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How to Know If You Need a Psychiatrist

I use the word “doctor” quite liberally and often use it interchangeably with “psychiatrist.” The reason is quite simple – psychiatrists are, in fact doctors, they are just specialists. Yes, that’s right, your psychiatrist has all the rights and privileges that any other doctor has and could probably remove your spleen, if the occasion called for it.

Nevertheless, there are some crucial differences between “doctors” in general and “psychiatrists” in particular. And sometimes you need a psychiatrist and sometime any old doctor will do. So how do you know if you need a psychiatrist?

What are Psychiatrists?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in the area of mental health. So instead of just being a general practitioner, they attended extra schooling to specialize in mental health. A psychiatrist has about a decade of schooling beyond high school (depending on the country).

This is not to be confused with psychologist who is not a medical doctor and instead is a specialist in psychology. They are therapists and cannot prescribe medication.

Nor is this to be confused with your family doctor, who is a general practitioner. A general practitioner’s job is to take care of the daily cuts and scrapes of life and to know when to refer a patient to someone else.

Mental Illness and General Practitioners

It is my opinion that anyone with a mental illness should have a proper mental health evaluation by a psychiatric professional – a psychiatrist. General practitioners do a world of harm by not being able to recognize complex mental illnesses, often diagnosing “depression” when it’s not depression at all. General practitioners don’t diagnose cancer – a specialist does that – and the same should be true of a mental illness.

After you’ve been properly diagnosed by a psychiatrist it may then be possible to have your condition managed through a general practitioner either now or in the future, but only if you’re a bog-standard case of something simple or have been stable for a long time.

When Do You Need a Psychiatrist?

So, outside of diagnosis when do you need a psychiatrist?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a general practitioner – they’re just not a specialist, that’s all. Because remember, a psychiatrist sees patients all day, every day, who are just like you, a general practitioner does not. A general practitioner does physicals and eye exams and prescribes antibiotics and looks down people’s throats all day. None of that is going to help you with a case of bipolar disorder.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

26 thoughts on “How to Know If You Need a Psychiatrist”

  1. I want to know do I need a phychologist or a phyciantrist. My parents used to fight all the time when I was n little girl and sometimes it really got out of hands and ugly. Today I have a really bad temperature and when I get mad it always turns out ugly. I usally punsh my fist agains the wall or agains anything just to relax a bit. wheni was younger I used to cut myself it made me feel relaxing. My mom always told me to get some help. when my husband and I are having a fite he also tells me to go and see a dr. I can’t understand my emosions sometimes. I can feel so happy and excited then suddenly be so mad eand feeling tired. I hate the way I look I hate a mirror and I got really bad trust issues. my husband is really getting tired of false accusing

  2. I was wondering if you had any advice on a GP that is not being very helpful at recognizing something that is wrong. When my mom died 7 years ago, I switched doctors to one that was close to home and that my dad’s side of the family loves. I have been experiencing issues with my mental health for years (I didn’t go to my previous family doctor often due to distance so he would not have known about issues)

    7 years of going to my current doctor for depression and mood issues and not getting proper treatment (He honestly tried to prescribe me self esteem books, which I really do not feel like that is my issue) I asked about seeing a psychiatrist because I can’t keep living like this. I’m okay for a couple weeks, maybe a month and then I crash into depression and stuff – and asking for mood stabilizing medication from my doctor is like pulling teeth. He replied that a psychiatrist wouldn’t want to see me because they’re really busy and only want to deal with people suffering severe issues like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

    I’ve tried explaining to him it does effect my life and work, having distracting breakdowns but he doesn’t seem to take it seriously. I end up usually getting less then a months worth of antidepressants and just not going to the doctor’s for months after an appointment because visiting him causes great stress because he doesn’t listen or try to actually help me. My family worships him because they’ve had him for 40+ years. I can’t go to the doctor’s office without crying and getting worked up because of the stress.

    Is there a easier way to see a psychiatrist? Thank you.

  3. Okay, so, all my friends have been noticing changes in my mental state. One asked if I have Bipolar Disorder and I know that I have OCD and severe anxiety yet my mom won’t take me to a psychiatrist. What do I do? I want to know what’s going on with me and I’d like to know. How do I convince her to take me to see a professional?

  4. Hi.i feel very depressed,anxiety.i don’t what happened to me.sir please me.what should i do.i feel tired always,get bored .i lost my interest in any thing.i am worried. I can’t concentrate in any thing.sir plz help me

  5. You make a great point about how a psychiatrist must first be a doctor and then go on for additional specialized training to become a licensed psychiatrists. This means they have all the background and training as a general physician. This can make obtaining psychiatric medication much easier. Additionally, an experienced psychiatrists can also have a better idea of how different pharmaceuticals work and if they will be a good choice for you and your medical conditions. Thanks for your post.

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