Glossary & Definition of Terms

Affective AggressionTop↑

As defined by Meloy, affective aggression is a reaction to a real or perceived threat and causes a heightened sense of arousal in the individual. This is sometimes referred to as a "fight or flight" response to danger.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or APD)

The American Psychiatric Association defines Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or APD) as "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood."

Civil Commitment

Civil Commitment is when a person who is ill is confined against his will. Before a state can deprive someone of their rights they must have proper procedural protections, or due process. In non-emergencies the patient is entitled to a full hearing before they can be confined.


The mental ability to understand problems and make decisions. In the medical setting the patient must have the physical and mental capacity to make informed treatment decisions. The degree of capacity required depends upon the nature of the condition and the risks of the proposed treatment.

Competency to Stand TrialTop↑

According to the Dusky Standard, Competency means the defendant “has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him.”


A guardian or protector, usually to manage the financial affairs or estate of someone unable to do so.

Criminal Responsibility

In order for an act to be criminal, there must be both a guilty act and guilty intent. Guilty intent implies that the perpetrator has the capacity to distinguish moral or legal right from moral or legal wrong or recognize their act as wrong, which may not be the case in the presence of mental illness.


A delusion is a false belief about an external reality that is based on incorrect assumption or inference. This belief is absolute, despite obvious evidence and proof to the contrary. Grandeur, desirability and persecution are common delusions.

Diminished CapacityTop↑

Diminished Capacity can be raised where an individual suffers from a mental illness or cognitive deficit that does not meet the requirements of the insanity defense, but nevertheless provides a basis for not holding the person fully responsible for the behavior. South Carolina does not allow diminished capacity but allows Mitigation in sentencing.


Guardianship is when an agent is appointed to make legal or treatment decisions for someone considered incompetent (the Ward.)

Guilty but Mentally Ill (GBMI)

An individual found GBMI is acknowledged to have been mentally ill at the time of the act, but lacked sufficient capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. GBMI may be offered as an alternative to NGRI.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is the process through which the physician obtains permission from the patient or a substitute decision-maker to provide treatment to the patient.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI)Top↑

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity is based on the fact that "some acts are carried out by those who are not moral agents due to their mental state." Those acquitted due to insanity may be held as long as they are mentally ill or dangerous, but no longer.


The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. Dr. Hare's psycho-diagnostic tool commonly used to assess psychopathy.


Privilege is the right to have information revealed to the psychiatrist or psychotherapist held in confidence and not revealed against his will except in certain circumstances.

Standard of Care

Standard of Care refers to the degree to care which a reasonably prudent person should exercise under the same or similar circumstances and is applicable to the law of negligence (a failure to exercise that standard of care.)


This information is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site
should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a doctor/client relationship.

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