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Historical Document

This document is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.

Adrenal cortical response

a response of defeat or withdrawal (i.e., helplessness) that is biologically gased on cortisol secretion by the adrenal cortex.

Adrenal medullary response 

a first response to fight or flee when challenged by a threat (e.g., exposure to a hazardous substance) that is biologically based on the sympathetic.


process by which organisms retain chemical pollution in their tissues at levels that are higher than those found in the surrounding environment.

Cognitive appraisal

looking at and interpreting the nature of a situation (e.g., a threat).


feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.


a disorder of mood characterized by feelings of low self-esteem, hopelessness about the future, little activity and appetite, and sleep disturbance.


the process of removing a poison or toxin or the effect of either from an area or individual.


to lose legal capabilities or control, to lose authority.


the environmental record or account of an area.


a person who studies how often, in whom, and why a disease occurs in a population. An epidemiologist looks at the sum of the factors controlling the presence or absence of a disease and the possible causes (e.g., coming into contact with a hazardous substance).


adrenaline; a hormone that is released in response to stress or other stimuli (e.g., a reaction to a stressful situation, can raise blood pressure).

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Field research

a type of research during which social scientists record their observations of communities (e.g., communities being affected by possible exposures to hazardous substances).

Heterogeneous population

a group of people (e.g., in a community) who are different (e.g., in culture, socioeconomic level, age).

Holistic view

a way of looking at something that includes all of its parts at one time, looking at the whole or complete picture (e.g., how humans and the environment work together) or how medicine can treat both the mind and body at the same time.

Homogeneous population

a group of people (e.g., in a community) who are similar (e.g., culture, socioeconomic level, or age).

Interaction analysis research

a way of studying groups of people by looking at the members' reactions in categorized emotional and problem-solving responses.

Longitudinal study

a study that looks at changes (e.g., in a person or group of people) over a long period of time.

Marginalized community

a community that feels disenfranchised, or without legal right or other privileges; a susceptible or vulnerable community (e.g., created by establishing boundaries to indicate environmental contamination).


mercury poisoning. Preclinical signs of mercury poisoning resulting in tremor and emotional changes occur at urine mercury levels greater than 500 micrograms/Liter.

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a general state of vulnerability to stressful life experiences and to a syndrome brought on by difficult life circumstances. This type of distress is common among Latinos in the United States and Latin America, with similar concepts of "nerves" among Greeks in North America, nerva.

Neurobehavioral disorder

a response to an occurrence (e.g., exposure to a hazardous substance) that results symptoms of a neurological (e.g., a tremor) or behavioral (e.g., mental distress) nature.


poisonous substances that can have a negative effect on the nervous system.

Nonspecific health outcomes

negative physical responses to a situation or an exposure that do not seem to fit a defined pattern.


a hormone that is produced before epinephrine (adrenalin) and results in a similar reaction in the body. (See Epinephrine.)

Occupational stress

strain or tension associated with one's job. In the context of this report, the word refers specifically to strain or tension associated with working near or in a hazardous environment or with a hazard substance.

Physiological health effects

adverse effects to health resulting from psychological and social factors.


an episode of extreme excitement, which lasts up to 30 minutes and is often followed by convulsive seizures and coma lasting up to 12 hours among Alaskan Eskimos (26).

Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)

a pattern of symptoms (e.g., anxiety, tension, depression, nightmares) that follows a disaster (e.g., exposure to a hazardous substance).

Psychiatric epidemiologist

a person who studies how often, in whom, and why a mental disorder or disturbance occurs. A psychiatric epidemiologist looks at the sum of the factors controlling the presence or absence of a mental disorder or stress and the possible cause (e.g., coming into contact with a hazardous substance).


a field of psychology that looks at how an organism (e.g., a human) adapts to its environment through its physical makeup (e.g., the nervous system).


the way a group of people interacts mentally (e.g., social interaction).

Qualitative method

a means of studying factors that influence a response on the basis of attributes that are or aren't present

Quantitative method

a means of studying factors that influence a response that is measured on a numerical scale of equal intervals.

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Secondary control

an attempt to change one's self to suit the existing circumstances.

Secondary gain

a positive outcome or advantage that occurs as a result of an incident (e.g., illness results in attention, time off from work).

Secondary victims

workers or participants who enter a situation to offer help and who subsequently react with exhaustion or irritability.


a state of being responsive to an occurrence or substance.


the process of becoming easily hurt or affected by exposure to or the possibility of being exposed to a hazardous substance.


an effect that occurs after an illness or injury (e.g., depression, a constant state of nervousness).

Siting decision

to make the choice to locate a building, facility, or project in an area that can affect the environment in a number of ways.


having to do with the body.

Statistical significance

a difference found among groups after a comparative randomized investigation that is not likely to be caused by chance alone. The probability of it occurring by chance alone is often reported as P<0.05.


a state of physical or psychological strain or tension.


an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group having patterns of behavior that are specific to their group.

Subjective phenomenon

an occurrence that is seen through the eyes of the beholder.


an identifiable part of a larger population (e.g., health care workers, factory workers).


a folk illness that is attributed to a frightening event. This illness is found among some Latinos in the United States and among people in Mexico, Central America, and South America.


a group of symptoms that occur together and indicate a specific health problem.

Target Organs

A part of the internal body, for example, the nervous system, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems, that could be adversely affected by exposure to a hazardous substance and resulting stress.


an individual's awareness of an imminent, widespread change in their environment that poses a possible danger (e.g., a large chemical spill).

Trauma induction

the process by which a person begins to experience suffering from a highly stressful event.

Trauma reduction

the process by which an individual's suffering from a highly stressful event begins to lessen.

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