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All you need to know about a psychiatrist and what they do


If you are trying to overcome mental health problems like anxiety, depression, sleep problems, alcohol and drug use, relationship problems, etc., your first thought is probably to visit a psychiatrist. But what exactly does a psychiatrist do? Psychiatry is a medical discipline that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders, and a psychiatrist specializes in mental health.

Many people confuse psychiatry and psychology. While psychiatrists diagnose, prescribe medications, and perform procedures to treat mental health conditions, psychologists primarily provide nonmedical support, including counseling and therapy. A psychiatrist is trained and skilled to assess both the physical and mental aspects of a psychological problem.

How do they do it?

When you go for a consultation session with a psychiatrist, they will first ask about your mental and physical symptoms. They may perform a psychological evaluation, a physical exam, or lab tests. In psychiatry, a psychiatrist refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to evaluate and determine the mental illness you have. Insurance companies also use the manual for reimbursement purposes.

In psychiatry, there are various classes of mental disorders, including:

  • Bipolar and related disorders.
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Depressive disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Personality disorders.
  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders.
  • Sexual dysfunctions.
  • Feeding and eating disorders.
  • Elimination disorders.
  • Substance-related and addictive disorders.
  • Gender dysphoria etc.

Many people seek psychiatric treatment for different reasons. It could be a sudden problem like a panic attack, suicidal thoughts, or hallucinations. It can also be a long-term problem like feelings of sadness, depression, anxiousness, or hopelessness that interferes with your daily functioning.Depending on the type of mental problem you are diagnosed with, it might take more than a few visits to your psychiatrist to develop a treatment plan.

What treatments does a psychiatrist use?

Psychiatrists apply a wide range of treatments based on the specific mental problem they are addressing. Treatment options include:

  • Prescription medication.
  • Light therapy is mainly used to treat occasional depression.
  • Brain stimulation therapy.
  • Psychosocial interventions.
  • Electrocompulsive therapy etc

Some of the popular medications a psychiatrist can prescribe include:

  • Mood stabilizers.
  • Anti-psychotic medications.
  • Stimulants etc.

Although the precise action mechanism of psychotic medication is not fully known, it is believed that they adjust chemical signals and communication in the brain hence remedying the symptoms of some psychiatric disorders. A patient on long-term mediation needs to visit the psychiatrist often to monitor the effectiveness of the medication.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a popular form of treatment in psychiatry. It involves a talking relationship between the patient and the psychiatrist based on mutual trust. It is used to treat many mental health disorders and emotional problems.

Treatment may take a few sessions every week or many sessions over several months or years based on the patient’s condition. Also, psychotherapy can take place with an individual, a couple, family, or group.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with special training and skills in psychiatry. They can diagnose and prescribe medication or conduct psychotherapy to treat different mental health disorders.


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