Each section includes examples, descriptions of what it feels like and good and bad ideas for coping with difficult or challenging behaviors.

Toxic Shame – TBA

Trauma Type – Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn – TBA

Trauma-Based Co-Dependency - TBA

Triangulation - Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.

Triggering -Small, insignificant or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response.  Internal, external triggers - TBA

Tunnel Vision - The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.


Unconditional Love - TBA


Validation - Validation is the process of actively listening to a person as they describe their feelings, echoing back their stated emotions and responding that their feelings are their own property, are legitimate and have value.

Verbal Abuse - Any kind of repeated pattern of inappropriate, derogatory or threatening speech directed at one individual by another.

Verbal Ventilation – TBA

Visual Flashbacks - TBA

Violability - Violability describes a situation where a person is treated as if it is ok to hurt, or destroy them.


Wellbutrin - a Bupropion type of antidepressant medication.




Zoloft -an SSRI antidepressant medication. SSRI's are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Zyban - a Bupropion type of antidepressant medication.

ZZZ - Snoring - what you should be doing if you read this entire glossary.