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General Information

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in mental health. They are specialized in diagnosing and treating people with mental illnesses as well as in helping people to enhance positive mental health.

To become a psychiatrist in India one has to undergo training for at least 2-3 years after MBBS. Their medical training means that they understand both physical illnesses and mental illnesses.

Just as cardiologists are doctors who are specialized in diseases of the heart, and oncologists are doctors who treat cancer, psychiatrists are doctors who are specialized in mental health.

Following are the few conditions that psychiatrists treat:

  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders (e.g. anorexia and bulimia)
  • Addictive disorders (alcohol, drug and gambling addictions)
  • Dementias like Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Others

Psychiatrists are qualified medical doctors who have undergone extra training to become specialists in mental health. Psychologists have qualifications in psychology, but do not have medical training.

Psychiatrist diagnoses, prescribe medications, admit the patient if needed as well as give counseling or psychotherapy to patients where as psychologist only counsel or give psychotherapy and do psychological testing.

After adequate history from family members/patients and mental status examination psychiatrist can diagnose the mental illness. To treat it psychiatrists use a range of treatments, including:

  • Medications
  • Psychotherapy (also called talking therapy or psychological treatment)
  • Practical advice about lifestyle and behavior and promote positive mental health.

Psychiatrists recommend treatment which differ from patient to patient based on patients’ symptoms and many other factors They will only recommend treatments that have been proven to be safe and effective. In some cases, admission in hospital might also be recommended.

Treatments for mental illness aim to improve patients’ symptoms and help them to have a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle, with a feeling of optimism for the future.

The etiology of mental disorders is multi-factorial. It is not same for all the disorders though in most of the cases genetic, biological, socio-cultural and environmental factors play important role in causation.

Many a time any kind of stress (e.g. death of loved one, divorce, financial losses, relationship problems) with which the individual has difficulty to cope up can cause mental illness. Usually there are predisposing factors (that cause mental problems), precipitating factors (aggravates illness) and perpetuating factors (that are present persistently and increase the chances of incomplete recovery).

Whenever you feel you are not at ease with no physical problems you can consult a psychiatrist. Visiting psychiatrist does not necessarily means you have any mental problems but you can discuss the issues with the psychiatrist and get a clear picture of your mental state. There is no rule of thumb but whenever you have symptoms of some mental problems that were not there before, are in excess and severe, you or your near ones are not comfortable with the symptoms and there are disturbances in social, occupational, relational or educational areas, you should consult a psychiatrist.

Many mental illnesses can be treated and cured completely if the treatment started early and medications taken regularly as per the advice of psychiatrist. But some of the mental illnesses have tendency to recur and as multiple factors are involved in the etiology it is difficult to predict which patients will have recurrence, whether the patient will recover completely or not, what will be the course of the illness and how long the treatment will be required.

Treatment of mental illness may not be necessarily lifelong. Many psychiatric disorders if treated early, appropriately and adequately with regular treatment and follow up, treatment can be stopped after certain period depending on the illness.

Some psychiatrists focus on a particular area, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, old age psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, or forensic psychiatry (relating to the law).

We all have times when we are particularly stressed but these times usually pass and we again begin to feel like ourselves. Sometimes these problems persist for a long time and start to interfere with daily life. Person may have trouble sleeping, may feel more irritable, or begin to have difficulty in their jobs and relationships.

There is a negative belief that many people have which makes them shy about consulting a psychiatrist/psychologist. Because of this belief, many people keep on suffering for long period until it is absolutely distressing for them or their family members or put off treatment when they could have been feeling better long ago. Consulting a mental health professional just means you are struggling with feelings or behavior and would like help. It is similar to consulting a physician for fever. Often as part of treatment you receive a diagnosis but diagnosis does not define who you are and definitely does not mean anything wrong about you. Every person is unique and even the individuals with same diagnosis are different from each other. If you take a survey of your friends, family members, and coworkers, you will probably find at least some percentage of people who have sought treatment for mental health at some time in their lives.

General information