How to Talk About Psychology in Spanish
Psychology in Spanish-speaking countries has become more popular as the years go by. With some notable exceptions, Latin America’s field of psychology in Spanish isn’t as big as it is in other countries, but learning about psychology in Spanish is still an important skill that will benefit everyone who reads about it whether or not they’re psychologists themselves.
In my experience during supervised clinical practice as a university student I’ve found that being fluent in Spanish has its advantages during therapy sessions.
With 43 million native Spanish speakers living in the United States, anyone who practices psychology in any of its different fields will benefit from learning about psychology in Spanish. If you’re not in the field of psychology, learning about psychology in Spanish will give you information that will be useful in a variety of situations such as business meetings, smart conversations, and general vocabulary knowledge.
Let’s explore some of the common conditions and disorders, types of therapy, and common theories that conceptualize the human mind in different and exciting ways!
Psychological Conditions and Disorders
La Depresión – Depression
La depresión is one of the most common diagnoses that therapists see in modern times. It’s so common that we often see it portrayed in media in the form of memes, movies, songs, and many other forms of entertainment. This mood disorder is characterized by negative emotions such as anger or sadness that persist during long periods of time and negatively impact an individual’s daily life. Let’s look at some words related to this term:
La tristeza — Sadness
El enojo — Anger
La irritabilidad — Irritability
La desesperanza — Hopelessness
La pérdida de interés — Loss of interest
El Trastorno Bipolar – Bipolar Disorder
The study of bipolar disorders is complex and easily misunderstood, even by professionals. Some erroneously believe sufferers of un trastorno bipolar quickly switch from being extremely happy to extremely sad, but this isn’t the case.
In fact, el trastorno bipolar describes a person who suffers from both manic and depressive states over long periods of time.
A manic person is locked in a state of constant, disproportionate euphoria. This might manifest as not sleeping for five days straight, then going to a piano store, and buying 3 pianos on impulse because of how great they feel. That’s how a manic person could look.
El estado mánico — manic state
La euforia — euphoria
El comportamiento — behavior
Los cambios de humor — mood swings
El Trastorno de Pánico – Panic Disorder
Trastorno de Pánico provokes episodes of extreme anxiety and terror that overwhelm a person, and combines with a constant fear of suffering from another episode. People who endure panic attacks have increased heart rate and hyperventilation. They also have a sense of impending doom, as if something terrible will happen without knowing what that is.
El ataque de pánico — panic attack
La hiperventilación — hyperventilation
El aumento de la frecuencia cardiaca — increase in heart rate
El peligro inminente — imminent danger
La Ansiedad – Anxiety
Another of the most common diagnoses is anxiety, which is often diagnosed alongside depression. Anxiety is a natural response to stress related to future events. Examples of anxiety-enducers include socializing, preparing for an important test, and performing in front of crowds. We all feel anxiety in our lives, but those who suffer from anxiety for prolonged periods of time, or whose anxiety interferes with their daily life, benefit from psychological services that help to ease the burden.
La ansiedad — anxiety
Hablar en público — speaking in public
Nerviosismo — nervousness
Estrés — stress
Déficit de Atención e Hiperactividad
Déficit de Atención e Hiperactividad translates to Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder used to be diagnosed quite a lot in the last couple of decades, and as we learned more about how it works, we realized the importance of taking a closer look and evaluating people who might suffer from this condition since there are many reasons why someone could be inattentive and hyperactive. People who suffer from ADHD have problems with organization, planning, attention, and they often have a hard time staying still.
La hiperactividad — hyperactivity
La atención — attention
La inatención — lack of attention
La organización — organization
La planeación — planning
We talked before about disorders and conditions, but psychology is much more than negative emotions and mental illness! You don’t have to be ill to go to the doctor the same way you don’t have to have mental issues to go to therapy. Let’s learn about some positive emotions, as mentioned by Barbara Fredrickson, so we can talk about psychology in Spanish in more than one way!
La alegría, or joy, is a brilliant and energetic emotion. Your face lights up, there’s a spring in your step and everything around you seems brighter and colorful. What brings you alegría? Everyone will have different answers. A surprise party, basking in the sun, or winning a board game can all be sources of alegría.
La gratitud is the feeling you get when you get the help you need, or when grim things turn out alright. Feeling thankful opens your heart and invites you to do something good in return. You can either give it back or pay it forward, so the good feelings can spread!
La serenidad is one of my favorite positive emotions. Imagine you’re walking on the beach, listening to the waves crashing against the shore, and you let out a deep, relaxing sigh while closing your eyes. Serenity often comes after other positive emotions such as alegría.
This positive emotion is the favorite of all Spanish teachers! If you’re learning about psychology in Spanish, your teacher will feel gratitud if you show el interés in their class. Focused curiosity and attention will keep you invested in what you’re looking at, the good thing about this positive emotion is that showing interest in others will make them feel good, too!
When you don’t know how things will turn out, and everything around you seems to be lost, la esperanza will lift you up and give you the strength to keep going. Hope is the antidote to despair, and it gives us the energy to thrive in the worst of situations.
El orgullo is often regarded as a negative emotion in some cultures. Let’s challenge that notion! Feeling proud of our abilities and our achievements is important. We build self esteem and recognize that we are awesome and capable of great things. Don’t be ashamed of feeling orgullo, you can be proud of yourself and humble at the same time.
La diversión is a powerful emotion. Sometimes, we need a true break from the responsibilities of daily life. Taking care of yourself is a responsibility in itself and diversión, or having fun, is a great way to achieve this. Children are particularly good at this, so take some time to play some sports, read a book, or watch TV. It’s important to do a variety of activities in order to feel the effects of diversión, because if you do too much of the same, it will stop being effective.
La inspiración is the friend of artists, scientists, and anyone who’s creating or learning something new. It’s the desire and impulse to give our best. Inspiration can come from music, sceneries, or other people.
El sobrecogimiento, also known as el asombro, is the feeling of being a part of something much bigger than yourself. People often get this feeling when looking at a beautiful sunset, or when they go to a concert. Any event that connects you with something bigger than yourself has the potential to evoke this positive emotion.
El amor, as described by Barbara Fredrickson, is the integration of all the other positive emotions listed beforehand. With the right context, these positive emotions transform themselves into love, giving us a new perspective through which we interact with the important people in our lives. When do you feel love? Who inspires this feeling in you?
Common Mainstream Theories
Learning about psychology in Spanish helps you communicate even outside of the field of psychology itself. Knowing how to talk about common theories found in psychology in Spanish gives you the tools to help you in business meetings and in everyday conversations too.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Pirámide de Maslow: la jerarquía de las necesidades humanas
You probably know about the famous “Maslow Pyramid.” It’s taught and used in clinical psychology as well as in Industrial-Organizational psychology. Let’s expand your knowledge on psychology in Spanish with a theory that will be useful to you no matter what field you get involved in!
Las Necesidades Fisiológicas
At the bottom of the pyramid we have las necesidades fisiológicas. This is where you find your basic needs that must be covered in order for you to have a solid base for your pyramid. In this tier you’ll find the following needs:
La respiración — breathing
La alimentación — eating
El descanso — resting
Next up is the feeling of safety. There are many kinds of safety that are necessary to fulfill the second tier of the pyramid:
La seguridad física — physical safety
La seguridad de empleo — job security
La seguridad de recursos — resource security
La moralidad — morality
La familia — family
La salud — health
La propiedad privada — private property
Las Necesidades Sociales / Pertenencia
Social needs and the feeling of belonging are key to fulfilling the third step of the pyramid. In here you’ll find:
La amistad — friendship
El afecto — affection
La intimidad — intimacy
This next tier is all about yourself! La estima, or esteem, regards all that is related to your wellbeing and relationship with yourself.
La confianza — trust
El respeto — respect
La autoestima — self esteem
Los logros — achievements
And last but not least, la autorrealización. Self-actualization is said to be reached once all of the other tiers of the pyramid have been fulfilled, but some people—including myself— disagree with that notion. I believe that you can find moments of self-actualization even in the most dire of circumstances. Viktor Frankl talked about the importance of having purpose in life, and how that will help you not only endure but thrive even in the darkest of times.
Big 5 Personality Traits – el Modelo de los cinco grandes
The “Big 5” theory of personality is one of the most popular and best developed personality frameworks that we have up to date. By learning about the big 5 traits of personality you’ll be able to understand people and human interactions a lot better. You’ll also learn some psychology in Spanish, to boot! Scoring high or low on these 5 personality traits will give you a bigger picture of how a person will relate and respond to their environment. These translations are not direct translations, but rather technical translations based on how we use these traits when talking about psychology in Spanish
La amabilidad, or agreeableness, relates to trust, altruism, kindness, and the desire for harmony and looking for common ground.
La estbailidad Emocional, known in English as neuroticism, is explained well if you use the literal translation of the word: emotional stability. This trait describes our stability, response to stress, and resilience.
Apertura a la Experiencia
You know how some people like to order the same food every time, while others like to throw a dart at the menu and ask for whatever it lands on? That’s what openness to experience is all about. La apertura a la experiencia tells you how willing you are to try out new things and go on exciting adventures.
La responsabilidad, known in English as conscientiousness, is related to people who like preparing, schedules, agendas, attention to detail and efficient prioritization. If you’re low on responsabilidad, don’t worry. Keep working hard and find comfort in knowing that most people tend to rank higher in conscientiousness as they get older.
And last but not least, la extraversión. Extraversion is exactly what you think it is. Going out, talking to people, enjoying the spotlight, and feeling energized by being around people are all related to this trait.
It’s Fun to Train Your Brain!
Knowing about psychology in Spanish will help you understand yourself better, and communicate it with others. There are many interesting conditions and disorders to learn about, as well as positive emotions and mind blowing theories that help us understand each other better and give us the tools to become better people. What’s your favorite thing about psychology in Spanish? Has psychology helped you in any way? Let us know by leaving a comment!
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