Common Terms Related To Health Psychology

Psychology Healthhyme Terms

Health psychology is a growth discipline at both undergraduate and postgraduate level; it is also an exciting, challenging and rewarding subject to study, with career opportunities developing within healthcare as well as within academic settings.

Also Read: Psychology Related Important Terms You Need To Know

Health is a word that most people will use, but without realizing that it may hold different meanings for different people, at different times in history, in different cultures, in different social classes, or even within the same family, depending, for example, on age.

Below is the list of some common terms related to Health Psychology:

1. Acceptance coping: accepting the reality of a situation and that it cannot easily be changed.

2. Acetylcholine: a white crystalline derivative of choline that is released at the ends of nerve fibres in the parasympathetic nervous system and is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses in the body.

3. Adrenal glands: endocrine glands, located above each kidney. Comprises the cortex, which secretes several steroid hormones, and the medulla, which secretes noradrenaline.

4. Adrenaline: a neurotransmitter and hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla that increases physiological activity in the body, including stimulation of heart action and an increase in blood pressure and metabolic rate. Also known as epinephrine.

5. Affective: to do with affect or mood and emotions.

6. Age-specific mortality: typically presented as the number of deaths per 100,000, per annum, according to certain age groups, for example comparing rates of death from cancer in 2001 between those aged 45–54 with those aged 55–64.

7. Agonist: a drug that simulates the effects of neurotransmitters, such as the serotonin agonist fluoxetine, which induces satiety (reduces hunger).

8. Alcoholics Anonymous: a worldwide self-help organisation for people with alcoholrelated problems. Based on the belief that alcoholism is a physical, psychological and spiritual illness and can be controlled by abstinence. The twelve steps provide a framework for achieving this.

9. Ambivalence: the simultaneous existence of both positive and negative evaluations of an attitude object, which could be both cognitive and emotional.

10. Angina: severe pain in the chest associated with a temporary insufficient supply of blood to the heart.

11. Antibodies: immunoglobulins produced in response to an antigen.

12. Antigen: unique protein found on the surface of a pathogen that enables the immune system to recognise that pathogen as a foreign substance and therefore produce antibodies to fight it. Vaccinations introduce specially prepared viruses or bacteria into a body, and these have antigens.

13. Antioxidant: oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol has been shown to be important in the development of fatty deposits in the arteries; antioxidants are chemical properties (polyphenols) of some substances (e.g. red wine) thought to inhibit the process of oxidation.

14. Anti-retroviral drugs: drugs that prevent the reproduction of a type of virus known as a retrovirus. Most well known in the treatment of the HIV.

15. Appraisals: interpretations of situations, events or behaviour that a person makes.

16. Arteriosclerosis: loss of elasticity and hardening of the arteries.

17. Atherosclerosis: formation of fatty plaque in the arteries.

18. Atheroma: fatty deposit in the intima (inner lining) of an artery.

19. Atopic dermatitis: a number of conditions, including eczema, involving an inflammatory response of the skin.

20. Atrial fibrillation: a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). It involves a very rapid heart rate, in which the atria (upper chambers of the heart) contract in a very rapid and disorganised manner and fail to pump blood effectively through the heart.

21. Attention: generally refers to the selection of some stimuli over others for internal processing.

22. Attributions: a person’s perceptions of what causes beliefs, feelings, behaviour and actions (based on attribution theory).

23. Aorta: the main trunk of the systemic arteries, carrying blood from the left side of the heart to the arteries of all limbs and organs except the lungs.

24. Autoimmune condition: a group of diseases, including type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, characterised by abnormal functioning of the immune system in which it produces antibodies against its own tissues – it treats ‘self’ as ‘non-self’.

25. Avoidant coping: a style of coping that involves emotional regulation by avoiding confrontation with a stressful situation. Analogous to emotion-focused coping.

26. Bad news (interview): conversation between health professional (usually a doctor) and patient in which they are told ‘bad news’, usually that their illness has a very poor prognosis and they may die.

27. Baroreceptors: sensory nerve endings that are stimulated by changes in pressure. Located in the walls of blood vessels such as the carotid sinus.

28. Basal ganglia: area of the brain responsible for complex motor coordination.

29. B cell: a form of lymphocyte involved in destruction of antigens. Memory B cells provide long-term immunity against previously encountered pathogens.

30. Behavioural immunogen: a behavioural practice considered to be health-protective, e.g. exercise.

31. Behavioural pathogen: a behavioural practice thought to be damaging to health, e.g. smoking.

32. Behaviourism: the belief that psychology is the study of observables and therefore that behaviour, not mental processes, is central.

33. Benefit finding: a process of finding beneficial outcomes as a consequence of what is normally seen as a negative event, such as developing cancer or being infected with the HIV.

34. Benign (tumour): tumour that cannot spread by invasion or metastasis. It does not carry the risk to health that a malignant tumour carries.

35. β-blocker medication: a form of medication that acts to slow down and strengthen the heart contractions. Acts on the adrenergic receptors within the heart muscle.

36. Bile: a digestive juice, made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Involved in the digestion of fats in the small intestine.

37. Biofeedback: technique of using monitoring devices to provide information regarding an autonomic bodily function, such as heart rate or blood pressure. Used in an attempt to gain some voluntary control over that function.

38. Biomedical model: a view that diseases and symptoms have an underlying physiological explanation.

39. Biopsy: the removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic examination and/or culture, usually to help to make a diagnosis.

40. Biopsychosocial: a view that diseases and symptoms can be explained by a combination of physical, social, cultural and psychological factors.

41. Blunters: a general coping style that involves minimising or avoiding the source of threat or stress, i.e. avoiding threat-relevant information (as opposed to monitors).

42. Body mass index: a measurement of the relative percentages of fat and muscle mass in the human body, in which weight in kilograms is divided by height in metres and the result used as an index of obesity.

43. Bone marrow biopsy: usually performed under local anaesthetic by making a small incision into the skin. A biopsy needle is then pushed through the bone and takes a sample of marrow from the centre of the bone. Marrow contains platelets, phagocytes and lymphocytes.

44. Cardiac arrest: situation in which the heart ceases to beat.

45. Cardiac event: generic term for a variety of end-points of coronary heart disease, including a myocardial infarction, angina and cardiac arrest.

46. Cardiovascular: pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.

47. Carotid artery: the main artery that takes blood from the heart via the neck to the brain.

48. Catastrophic thoughts: automatic thoughts that exaggerate the negative aspects of any situation.

49. Catastrophising: the act of constructing catastrophic thoughts.

50. Catecholamines: these chemical substances are brain neurotransmitters and include adrenaline and noradrenaline.

51. Causal attribution: where a person attributes the cause of an event, feeling or action to themselves, to others, to chance or to some other causal agent.

52. CD4+ cells: otherwise known as helper T cells, these are involved in the proliferation of cytotoxic T cells as part of the immune response. HIV infection impairs their ability to provide this function.

53. Cell suicide: a type of cell death in which the cell uses specialised cellular machinery to kill itself.

54. Central nervous system: that part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord.

55. Cervical smear: smear of cells taken from the cervix to examine for the presence of cell changes indicating risk of cancer.

56. Chronic bronchitis: an inflammation of the bronchi, the main air passages in the lungs, which persists for a long period or repeatedly recurs. Characterised by excessive bronchial mucus and a cough that produces sputum for three months or more in at least two consecutive years.

57. Chronic obstructive airways disease: a persistent airway obstruction associated with combinations of chronic bronchitis, small airways disease, asthma and emphysema.

58. Clot busters: drugs which dissolve clots associated with myocardial infarction and can prevent damage to the heart following such an event. Are best used within one hour of the infarction.

59. Cognitive dissonance: a state in which conflicting or inconsistent cognitions produce a state of tension or discomfort (dissonance). People are motivated to reduce the dissonance, often by rejecting one set of beliefs in favour of the other.

60. Cognitive restructuring: a reconsideration of automatic negative or catastrophic thoughts to make them more in line with reality.

61. Cognitive schema (schemata): set of unconscious beliefs about the world and ourselves that shape more conscious cognitive responses to events that impinge on us.

62. Cold pressor test: procedure in which participants place their arm in a mixture of water and ice maintaining the water temperature at between 0 and 3°C.

63. Collectivist: a cultural philosophy that emphasises the individual as part of a wider unit and places emphasis on actions motivated by collective, rather than individual, needs and wants.

64. Colonoscopy: a minor surgical procedure in which a small piece of bowel wall is cut from the colon. This can then be tested for the presence of malignant cells.

65. Colostomy: a surgical procedure that creates an opening (stoma) in the abdomen for the drainage of stool from the large intestine (colon). It may be temporary or permanent.

66. Colposcopy: a method used to identify cells that may develop into cancer of the cervix. Sometimes follows a cervical smear if abnormalities are found. A colposcope is a low-power microscope.

67. Comparative optimism: initially termed ‘unrealistic optimism’, this term refers to an individual’s estimate of their risk of experiencing a negative event compared with similar others.

68. Congestive heart failure: a disorder in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood efficiently. As a consequence, many organs do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, leading to the potential for them to become damaged and, therefore, not work effectively.

69. Coping effectiveness training: a specialist form of stress management in which participants are taught to alter the nature of their coping efforts to suit the particular type of demands they are facing: using emotion-focused coping where the situation cannot be changed and problem-focused coping where it can.

70. Coping self-efficacy: the belief that one can carry out a particular coping response in a given set of circumstances.

71. Coronary angioplasty: a procedure where a small balloon is inserted into the blocked coronary artery of a person with atheroma.

72. Coronary artery bypass graft: surgical procedure in which veins or arteries from elsewhere in the patient’s body are grafted from the aorta to the coronary arteries, bypassing blockages caused by atheroma in the cardiac arteries and improving the blood supply to the heart muscle.

73. Coronary heart disease: a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Results from a build-up of fatty material and plaque (atherosclerosis). Can result in angina or myocardial infarcation.

74. Corticosteroids: potent anti-inflammatory hormones (including cortisol) made naturally in the body or synthetically for use as drugs.

75. Cortisol: a stress hormone that increases the availability of energy stores and fats to fuel periods of high physiological activity. It also inhibits inflammation of damaged tissue.

76. Crohn’s disease: autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract but most commonly occurs in the ileum (the area where the small and large intestine meet).

77. Cross-sectional design: a study that collects data from a sample on one occasion only. Ideally, the sample should be selected to be representative of the population under study.

78. Decisional balance: where the costs of behaviour are weighed up against the benefits of that behaviour.

79. Defibrillator: a machine that uses an electric current to stop any irregular and dangerous activity of the heart’s muscles. It can be used when the heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) or when it is beating in a highly irregular (and ineffective) manner.

80. Denial response: taking a view that denies any negative implications of an event or stimulus. If subconscious, it is considered a defence mechanism.

81. Diabetes (type 1 and 2): a lifelong disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood and a failure to transfer this to organs that need it. It can be caused by too little insulin (type 1) resistance to insulin (type 2), or both.

82. Diastolic blood pressure: the minimum pressure of the blood on the walls of the arteries between heart beats (measured in relation to systolic blood pressure).

83. Distancing response: taking a detached view, often a scientific view, of an event or stimulus in order to reduce emotional activation.

84. Drug abuse: involves use of a drug that results in significant social or work-related problems.

85. Drug dependence: usually a progression from drug abuse. Involves dependence on the drug to achieve a desired psychological state, withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug, and social and work-related problems.

86. Dualism: the idea that the mind and body are separate entities (cf. Descartes).

87. Efficacy: Bandura’s technical term analogous to confidence.

88. Egocentric: self-centred, such as in the pre-operational stage (age 2–7) of children, when they see things only from their own perspective.

89. Emphysema: a late effect of chronic infection or irritation of the bronchial tubes. When the bronchi become irritated, some of the airways may be obstructed or the walls of the tiny air spaces may tear, trapping air in the lung beyond them. As a result, the lungs may become enlarged, at the same time becoming less efficient in exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide.

90. Empiricism: arising from a school of thought that all knowledge can be obtained through experience.

91. Endocrine glands: glands that produce and secrete hormones into the blood or lymph systems. Includes the pituitary and adrenal glands, and the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. These hormones may affect one organ or tissue, or the entire body.

92. Endorphins: naturally occurring opiate-like chemicals released in the brain and spinal cord. They reduce the experience of pain and can induce feelings of relaxation or pleasure. Associated with the so-called ‘runner’s high’.

93. Endoscopy: the use of a thin, lighted tube (called an endoscope) to examine the inside of the body.

94. Epidemiology: the study of patterns of disease in various populations and the association with other factors such as lifestyle factors. Key concepts include mortality, morbidity, prevalence, incidence, absolute risk and relative risk.

95. Type of question: Who gets this disease? How common is it?

96. Erythrocyte: a mature blood cell that contains haemoglobin to carry oxygen to the bodily tissues.

97. Exercise programme: a key element of most cardiac rehabilitation, including a progressive increase in exercise usually starting in a gym, sometimes developing into exercise in the home and beyond.

98. Exogenous: relating to things outside the body.

99. Exposure therapy: a form of therapy involving exposure to traumatic memories, based on the theoretical assumption that continued exposure will result in a gradual reduction in the level of fear associated with such memories.

100. Expressed emotion: the disclosure of emotional experiences as a means of reducing stress; often achieved by describing the experience in writing.

101. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing: a form of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder involving exposure to traumatic memories while repeatedly moving the eyes. Its method of working is not clear. However, the most popular theory is that when the eyes move back and forth this creates brain activity similar to that which occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This may help the brain to process the ‘stuck’ material, enabling the person to arrive at an adaptive resolution.

102. False positive result: a situation in which an individual is told that they may have a disease or are at risk of disease, but subsequent tests show that they are not at risk or do not have the disease.

103. Fine needle aspiration: entails placing a very thin needle into a mass within the breast and extracting cells for microscopic evaluation. It takes seconds, and the discomfort is comparable with that of a blood test.

104. Gallbladder: a structure on the underside of the liver on the right side of the abdomen. It stores the bile that is produced in the liver before it is secreted into the intestines. This helps the body to digest fats.

105. Gate control theory of pain: a theory of pain developed by Melzack and Wall in which a ‘gate’ is used as a metaphor for the chemicals, including endorphins, that mitigate the experience of pain.

106. General adaptation syndrome: a sequence of physiological responses to prolonged stress, from the alarm stage through the resistance stage to exhaustion.

107. Haemoglobin: the main substance of the red blood cell. When oxygenated in the lungs, it is converted to oxyhaemoglobin, thus allowing the red blood cells to carry oxygen from the air in our lungs to all parts of the body.

108. Health behaviour: behaviour performed by an individual, regardless of their health status, as a means of protecting, promoting or maintaining health, e.g. diet. health differential: a term used to denote differences in health status and life expectancy across different groups.

109. Health hardiness: the extent to which a person is committed to and involved in health relevant activities, perceives control over their health and responds to health stressors as challenges or opportunities for growth.

110. Health locus of control: the perception that one’s health is under personal control; controlled by powerful others such as health professionals; or under the control of external factors such as fate or luck.

111. Heart failure: a state in which the heart muscle is damaged or weakened and is unable to generate a cardiac output sufficient to meet the demands of the body.

112. High-density lipoprotein (HDL): lipoproteins are fat protein complexes in the blood that transport cholesterol, triglycerides and other lipids to various tissues. The main function of HDL appears to be to carry excess cholesterol to the liver for ‘re-packaging’ or excretion in the bile. Higher levels of HDL seem to be protective against CHD, so HDL is sometimes referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol.

113. Holistic: root word ‘wholeness’, holistic approaches are concerned with the whole being and its wellbeing, rather than addressing the purely physical or observable.

114. Hypertension: chronically high blood pressure (considered to be high if systolic pressure exceeds 160 and diastolic exceeds 120).

115. Hypoglycaemic episode: occurs when the body’s glucose level is too low. It frequently occurs when too much insulin or oral diabetic medication is taken, not enough food is eaten, or following exercise without appropriate food intake. Symptoms include excessive sweating, paleness, fainting and eventually loss of consciousness.

116. Hypothalamus: area of the brain that regulates appetite, sexual arousal and thirst. Also appears to have some control over emotions.

117. Illness behaviour: behaviour that characterises a person who is sick and who seeks a remedy, e.g. taking medication. Usually precedes formal diagnosis, when behaviour is described as sick role behaviour.

118. Illness cognition: the cognitive processes involved in a person’s perception or interpretation of symptoms or illness and how they represent it to themselves (or to others).

119. ILlness representations: beliefs about a particular illness and state of ill health – commonly ascribed to the five domains described by Leventhal: identity, timeline, cause, consequences and control/cure.

120. Incidence: the number of new cases of disease occurring during a defined time interval – not to be confused with prevalence, which refers to the number of established cases of a disease in a population at any one time.

121. Individual differences: aspects of an individual that distinguish them from other individuals or groups (e.g. age, personality).

122. Individualism: a cultural philosophy that places responsibility at the feet of the individual; thus behaviour is often driven by individual needs and wants rather than by community needs or wants.

123. Inflammatory bowel disease: a group of inflammatory conditions of the large intestine and, in some cases, the small intestine. The main forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

124. Irritable bowel syndrome: a disorder of the lower intestinal tract. Symptoms include pain combined with altered bowel habits resulting in diarrhoea, constipation or both. It has no obvious physiological abnormalities, so diagnosis is by the presence and pattern of symptoms.

125. Ischaemic heart disease: a heart disease caused by a restriction of blood flow to the heart.

126. Kaposi’s sarcoma: a malignant tumour of the connective tissue, often associated with AIDS. The tumours consist of bluish-red or purple lesions on the skin. They often appear first on the feet or ankles, thighs, arms, hands and face.

127. Lay referral system: an informal network of individuals (e.g. friends, family, colleagues) turned to for advice or information about symptoms and other health-related matters. Often but not solely used prior to seeking a formal medical opinion.

128. Life events: a term used to describe occurrences in a person’s life which may be viewed positively or negatively but which inherently require some adjustment on the part of the person (e.g. marriage, loss of job). Such events are implicated in the experience of stress.

129. Limbic system: a series of structures in the brain, often referred to as the ‘emotional computer’ because of its role in coordinating emotions. It links sensory information to emotionally relevant behaviour, in particular responses to fear and anger.

130. Locus of control: a personality trait thought to distinguish between those who attribute responsibility for events to themselves (i.e. internal LoC) or to external factors (external LoC).

131. Longitudinal (design): responses assessed in a study that have been taken on more than one occasion over time, either prospectively (future-oriented) or retrospectively (based on recall of past events). Prospective longitudinal studies are more powerful, and such methods are important to studies where assessment of change is important.

132. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): the main function of LDLs seems to be to carry cholesterol to various tissues throughout the body. LDLs are sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol because elevated levels of LDL correlate most directly with coronary heart disease.

133. Lower respiratory tract infection: infection of the parts of the respiratory system including the larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.

134. Lumpectomy: a surgical procedure in which only the tumour and a small area of surrounding tissue are removed. Contrasts with mastectomy, in which the whole breast is removed.

135. Lymphocyte: a type of white blood cell. Lymphocytes have a number of roles in the immune system, including the production of antibodies and other substances that fight infection and disease. Includes T and B cells.

136. Malignant melanoma: a rare but potentially lethal form of skin cancer.

137. Mammography: a low-dose X-ray procedure that creates an image of the breast. The X-ray image can be used to identify early stages of tumours.

138. Mechanistic: a reductionist approach that reduces behaviour to the level of the organ or physical function. Associated with the biomedical model.

139. Mediate/mediator: some variables may mediate the effects of others upon an outcome, for example, individual beliefs may mediate the effects of gender upon behaviour, thus gender effects would be said to be indirect, rather than direct, and beliefs would be mediator variables.

140. Melanoma: a form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Usually begins in a mole.

141. Meta-analysis: a review and re-analysis of pre-existing quantitative datasets that combines the analysis so as to provide large samples and high statistical power from which to draw reliable conclusions about specific effects.

142. Migraine: differs from other headaches because it involves symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. Their exact cause is not known. However, they appear to be related to problems with blood flow through parts of the brain. At the start of a migraine, blood vessels in certain areas of the brain constrict, leading to symptoms including visual disturbances, difficulty in speaking, weakness or numbness. Minutes to hours later, the blood vessels dilate, leading to increased blood flow in the brain and a severe headache.

143. Monitors: a generalised coping style that involves attending to the source of stress or threat and trying to deal with it directly, e.g. through information gathering/attending to threat-relevant information (as opposed to blunters).

144. Morbidity: costs associated with illness such as disability, injury.

145. Mortality: Generally presented as mortality statistics, i.e. the number of deaths in a given population and/or in a given year ascribed to a given condition (e.g. number of cancer deaths among women in 2000).

146. Motivation: memories, thoughts, experiences, needs and preferences that act together to influence (drive) the type, strength and persistence of our actions.

147. Motivational interview: developed by Miller and Rollnick, a set of procedures designed to increase motivation to change behaviour.

148. Multiple sclerosis: a disorder of the brain and spinal cord caused by progressive damage to the myelin sheath covering of nerve cells. This results in decreased nerve functioning, which can lead to a variety of symptoms, including weakness, paralysis, tremor, pain, tingling, numbness and decreased coordination.

149. Myelin sheath: a substance that contains both protein and fat (lipid) and surrounds all nerves outside the brain. It acts as a nerve insulator and helps in the transmission of nerve signals.

150. Myocardial infarction: death of the heart muscle due to a stoppage of the blood supply. More often known as a heart attack.

151. Natural killer (NK) cells: cells move in the blood and attack cancer cells and virusinfected body cells.

152. Negative affectivity: a dispositional tendency to experience persistent and pervasive negative or low mood and self concept (related to neuroticism).

153. Neophobia: a persistent and chronic fear of anything new (places, events, people, objects).

154. Neuroticism: a personality trait reflected in the tendency to be anxious, feel guilty and experience generally negative thought patterns.

155. Neurotransmitter: a chemical messenger (e.g. adrenaline, acetylcholine) used to communicate between neurons and other neurons and other types of cell.

156. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): replacement of nicotine to minimise withdrawal symptoms following the cessation of smoking. Delivered in a variety of ways, including a transdermal patch placed against the skin, which produces a measured dose of nicotine over time.

157. Noradrenaline: this catecholamine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and in the sympathetic nervous system. Also known as norepinephrine.

158. Objective: i.e. real, visible or systematically measurable (e.g. adrenaline levels). Generally pertains to something outside the body that can be seen by others (as opposed to subjective).

159. Operant conditioning: attributed to Skinner, this theory is based on the assumption that behaviour is directly influenced by its consequences (e.g. rewards, punishments, avoidance of negative outcomes).

160. Oral hypoglycaemic agents: various drug types, all of which reduce circulating blood sugar.

161. Outcome expectancies: the outcome that is expected to result from behaviour, e.g. exercise will make me fitter.

162. Pain threshold: the minimum amount of pain intensity that is required before it is detected (individual variation).

163. Pancreas: gland in which the islets of Langerhans produce insulin. Also produces and secretes digestive enzymes. Located behind the stomach.

164. Parasympathetic nervous system: arm of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for rest and recuperation.

165. Pathogen: a collective name for a variety of challenges to our health and immune system, including bacteria and viruses.

166. Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA): a technique through which small doses of analgesic drugs, usually opioids, are administered (usually by an intravenous drip and controlled by a pump) by patients themselves. It is mostly used for the control of post-operative pain.

167. Perceived behavioural control: one’s belief in personal control over a certain specific action or behaviour.

168. Phagocyte: an immune system cell that can surround and kill micro-organisms and remove dead cells. Phagocytes include macrophages.

169. Phantom limb pain: a phenomenon that occurs following amputation of a limb, in which the individual feels like they still have their limb, and the limb is in pain.

170. Placebo intervention: an intervention designed to simulate a psychological intervention but not believed to be a specific therapy for the target condition.

171. Platelets: tiny bits of protoplasm found in the blood that are essential for blood clotting. These cells bind together to form a clot and prevent bleeding at the site of injury.

172. Post-traumatic stress disorder: a disorder that forms a response to experiencing a traumatic event. The key elements are unwanted repetitive memories of the event, often in the form of flashbacks, attempts at avoidance of such memories, and a generally raised level of arousal.

173. Predisposing factors: factors that increase the likelihood of a person engaging in a particular behaviour, such as genetic influences on alcohol consumption.

174. Premature mortality: death before the age it is normally expected. Usually set at deaths under the age of 75.

175. Prevalence: the number of established cases of a disease in a population at any one time. Often described as a percentage of the overall population or cases per 100,000 people.

176. Primary prevention: intervention aimed at changing risk factors prior to disease development.

177. Problem-focused coping: a style of coping that involves active planning and dealing with any source of stress.

178. Problem-focused counselling: a counselling approach developed by Gerard Egan that attempts to foster a collaborative and structured approach between counsellor and client to solving life problems.

179. Procedural information: telling patients about the events that will occur before and after surgery, such as having a pre-medication injection, waking in the recovery room, and having a drip in their arm.

180. Prognosis: the predicted outcome of a disease.

181. Prosocial behaviour: behavioural acts that are positively valued by society and that may elicit positive social consequences, e.g. offering sympathy, helping others.

182. Psychological debriefing: a procedure in which people who have been through a particular trauma talk through the trauma in a structured way with a counsellor.

183. Psychosocial: an approach that seeks to merge a psychological (more micro- and individually oriented) approach with a social approach (macro-, more community and interaction-oriented), for example to health.

184. Qualitative methodologies: qualitative methods are concerned with describing (qualifying) the experience, beliefs and behaviour of a particular group of people. Data elicited is non-numerical, may or may not be generalisable to the wider population, but may generate themes of response that can be examined in further samples. The depth of material gained through qualitative work is great and allows insight into the meaning behind people’s responses. Methods may include openended interviews, focus group discussions, taped transactions and conversations. Samples are generally small given the time demands of data collection and analysis.

185. Quantitative methodologies: unlike qualitative methods, quantitative methods are concerned with counting (quantifying), i.e. data describes the frequency with which a set of beliefs are held or behaviour actioned and means of scores can be obtained and compared statistically. Larger and more representative samples can be obtained, as the method of data collection is predominantly paper-based questionnaires that are self-completed (or can be completed in the presence of a researcher). Criticised for reducing data to numerical categories at the expense of breadth of illustrative meaning.

186. Reinforcers: factors that reward or provide a positive response following a particular behaviour or set of behaviours (positive reinforcer); or enable the removal or avoidance of an undesired state or response (negative reinforcer).

187. Relapse prevention: a set of skills taught to people needing to achieve long-term behavioural change that prepare them to resist temptation and how to minimise the impact of any relapse should it occur. Often used with people taking addictive drugs.

188. Repression: a defensive coping style that serves to protect the person from negative memories or anxiety-producing thoughts by preventing their gaining access to consciousness.

189. Rheumatoid arthritis: a chronic autoimmune disease with inflammation of the joints and marked deformities. Something (possibly a virus) triggers an attack of the synovium in the joint by the immune system, which stimulates an inflammatory reaction that can lead to destruction of the joint.

190. Risk ratio: a way of comparing whether the probability of a certain event is the same for two groups. A risk ratio of 1 implies that the event is equally likely in both groups. A risk ratio greater than 1 implies that the event is more likely in the first group. A risk ratio of less than 1 implies that the event is less likely in the first group.

191. Salience: strength and importance.

192. Sciatica: pain down the leg, which is caused by irritation of the main nerve into the leg, the sciatic nerve. This pain tends to be caused where the nerves pass through and emerge from the lower bones of the spine (lumbar vertebrae).

193. Self-concept: those conscious thoughts and beliefs about yourself that allow you to feel are distinct from others and that you exist as a separate person.

194. Self-efficacy: the belief that one can perform particular behaviour in a given set of circumstances.

195. Self-regulation: the process by which individuals monitor and adjust their behaviour, thoughts and emotions in order to maintain a balance or a sense of normal function.

196. Self-talk: talking to oneself (internally). Can be negative and thus add to stress. Therapeutically, individuals are taught to use self-talk in a way that helps them to keep calm.

197. Sensitivity (of a test): the probability that a test is correctly positive or correctly negative; for example, a sensitive test may have 95 percent success in detecting a disease among patients known to have that disease, and 95 percent success in not detecting a disease among disease-free individuals.

198. Seropositive: the presence of the HIV in the bloodstream.

199. Sick role behaviour: the activities undertaken by a person diagnosed as sick in order to try to get well.

200. Social cognition: a model of social knowledge and behaviour that highlights the explanatory role of cognitive factors (e.g. beliefs and attitudes).

201. Social comparison: the process by which a person or group of people compare themselves (their behaviour or characteristics) with others.

202. Social desirability bias: the tendency to answer questions about oneself or one’s behaviour in a way that is thought likely to meet with social (or interviewer) approval.

203. Social identity: a person’s sense of who they are at a group, rather than personal and individual, level (e.g. you are a student, possibly a female).

204. Socialisation: the process by which a person learns – from family, teachers, peers – the rules, norms and moral codes of behaviour that are expected of them.

205. Social learning theory: a theory that has at its core the belief that a combination of outcome expectancy and outcome value will shape subsequent behaviour. Reinforcement is an important predictor of future behaviour.

206. Socio-economic status: a measure of the social class of an individual. Different measures use different indicators, including income, job type or years of education. Higher status implies a higher salary or higher job status.

207. Socratic dialogue: exploration of an individual’s beliefs, encouraging them to question their validity.

208. Specificity (of a test): the likelihood that a test will produce a few false positive results and a few false negatives; i.e. does not produce a positive result for a negative case, and vice versa.

209. Stages of change model: developed by Prochaska and di Clemente, this identifies five stages through which an individual passes when considering behavioural change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, change and maintenance/relapse.

210. Stem cell: a ‘generic’ cell that can make exact copies of itself indefinitely. In addition, such cells have the ability to produce specialised cells for various tissues in the body, including blood, heart muscle, brain and liver tissue. Found in the bone marrow.

211. Stem cell transplant: stem cells are given to the person after chemotherapy to help the bone marrow to recover and continue producing healthy blood cells.

212. Stress inoculation training: a form of stress-reducing intervention in which participants are taught to control stress by rehearsing prior to going into stressful situations. Participants are taught to relax and use calming self-talk. The approach was developed by Donald Meichenbaum.

213. Stress management training: a generic term for interventions designed to teach participants how to cope with stress.

214. Stress reactivity: the physiological arousal, such as increased heart rate or blood pressure, experienced during a potentially stressful encounter.

215. Stroke: involves damage to the brain as a result of either bleeding into the brain tissue or a blockage in an artery, which prevents oxygen and other nutrients reaching parts of the brain. More scientifically known as a cerebro-vascular accident (CVA).

216. Subjective: personal, i.e. what a person thinks and reports (e.g excitement) as opposed to what is objective. Subjective is generally related to internal interpretations of events rather than observable features.

217. Subjective expected utility (seu) theory: a decision-making model where an individual evaluates the expected utility (cf. desirability) of certain actions and their outcomes and selects the action with the highest seu.

218. Subjective norm: a person’s beliefs regarding whether important others (referents) would think that they should or should not carry out a particular action. An index of social pressure, weighted generally by the individual’s motivation to comply with the wishes of others (see theory of planned behaviour).

219. Sympathetic nervous system: the part of the autonomic nervous system involved in mobilising energy to activate and maintain arousal (e.g. increased heart rate).

220. Synapse: junction between two neurons or between a neuron and target organ. Nerve impulses cross a synapse through the action of neurotransmitters.

221. Systolic blood pressure: the maximum pressure of blood on the artery walls, which occurs at the end of the left ventricle output/contraction (measured in relation to diastolic blood pressure).

222. T cell: a cell that recognises antigens on the surface of a virus-infected cell, binds to that cell and destroys it.

223. Thalamus: area of the brain that links the basic functions of the hindbrain and midbrain with the higher centres of processing, the cerebral cortex. Regulates attention and contributes to memory functions. The portion that enters the limbic system is involved in the experience of emotions.

224. Theory: a general belief or beliefs about some aspect of the world we live in or those in it, which may or may not be supported by evidence. For example, women are worse drivers than men.

225. Transdermal patch: a method of delivering a drug in a slow release form. The drug is impregnated into a patch, which is stuck to the skin and gradually absorbed into the body.

226. Transient ischaemic attack: a short period of reduced blood flow to the brain, resulting in symptoms including short periods of confusion, weakness and other minor neurological symptoms.

227. Treadmill test: a test of cardiovascular fitness in which participants gradually increase the level of exercise on a treadmill while having their heart monitored with an electrocardiogram.

228. Trigeminal neuralgia: a painful inflammation of the trigeminal nerve that causes sharp and severe facial pain.

229. Type A behaviour (TAB): a constellation of characteristics, mannerisms and behaviour including competititiveness, time urgency, impatience, easily aroused hostility, rapid and vigorous speech patterns and expressive behaviour. Extensively studied in relation to the aetiology of coronary heart disease, where hostility seems central.

230. Type C personality: a cluster of personality characteristics manifested in stoic, passive and non-emotionally expressive coping responses. Thought to be associated with an elevated cancer risk.

231. Type D personality: a personality type characterised by high negative affectivity and social inhibition.

232. Ulcerative colitis: a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine, characterised by recurrent episodes of abdominal pain, fever and severe diarrhoea.

233. Ultrasound: the use of ultra high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and systems in the body.

234. Unrealistic optimism: also known as ‘optimistic bias’, whereby a person considers themselves as being less likely than comparable others to develop an illness or experience a negative event.

235. Variable: Something that can be measured or is reported and recorded as data, such as age, mood, smoking frequency or physical functioning.

236. Vasospasm: a situation in which the muscles of artery walls in the heart contract and relax rapidly, resulting in a reduction of the flow of blood through the artery.

237. Vicarious learning: learning from observation of others.

238. Volition: action or doing (the post-intentional stage highlighted in the HAPA model of health behaviour change).

239. Written emotional expression: a writing technique in which participants write about upsetting incidents either in their past or related to specific issues.

Download the PDF version – “Common Terms Related To Health Psychology“.

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