Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. 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.
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 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-5), which contains descriptions, symptoms and other
criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments – including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, psychosocial interventions and other treatments,depending on the needs of each patient.
There are many forms of psychotherapy. There are psychotherapies that help patients change behaviors or thought patterns, psychotherapies that help patients explore the effect of past relationships and experiences on present behaviors, and psychotherapies that are tailored to help solve other problems in specific ways.
Most medications are used by psychiatrists in much the same way that medications are used to treat high blood pressure or diabetes. After completing thorough evaluations, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat mental disorders. Psychiatric medications can help correct imbalances in brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders. Patients on long-term medication treatment will need to meet with their psychiatrist periodically to monitor the effectiveness of the medication and any potential side effects.
Class of Medications
Antidepressants – used to treat depression, panic disorder, PTSD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder and eating disorders
Antipsychotic medications – used to treat psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder
Sedatives and anxiolytics – used to treat anxiety and insomnia
Hypnotics – used to induce and maintain sleep
Mood stabilizers – used to treat bipolar disorder
Stimulants – used to treat ADHD
Psychiatrists often prescribe medications in combination with psychotherapy.