Adult and Adolescent Psychiatry
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. A psychiatrist’s training starts with four years of medical school and is followed by a one-year general medical internship and at least three years of specialized training as a psychiatric resident. During these years, the psychiatrist is trained to differentiate mental health problems from other underlying medical conditions and also is trained to identify the associations between mental health and general health.
Examples of the mental health problems psychiatrists deal with include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, personality disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. They also handle drug and substance use disorders.
Psychiatrists use several forms of treatment in managing mental health illnesses including psychotherapy, medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antianxiety agents. Psychotherapy may include cognitive behavior therapy, family therapy or group counseling. As is the case with any medical condition, there may be occasions when some form of hospitalization such as partial/day treatment or full hospitalization may be warranted, and your psychiatrist will help facilitate that process.
As a doctor, a psychiatrist is licensed to write prescriptions. Many mental health disorders can be treated effectively with specific drugs. Many people who work with psychiatrists find that their treatment may consist solely of medication management. There may be times, however, when medication alone is not enough to treat the condition, and a combination of medication and psychotherapy or counseling is needed. In those situations, the psychiatrist may also provide the psychotherapy, or as is often the case, may refer you to another type of mental health professional and work in collaboration with that clinician.
For most psychiatric disorders, there are no laboratory tests to confirm the condition, but a psychiatric evaluation will typically include biochemical studies to rule out the possibility of some other medical causative factor. In addition, there are established batteries of psychological tests that can help clarify the condition at hand and help direct treatment when the diagnosis may be in doubt. Finally, if the utilization of medications is deemed warranted, your psychiatrist may recommend undergoing non-invasive genetic testing to assist in identifying which medications may be best for you based on tolerability dictated by your unique gene pool.
Mental health challenges are conditions that affect a large number of the population worldwide and should not be perceived as weaknesses that a person can simply overcome. As is the case with any medical condition, if left undiagnosed and not properly treated, the negative consequences can be far reaching.