Who Needs to See a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health which provides immediate psychiatric and therapeutic services both in person and virtually. A person should see a psychiatrist when they may need consultation with regard to the medical piece of mental health either because they need to clarify their diagnosis, or because they need to take medication or suspect that (medication) could be a need. Psychiatrists treat a wide range of conditions including:
- Anxiety disorders.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Eating disorders.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Substance use disorders.
A suicide attempt, or new onset of suicide ideation – having suicidal thoughts or planning suicide – is a major reason that a person should see a psychiatrist. The onset of psychotic symptoms hearing voices or not being able to discern reality from not-reality or profound inability to sleep combined with excessively high energy are situations where absolutely a person should go find a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists treat mental health conditions using a variety of approaches:
Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and some types of personality disorders are among conditions that typically require treatment with psychotropic drugs. These drugs affect how the brain works and affect mental function, mood, emotions, thoughts, awareness or behavior.
Antidepressants, anti anxiety agents, anti-obsessive agents, anti psychotics, stimulants, anti-panic agents and mood stabilizers are the main psychotropic drug categories. Psychiatrists initiate psychotropic drug treatment for new patients and adjust doses or substitute medications for better effectiveness as treatment progresses
Psychiatrists can evaluate patients for and prescribe device-based treatments to treat certain brain-based mental health conditions, particularly when standard medications have failed or cannot be tolerated.
3. Talk Therapy
Psychiatrists may use several forms of talk therapy, often in conjunction with medication, including these:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps patients identify, change and control negative or irrational thoughts and feelings (cognition), and instead use helpful thinking to promote a healthy plan or response (behavior) for mental health disorders like depression or physical problems like chronic pain.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy. A form of CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy includes both individual and group therapy during which patients learn mindfulness techniques to regulate their emotions, cope with distress and interact with others in a healthier way.
- Group therapy. In group therapy, several patients facing similar mental health issues meet regularly with a psychiatrist (or other clinician) to promote coping skills, offer support, reduce stigma and isolation and provide a sounding board of people with similar experiences.
- Psychoanalysis. Treatments like psychoanalysis help patients resolve deep-rooted internal conflicts that are often based on childhood trauma or experiences. However, this time-intensive therapy is used less frequently than in the past.
- Mentalization. Mentalization-based therapy encourages people to reflect clearly about their own thoughts, emotional responses, intentions and actions and those of others (mentalizing), and avoid non-mentalizing patterns such as distortion, catastrophizing, generalizing and thinking in negative extremes. It can be particularly helpful for people with personality disorders.
When Not to See a Psychiatrist
Seeing a psychiatrist is not always indicated. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and some issues don’t require a medical approach. Mental health or emotional situations that may benefit just as much or more by working with a psychologist or other therapist include:
- Stage-of-life crisis. A midlife or quarter-life crisis can churn up emotional turmoil.
- Transitioning to college. Campus mental health counselors are well-versed in helping students cope with related anxiety and stress.
- Major move or career change. Talk therapy helps most when adjusting to big life changes.
- Divorce, marital or relationship problems. Marriage counseling, couples therapy and divorce therapy focus on these issues.
- Relatively mild problems. If you’re experiencing temporary blues or having normal anxiety about a coming event – like a cross-country trip or a first date – prescription medicine likely isn’t the answer.
- Managing general health problems. High blood pressure, diabetes and other common conditions like thyroid disease can sometimes cause mental health symptoms. Once your primary care doctor diagnoses and treats underlying conditions, behavioral and emotional symptoms may resolve.