Unlike other professionals, psychiatrists are doctors and as such they are the only practitioners able to prescribe medication. They will have studied medicine at university before specialising in psychiatry, spending a total of around ten years studying. Psychiatrists often finish their course with some training in psychoanalysis
or psychotherapy and will often have many letters and qualifications.
When might you see a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental problems. They deal with severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, paranoia, autism or manic-depressive psychosis, but they also treat less severe psychic problems such as depression, anxiety attacks, phobias and insomnia. Don’t be put off going to see a psychiatrist on the basis that you think your problem isn’t 'serious' enough.
Initially, psychiatrists see the patient for a consultation to determine the nature of the problem(s). They will listen to the patient, carry out a physical examination and sometimes might suggest psychotherapy. If required, they might also resort to chemical treatment by prescribing psychotropic drugs: anti-depressants for depression, neuroleptics for schizophrenia and anxiolytics for calming nerves. If necessary, they might suggest or impose hospitalisation.
As well as being available privately, psychiatrists can also be seen on the NHS. You will need to obtain a referral from your GP or social services first.
For additional information, visit the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists: www.rcpsych.ac.uk