Reasons to Visit a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in psychiatry, the branch of medicine dealing with illnesses of the mind, or psyche. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental, addictive, emotional and psychotic disorders. While in past decades it was not uncommon for psychiatrists to specialize in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis and to treat patients without the use of medications, in recent years psychiatrists are more likely to prescribe psychotropic medications and send their patients to other practitioners for ongoing psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation facilities, educational institutions, as consultants to other professionals such as lawyers and in private practice. Unlike other Mental Health care professionals, psychiatrists are medical doctors, licensed to prescribe medications.

Psychiatric Training

After receiving an undergraduate degree, psychiatrists begin their professional careers by completing medical school and earning their MDs. They go on to four years of residency, usually working at the psychiatric department of a hospital or at a psychiatric hospital. Psychiatrists often pursue a subspecialty. They may decide to work, for example, only or primarily with children and adolescents.

Psychiatric Specialties

Psychiatrists may specialize in various subcategories of the discipline. Sometimes they focus primarily on one set of symptoms, such as eating disorders. Sometimes they specialize in treating patients of a certain age, such as a geriatric population. Psychiatric specialties include the following:

Addiction Psychiatry – This psychiatric specialty concerns itself with substance abuse, including alcoholism and various types of drug addiction.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – Psychiatrists who work in this specialty focus on the needs, influences, behavior patterns and mind sets of young people.

Community Psychiatry – This variety of psychiatry works from a public health perspective and often involves outreach programs.

Cross-Cultural Psychiatry – This field deals with the cross-cultural boundaries. Psychiatrists who work in this field pay close attention to the habits, perspectives and problems of various ethnic groups. In diagnosing and treating patients, they carefully tailor their methods to meet the patient’s cultural, as well as medical, needs.

Developmental Psychiatry – This branch of psychiatry focuses on the genesis and evolution of psychiatric disorders, focusing on changes to the brain that happen during fetal development and early childhood.

Eating Disorders – Psychiatrists who specialize in treating eating disorders concern themselves with helping patients alter their perceptions of their own bodies and their behaviors relative to eating, nutrition and exercise. They treat such conditions as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Emergency Psychiatry – This specialty employs psychiatrists who deal with urgent situations where health, well-being or life may be threatened by patient violence toward others or self-injurious or suicidal actions.

Forensic Psychiatry – Forensic psychiatrists work as consultants with law enforcement agencies and attorneys to offer expert opinion testimony as back-up courtroom evidence.

Geriatric Psychiatry – Geriatric psychiatrists focus their practice on elderly patients. Since older patients tend to have more medical issues than younger patients, geriatric psychiatrists often assist in chronic Pain Management and hospice and palliative care. They may also treat patients with memory disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Neuropsychiatry – This branch of psychiatry deals with the interaction between emotional or psychiatric issues and those involving the central nervous system. Neuropsychiatrists may employ the use of electro convulsive therapy or ECT.

Psychosomatic medicine – Psychosomatic medicine focuses on the relationship between the body, or soma, and mind, or psyche. Psychiatrists in this field investigate and treat the underlying psychiatric disturbances which may be causing or exacerbating physical symptoms. While almost all physical illnesses can affect the mind, and vice versa, doctors in this specialty treat patients whose physical symptoms are believed to have a primarily psychiatric cause.

Sexual and Gender Psychiatry – This relatively new specialty involves psychiatric difficulties regarding sexual orientation and functioning and gender identity disorder.

Sleep Disorders – Psychiatrists pursuing this specialty are concerned with disorders that affect sleep patterns and behavior.

Types of Psychiatric Treatment

There are many approaches a psychiatrist may use in treating an individual patient, depending on the patient’s symptoms and overall emotional condition. Very often, a psychiatrist will use more than one type of therapy, either sequentially or in combination. Types of psychiatric treatment may include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Dialectical therapy
  • Family-focused therapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Psychotherapy or “talk therapy”