Workplace Stress

Glossary of Frequently Used Terms

Below are some terms you may come across while exploring information about mental health and substance use.

  • Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes such as increased blood pressure, sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.

  • Depression is characterized by persistent sadness, irritability or feelings of worthlessness and can interfere with everyday life.

  • Discrimination is prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or of an individual due to their perceived category, such as race, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Often, this is caused by bias, stigma, or prejudice.

  • Emotional Distress is mental suffering as an emotional response to a particular memory of a particular event, occurrence, pattern of events or condition. Common signs or symptoms of emotional distress include anxiety, depression, loss of ability to perform tasks, or physical illness.

  • Empathy is the ability to sense another person’s emotions with the ability to imagine what another person might be going through, thinking, or feeling.

  • Judgment-free workplaces are ones that accept (and even encourage) workers to ask for help if they are struggling with mental health issues and make it clear they will not suffer negative job consequences for doing so.

  • Mental health (or mental well-being) includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.

  • Mental Health Challenge is any type of challenge someone may face that can affect their mental and emotional health and well-being. Mental health challenges can disrupt the life of the person experiencing the challenge, as well as the lives of others around them. This may include mental illness, but is used more broadly to encompass mental distress, mental suffering, or a mental disorder. It has no clinical meaning.

  • Mental health distress includes emotions like stress, grief, or feeling sad or anxious, but the feelings are temporary and not part of a diagnosable condition. The terms “mental health distress” and “mental illness” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While nearly everyone experiences mental health distress at some point in their lifetime, most people will not experience a diagnosable mental illness.

  • Mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental health disorders – health conditions involving significant changes in thinking, emotion, and/or behavior, and problems functioning in social, work, or family activities. Some examples include depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders.

  • Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

  • Recovery-friendly workplaces provide a supportive environment for people recovering from substance use disorder.

  • Remission is when an individual’s symptoms decrease or return to their normal state after an active phase of a disorder.

  • Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.

  • Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health, well-being, and happiness, especially during times of stress. Self-care can take many forms, such as relaxation training, meditation, exercise, and maintaining a regular sleep routine.

  • Stigma is a negative and often unfair social attitude attached to a person or group, often placing shame on them for perceived negative attributes such as mental illness.

  • Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and a failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

  • A trigger is an external event or circumstance that causes uncomfortable emotions or psychiatric symptoms. See page 47 of NAMI’s Toolkit titled “The Ultimate Workplace Mental Health Toolkit.”

  • Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that occurs when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health, illness, and injury.