While it may seem an ignorant question, understanding psychiatry is more complicated than one might think. Yes, it’s the practice of helping individuals define, understand, and categorize mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Still, these same healthcare professionals also determine the best treatments for individuals experiencing mental health issues.
In simple terms, “psychiatry” is the medical specialty that expands and experiences the human brain’s complexity challenges. Still, they also research a broad spectrum of mental conditions, correlated treatment options, and contribute to the new approaches and fields of study.
What Does A Psychiatrist Do?
Psychiatrists are mental health professionals. Mental disorders cover many categories, including:
- Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder;
- Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others;
- Personality disorders;
- Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia; and
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Psychiatry is always changing as approaches to care, and medication responses evolve. In the not-too-distant past, mental health conditions and those afflicted with them often experienced a stigma or public disgrace. This is becoming less and less true.
Psychiatrists should not be confused with psychologists. Psychiatrists require more schooling. They are medical doctors, not just providers with a master’s or a doctorate. They also can prescribe medication.
Treatment of patients
Psychiatrists must address several questions about their patients’ struggles, such as:
- The best and most helpful ways to classify mental disorders
- Determining what is “normal”?
- How treatments designed for categories of people are tailored to individuals
Current medical diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions rely on tools ranging from neuroimaging to transcranial stimulation. Psychotropic medications remain the most commonly sought and prescribed treatments, but the psychiatric landscape increasingly includes more than drugs and pharmacotherapy.
Psychiatrists treat patients across many settings. Psychiatrists may prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy or, in some instances, additional treatments based on the type of practice and the patient’s needs. Psychiatrists also confer with other professionals or family members and even perform crisis intervention with patients who may wish to self-harm or wish to hurt others.
Psychiatrists may work in private practice, join a group practice, and work in a professional setting. Some may also be part directly of private practice, are affiliated with, or work directly in hospitals and medical clinics. Some work in nursing homes, prisons, substance abuse facilities, detention centers, and correctional facilities. Psychiatrists may also choose to enter academia, teaching budding psychiatrists in universities or conducting research.
How to find a psychiatrist
Perhaps the most comfortable place to start is asking a general physician or other healthcare providers for a reference. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor if you have one. They may have psychiatrists they recommend or help you find one that focuses on your concern. BetterHelp provides an excellent resource about finding a psychiatrist, too.
Next, perhaps check with community clinics in your area. Here, a patient care coordinator can assist with the search. No matter, when looking for a psychiatrist, find one specializing in the diagnosis or concern you’re seeking help for.