Overview

Psychiatry is a medical specialty that involves the treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.

Contrary to popular belief, psychiatrists don't treat only people who are called "crazy" or "insane." This is a misconception and a distortion of the truth because people who suffer from delusions or hallucinations form only a fraction of psychiatric patients. In fact, many people have borderline or temporary psychiatric conditions that may be effectively treated, resulting in full recovery of the patient.

Although the location of the problem is the brain, unlike neurologists, psychiatrists do not treat organic or structural disorders such as epilepsy, consequences of strokes or brain cancers. However, these disorders may also cause psychiatric symptoms and mental alteration in certain patients, which requires the ability to make a differential diagnosis and apply correct treatment. Psychiatrists need to have an excellent understanding of basic psychology and must possess psychotherapy skills to attempt to influence the patient's disorder with less medication. In fact, many psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and certain phobias may be effectively treated through psychotherapy. Medication in psychiatry is used only when counseling and therapy fail to produce noticeable results.

Psychiatrists are doctors who are dedicated to providing the best treatment and care for mental disorders with compassion and patience. They must have excellent communication skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence to understand the patient's emotional and mental problems and formulate the best course of action for their treatment. Unlike other fields of medicine, the treatment regimen in psychiatry may change significantly depending on the patient's response to medication or psychotherapy. With proper psychological, emotional and social support, many patients who have severe mental symptoms are able to improve and reconnect with society, which allows mental health professionals to lower medication dosages. In certain cases, relapse of symptoms may occur, which requires a new treatment strategy and elaboration of alternative therapies for a particular patient.

Next: What does a Psychiatrist do?

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