Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that deals with mental health. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who work to study, diagnose, treat and prevent mental disorders, including those resulting in substance abuse. These doctors understand both social and biological sciences.
Reasons to Visit a Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist can help diagnose and treat disorders and conditions that affect a patient's mental health. Disorders and conditions include:
- Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Behavioral problems, especially in children
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Substance abuse
Types of Psychiatrists
Psychiatrists can specialize in a particular area after undergoing intensive training.
Adult psychiatrists work with adults in general psychiatry. They may specialize in treating mental illness, or focus on working in a group setting, such as with couples.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
Child and adolescent psychiatrists are trained to work specifically with children and other young patients.
Addiction psychiatrists often work with patients who are addicted to alcohol and drugs. They also treat other impulse-control disorders, including those concerning food, gambling and sex.
Geriatric psychiatrists address mental disorders that may strike adults later in their lives. Treated disorders include depression and anxiety, as well as schizophrenia and dementia.
Also called legal psychiatrists, forensic psychiatrists work within the field of criminology. They evaluate whether an individual is competent to stand trial, and are sometimes called upon as expert witnesses.
Neuropsychiatrists treat mental disorders that are directly related to problems, such as injury or disease, affecting the nervous system.
Military psychiatrists treat military personnel, and their families, who suffer from traditional mental illnesses, as well as from disorders that result from warfare and military life.
Occupational psychiatrists, also known as industrial and organizational psychiatrists, work within the context of the workplace. They often help employees deal with stress, work/life balance and conflicts with coworkers.
Consult-liaison psychiatrists often work, alongside other medical doctors, in hospital settings. They treat patients who suffer from mental illness and other medical conditions.
Some psychiatrists may choose to undergo additional training in psychoanalysis.
Treatments Used in Psychiatry
A psychiatrist can use a variety of treatments, alone or in combination, while caring for a patient. They include medication, therapy, hospitalization and various other treatments.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and is authorized to prescribe medication. Medications are used to help correct chemical imbalances within the brain that contribute to mental health problems. Medications include antidepressants, stimulants and mood stabilizers.
Psychiatrists often use psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or counseling, to help treat patients. It may take place between only the psychiatrist and the patient, or may involve other family members or coworkers, depending on the type of psychiatry and the issues that need to be addressed.
In some cases, a patient may seek help in either a psychiatric hospital, or in the psychiatric ward of a general hospital. Often, patients admit themselves voluntarily but, occasionally, if patients are considered a danger to themselves or others, they may be involuntarily committed. Psychiatric hospitals/wards are equipped to treat more serious mental disorders.
Other Types of Therapy
Other examples of therapy a psychiatrist might use include electroconvulsive therapy, for patients who are severely depressed, and light therapy, for patients who suffer from seasonal depression.