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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.

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

  1. Hi! I don’t know what is wrong with me. Since teenage i have a habit of overthinking or feeling things too deep. I cannot decide what to do or sometimes i don’t understand how to deal with some of the situations. I always feels like i need a place to live alone. I’m in search of peace since a very long time but i couldn’t find till now. Most of the times i get irritated with almost everything without any reason. Suffering from insomnia and i’m almost depressed! So, i need help. I can’t take these anymore! I feel unimportant

  2. Okay so I’ve always had anxiety issues in the past but now since I’ve had two little boys who are now two and a half and 10 months I feel like I am out of control. My family doctor said it was postpartum depression and has prescribed me Zoloft and Prozac but the side effects of those were terrible and made me feel really sick. Now she has me on 10 mg of nortriptyline which is a very low dose that I don’t believe his helping at all. She doesn’t seem to take me very serious then I expressed my concern about how I’m reacting to my children and my husband. I haven’t been completely open and honest with her because she is so judgemental and have asked her about seeing a psychiatrist but she says they’re just for medications and since I was honest with her in the beginning about having a drug abuse past using painkillers she obviously doesn’t want to put me on anything addictive. However I’ve been spiraling out of control ever since I got pregnant with my first son and blamed it on the form owns for as long as I could but now it’s getting to the point where something has to be done to save my marriage and my relationship with my children. I have no friends that I hang out with or call on the phone anymore I seem to get too stressed out about letting them know about my life and what I do all day. I’m a stay-at-home mom so I do take care of my children to the best of my abilities but my day is full of constant ups and downs worrying if I’m doing everything right or wrong trying to start cleaning the kitchen getting distracted by the laundry room getting distracted by vacuuming and trying to shampoo up spots on the carpet and then dusting and then taking out the garbage and picking up garbage off the street and then coming in absolutely exhausted and laying on the couch and when my children need me and I have no energy left them. It gets very very exhausting. So then I nap and I wake up in a horrible mood grouchy that I kids have woke me up and then I get affordable guilt that I’m being so mean to my children for just being kids and so then I’m overly nice playing with them trying to compensate for this behavior and I feel like I’m going absolutely batshit crazy. I know that this isn’t okay and that I have a serious problem with being so manic at times and accusing my husband of things that he definitely would never do but I get myself so worked up in the moment and I also deal with post-traumatic stress disorder from abusive relationships in the past and I’m constantly trying to explain myself and stumbling stuttering my words trying to get my point across when in all reality my husband doesn’t even care he isn’t even question me about something it’s just ridiculous. I would never hurt my children but I feel like emotionally I’m causing them some problems from them seeing your mom cry and get so upset and angry all the time and then being so happy and crying and saying I’m sorry to them all the time that can’t be good. I also bite my nails and the skin around my nails really bad but the worst of it is I pick the skin in between my pointer finger and thumb on both hands to the point where it bleeds and will hurt for days and I don’t let it heal because I continue picking at it. I used to cut myself when I was younger but I’m not able to do that anymore because my husband we’ll see the cuts and know that I’m doing it even though I tried to blame it on something else so I just resort to taking my skin and I also use control over my food as a form of harm. I won’t eat all day until 3 p.m. when I’m starving and shaking and then I’ll find the eat and feel sick and sometimes pick it back up and sometimes you just lay there and have to take a nap and not move. These are all things I know that I should be telling a psychiatrist and not my family doctor I just need to get a recommendation to go to one but I feel like she thinks I’m just after medication with which in all honestly I feel like I do need some medication to help get me back to normal because I’m not getting any better soon and my kids aren’t going to get any easier to raise and my husband is losing his patience more and more with me everyday. What do I do?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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

  7. 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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