Public Education

Seeing a Psychiatrist

Why do people go to a psychiatrist?

People seek psychiatric help for many reasons. Life’s usual round of trials may become overwhelming. Relationships may become troubled, or the disability from anxiety – easily dismissed before as simple “nerves” – may grow sharper and last longer. The fresh-faced young newcomer down the hall at work may seem to threaten a secure job, and headaches may start to come literally one after the other. The emotions that arise in reaction to everyday stresses and strains may blow badly out of proportion, or may be strangely absent. Eating may become a refuge, and sleep may begin to seem either irresistible or elusive. Alcohol or drug use may get out of control. People often seek psychotherapy when they have tried other approaches to solving a personal problem. For example, people who are depressed, anxious, or have drug or alcohol problems may find that talking to friends or family members is not enough to resolve their problems. Sometimes people may want to talk to a therapist about problems they would feel uncomfortable discussing with friends or family, such as being sexually abused as a child. Finding a therapist to talk to who is knowledgeable about emotional problems, has patients’ best interests at heart, and is relatively objective can be extremely helpful. The problems can also be sudden, such as a panic attack or as frightening hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or “voices” that whisper intrusive and incomprehensible things. Or they may be more long-term-such as a sadness that never seems to lift, causing everyday life to feel distorted, out of control, not worth living.

What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a fully licensed doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses, including substance abuse and addiction. Psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological disturbance. Their medical education has given them a full working knowledge of the many causes for a patient’s feelings and symptoms. Because they are doctors, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests that provide a complete picture of a patient’s physical and mental state. Their education and years of clinical experience equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illness, evaluate all the medical and psychological data, make a diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan. Also, as doctors, they are the only mental health providers who can prescribe medication and order medical tests.

What are the most common treatments psychiatrists use?

Psychiatrists use a wide range of treatments-including various forms of psychotherapy, medications and hospitalization-according to the needs of each patient.