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1. Who Is a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosis, treatment, prevention and management of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. To become a psychiatrist, after graduating medical school, a doctor completes a residency in psychiatry. Further training may be obtained in subspecialties such as child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, and others.
Psychiatrists treat depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and child and adolescent psychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Psychiatrists treat mental illnesses primarily through medicines and psychotherapies and may work within teams that also comprise of mental heath nurses, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and others.
2. When Should I See a Psychiatrist?
Your primary care provider will refer you to a psychiatrist if your symptoms are suggestive of a mental health disorder. These include:
• Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt, low mood, uncontrollable crying
• Agitation and irritability
• Excessive worrying or anxiety
• Panic attacks or unreasonable fears of specific situations or things
• Persistent ideas, obsessive thoughts, impulses, and repetitive behaviors
• Lack of pleasure or interest in activities normally enjoyed
• Loss of mental focus, reduced or increased speed of thought, abnormal thought associations
• Inability to stop moving or speaking, disinhibition, altered mood
• Abnormal eating behavior
• Changes in sleeping habits
• Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
• Thoughts of harming others
• Delusions (false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is) such as delusions of persecution, grandiosity, being controlled, or others
• Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not there)
3. What Tests Does a Psychiatrist Perform or Recommend?
A psychiatrist may request a few blood tests, urine tests, or imaging tests (brain scan) to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. A psychiatrist typically diagnoses a mental health condition through patient’s history, physical exam, and mental health assessments using questionnaires. You may want to take an online psychiatric help or get an online psychiatric evaluation.
4. What Procedures Does a Psychiatrist Perform or Recommend?
Psychiatrists may perform therapeutic procedures using electrical impulses or magnetic fields, including:
• Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
• Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
• Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
• Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
5. What Questions Should I Ask a Psychiatrist?
You may want to ask these kinds of questions:
• What is my diagnosis? What caused my condition?
• What are my treatment options? Is full recovery possible through treatment?
• Do I need psychotherapy? How often do I need psychotherapy sessions?
• What are the side effects of these drugs? How will they affect my appetite, sleep, and sex life? What can I do to reduce the severity of side effects?
• How long do I need to take medicines? What happens if I stop taking them?
• Are these medications addictive? What are their withdrawal symptoms?
• Do I need to change any of the medicines I take for other health conditions?
• How do I know the treatment is working? What are my options if a particular medicine or treatment does not improve my symptoms?
• What is the outlook for my condition?
• What are the emergency signs I need to watch out for?
• Is it okay to smoke or drink alcohol?
• Can I drive or work normally?
• Can I plan to have a baby or breastfeed while I am taking this treatment?
• What should I do if I feel like causing harm to myself or others?
• What should I tell my family, friends, and co-workers about my condition? Is there a support group for me or my family?
• Are my children at risk of inheriting this condition?
• What should my family do to help?