Psychiatric disorders, including common mental disorders, schizophrenia, and suicide, contribute substantially to the global burden of disease in terms of both morbidity and premature mortality, making them an important issue for public mental health.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in mental health. They specialize in diagnosing and treating people with mental illness. Psychiatrists have a deep understanding of physical and mental health – and how they affect each other.
They help people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and addiction. Mental health exists on a spectrum. Not all mental health issues require medical treatment from a psychiatrist. Many people seek counselors or psychologists first and are then referred to a psychiatrist if necessary. Ask your doctor about the right mental health practitioner for you.
What does a psychiatrist do?
Psychiatrists assess all of your mental and physical symptoms. They make a diagnosis and work with you to develop a management plan for your treatment and recovery. Psychiatrists provide psychological treatment, prescribe medications, and do procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy.
Because they are physicians, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical, laboratory, and psychological tests which, combined with discussions with patients, help provide a picture of a patient’s physical and mental state. Their education and clinical training equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses and the relationships with genetics and family history, to evaluate medical and psychological data, to make a diagnosis, and to work with patients to develop treatment plans.
Specific diagnoses are based on criteria established in APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-5), which contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. SEE: How To Safely Use Antipsychotic Medications
As part of their work, a psychiatrist can:
- provide urgent care for a sudden mental illness
- help you to manage a long-term mental health condition
- provide advice about lifestyle changes
- work with you individually, or with you and your partner, family, or careers
- provide second opinions and advice to other doctors and health professionals
- refer you to other health professionals
- admit you to a hospital if required.
What can a psychiatrist help with?
A psychiatrist can be of particular help if your mental health condition:
- is complex or difficult to diagnose
- involves suicidal ideas or plans
- is severe or happens suddenly
- needs medication that only a psychiatrist can prescribe
- isn’t responding to standard treatment through your GP (family doctor).
Reasons to See a Psychiatrist
According to WebMD, there are a number of signs that you might benefit from visiting a psychiatrist, including:
- problems adjusting after major life changes or stress
- anxiety, worry, or fear
- depressed or low mood that doesn’t go away
- suicidal thinking
- thoughts of hurting other people
- hurting yourself on purpose
- too much energy, being unable to sleep, wind down or relax
- constant negative thoughts
- obsessional thinking
- feeling on edge or jumpy
- feeling like people are after you or want to harm you
- hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
- delusions (fixed beliefs with no basis in reality)
- rushing, disjointed thoughts
- out of control alcohol or drug use
- problem gambling, gaming, or other addictive behaviors
- problems around body image, eating or dieting
- memory problems
- poor concentration and attention, hyperactivity
- violence, agitation, or emotional outbursts
- insomnia and other sleep problems
- conditions that start in childhood such as autism, intellectual disability, and childhood anxiety.