Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems.
People seek psychiatric help for many reasons. The problems can be sudden, such as a panic attack, frightening hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or hearing “voices”, or they may be more long-term, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiousness that never seem to lift or problems functioning, causing everyday life to feel distorted or out of control.
What conditions can our psychiatrists treat?
Anxiety Disorders (phobias, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder)
Acute and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders
Addictive Disorders (dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, other substances of abuse)
Childhood-Onset Disorders (ADHD, dyslexia, intellectual disability, autism, enuresis, tics)
Cognitive Disorders (dementia, delirium)
What happens during your appointments?
The first appointment with a psychiatrist is usually 1 hour long; it usually involves collecting information and asking questions about:
Your current symptoms and concerns
Your social background details include information about your family, education, work, living conditions, etc.
Any past psychiatric illnesses and treatment have taken
Any medical/surgical history
Any family history of mental and physical health conditions
The psychiatrist might go through available medical reports, lab/other test results, or treatment records. Collateral history might be obtained from family members or other healthcare professionals. You might also be asked to fill out questionnaires or rating scales. Also, your vitals, such as pulse and blood pressure, weight, height, etc. might be checked, as deemed appropriate.
A crucial part of the consultation is the mental state examination, wherein the psychiatrist would evaluate your behavior and appearance, mood, thoughts, perception, higher cognitive functions, level of insight, etc. All of this would help the psychiatrist to make a provisional or final diagnosis.
A treatment plan is then devised; it usually consists of one or more of the following:
Prescription of appropriate medications with an explanation of the expected effects and side-effects.
Consideration to start psychotherapy with the psychiatrist or referrals for psychotherapy to other mental health professionals such as psychologists, or counsellors.
Referrals to see doctors of other specialties, such as neurology, endocrinology, etc.
Recommended lab tests and/or other investigative procedures to rule out any possible medical conditions contributing to the symptoms, or any baseline tests needed before starting medications.
The treatment plan varies from person to person and is usually tailored to suit the individual’s health needs, personal preferences, social situation, age, comorbid medical conditions, availability of resources, etc.
What Treatments Do Psychiatrists Use?
Psychotropic medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, stimulants, sedatives and anxiolytics, hypnotics, etc.
Brain stimulation therapies, such as electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) among others.
What Is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and Psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (completed medical school and residency) with specialized training in psychiatry. A psychiatrist can conduct psychotherapy and prescribe medications and other medical treatments. A psychologist usually has an advanced degree, most commonly in clinical psychology, and often has extensive research or clinical practice training. Psychologists treat mental disorders with psychotherapy, and some specialize in psychological testing and evaluation.