Emotional Well-being: A to Z of Word Meanings

You can search for anything linked to emotional well‑being in our handy A-Z guide.




Abuse is when someone hurts another persons’ feelings or body, makes them feel fear, think badly of themselves, shames them, controls them, or makes them watch or hear violent or frightening things. Abuse is not OK.

There are several different types of abuse including:

Emotional abuse (saying and doing things to deliberately hurt a person)

Physical abuse (hurting a persons’ body)

Sexual abuse (including rape, unwanted touching, and grooming) Grooming is when people “play others” to make them more likely to what they want – e.g. sexual acts.

Neglect (such as leaving a young person without food, clothing, or being able to feel safe).

Abuse can happen online, in person, by strangers or in different types of relationships (this is sometimes called domestic abuse).  Sometimes people do this saying it’s for cultural reasons but it is still not OK.

When something difficult or abuse has happened a long time ago sometimes people say just try to forget it. This is not right and not OK.

Someone who has been affected by abuse, or who is worried something is going to happen, may have difficult feelings and find themselves behaving out of character, or being anxious, stressed or depressed. If this happens, whether the issue is about something that’s happening now or something that happened year ago, it can be really helpful to talk to someone.

If you want to find out more about the different types of abuse you can visit Childline

If you want to find out more about domestic abuse you can visit The Hideout and This is Abuse (abuse in relationships)

If you want to talk to someone about abuse that people say happens for cultural reasons including forced marriage, female genital mutilation or other “honour” based violence you can visit Karma Nirvana

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa, like all eating disorders, can affect anyone. A person with Anorexia may try and limit the amount of food they eat, and they may do heaps of exercise to try and lose as much weight as possible. Eating disorders are often about getting back some control, or coping in difficult situations. Sometimes the person might believe themselves to be fat or overweight even though they are not and they find it hard to believe people who tell them otherwise.

Often people find it hard to “identify” themselves as someone with an eating disorder. Some people keep their thoughts and behaviours secret, or only talk to people who encourage them to lose more and more weight – this can be dangerous.

People can feel scared to talk about what is happening because they are afraid people will take that control away – however

  • Getting help to fix a problem or learn healthier ways to cope makes a real difference.
  • People can and do recover from eating disorders.
  • Put yourself in control by asking for information. Knowledge is power. See what choices you have and what things might be out there to help you. You don't have to say yes to anything.

To find out more about anorexia nervosa please visit The Mix, Headmeds, or B-Eat

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Anxiety Is a feeling of fear, panic or nervousness about small or big things in life. People feel anxious about all sorts of situations like money, relationships, fitting in, looking a certain way, going to a job interview or being asked to something that they don't want to do, and some people feel anxiety even when they can't say exactly what is scaring them. Everyone feels anxious at some point and sometimes it’s a good thing!

Anxiety can make it difficult to concentrate or sleep and make people nervous about things that they would otherwise be up for or excited about.

Because our bodies give us an energy rush (fight or flight) when we are scared, people can have physical symptoms like upset stomach, racing heart, sweaty palms, fast breathing or feeling sick. In some cases the anxiety can turn into a panic attack.

When someone has strong anxiety about a particular thing we call this a phobia.

If someone feels anxious all the time, or if it starts to make their day-to-day life harder, or stops them doing things they want to do, it’s really important they talk to someone. Talking, and talking therapies, especially Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can really help.

Visit Headmeds for videos, interviews and information on anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and OCD (obsessive, compulsive disorder)

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a common condition which, put simply, means some of the brains “apps” aren't working as expected. The brain reacts to things in the world and manages things in the body differently to someone who does not have ADHD. Though the cause of ADHD is not known, the symptoms (the things that can happen to people with ADHD) are:

Someone with ADHD can feel super-energised and may find it hard to

  • concentrate
  • stay on track
  • follow instructions
  • listen without interrupting
  • sit still
  • wait a turn
  • behave as they are expected to
  • sleep

They may also

  • Do and say things without much thought
  • get frustrated and angry
  • get distracted easily
  • make noises
  • fidget
  • distract others
  • feel anxious

Sometimes, in school or at home, these behaviours can get them into trouble.

Sometimes it can be hard for them to stay calm and keep themselves safe.

Often people take medication, or have other treatment to help them.

Many young people struggle with some of these things, but if someone has these problems often or it's getting them into trouble, causing them problems, worries or affecting their relationships they can get help.

To find out more about ADHD you can visit Young Minds or Headmeds

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Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD is not a mental health problem – it is a developmental disorder and can be a disability. When we talk about a spectrum disorder we mean that there are some things that affect people with that disorder, but that they affect people in different ways. Most people with autistic spectrum disorder experience difficulties or challenges in:

  • communication
  • socialising
  • behaviour

How someone experiences this will depend on the type of ASD they have, e.g. a person with classic autism may experience real problems trying to communicate with people and find and understand or use words for what they are feeling. A person with “high functioning autism” may have lots of words for how they feel and the ability to say them but really struggle with reading the body language of the person they are talking to. Everyone with autism is an individual. Sometimes, because of the way people react to individuals with autism, they can become stressed, depressed, anxious or isolated. It’s really important to ask for help if you feel any of these issues are having a negative impact on you.

People with ADHD can have other mental health problems that are nothing to do with their ADHD. Its important someone doesn’t just put up with difficult feelings or worrying symptoms just because they are diagnosed with ADHD

For more info on autistic spectrum disorders click to Childline, Young Minds, or Youtube

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If you still have unanswered questions, you can go to a service in your area for information & advice:

Choose your area from the list below