All About Psychiatry 

"TheSmartConsumer is an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from links on this page that you click on and make qualifying purchases, thanks for helping support us"

Often people with mental health struggles consider some form of therapy. As you look into the myriad of therapy options available, it is normal to become overwhelmed. In today’s world, there are a lot of different types of therapy. One of the oldest and best-known forms of mental health therapy in psychiatry. 

Although you have likely heard of the field, you may not be completely familiar with it. In the rest of this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about psychiatry and psychiatrists. 

What is Psychiatry?talking therapy

The American Psychiatric Association defines psychiatry as “the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.” If you have a mental health issue, especially one that requires the prescription of medication, then a psychiatrist may be the right choice for you. 

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, either M.D. or D.O. Their degrees mean that they are fully qualified to diagnose and treat patients. Obviously, psychologists and some therapists can diagnose and treat patients as well—we will discuss the similarities between psychologists and psychiatrists below. But, psychiatrists can prescribe medication as part of their treatment plan. Most psychologists cannot prescribe medication (Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico are the exceptions). 

You can go to a psychiatrist for a variety of psychological problems. These include mental health conditions like panic attacks, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or schizophrenia. Other mental health problems like depression and anxiety can be treated by psychiatrists. However, these conditions do not always require medication, and so would probably be best treated by a psychologist. Psychiatrists are the right choice for someone dealing with acute illness (physical or mental) or who has a complicated medical history. 

If you would like to learn more about psychiatry and psychiatrists, here are some good articles. 

The History of Psychiatry 

Psychiatry has a very long history. In fact, you can trace the beginnings of psychiatry all the way back to Ancient India. The Charaka Samhita is considered one of the first texts to discuss how to treat mental illnesses. It was written before the 2nd century CE. 

More:  The Benefits of Pets for Seniors

In the Middle Ages and early modern period, especially in European cultures, psychiatry was most often associated with the lunatic asylum. These places were designed to keep “insane” or mentally ill people away from the rest of society. Some asylums tried to treat their patients, while others only worked as custodians. The rampant abuses in asylums caused a push for reforms as early as the late 18th century. 

Since the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of advances have occurred in the field of psychiatry. Emil Kraepelin pioneered the idea of classifying different types of mental disorders. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory also had a huge impact on psychiatry. Freud’s views allowed mentally-ill patients to be treated privately instead of in asylums. 

However, with the rise of evidence-based psychiatric research in the 1960s and 1970s, Freud’s theories lost their appeal to psychiatrists. Today psychiatry is a complicated field with links to many others. Genetics, biology, pharmacology, and more play role in helping psychiatrists understand and treat mental disorders.

Psychiatry has been around for such a long time that it is impossible to discuss its entire history here. If you want to learn more about the field, we recommend checking about the History of Psychiatry peer-reviewed journal. It provides a wealth of information about this interesting and crucial topic. 

Psychiatry vs. Psychology

Often psychiatry and psychology are used interchangeably. That is actually not correct. Psychiatry (and psychiatrists) and psychology (and psychologists) are not the same things. Below we break down the most important of the differences between these two fields. 

More:  Is It A Good Option To Hire A Medical Billing Company For My Healthcare Business

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, psychologists are not. 

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that focuses on treating psychological disorders. They are qualified to prescribe medication and most often visit with patients in a medical setting (a hospital or treatment center). Generally speaking, psychologists cannot prescribe medication because they are not medical doctors. Psychologists typically have doctoral-level university degrees like a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

Psychologists focus more on “talk therapy.” 

Talk therapy is also known as psychotherapy. It is the use of talk (and play in the case of children) to help the psychologist treat mental problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common types of talk therapy today. Talk therapy provides a way to treat mental disorders without medications. 

Psychologists make their living using talk therapy. A psychiatrist can recommend talk therapy with a psychologist, but they often do not perform it themselves. 

Psychiatrists use different diagnostic methods. talking therapy

A big role in a psychiatrist’s practice is diagnosing patients. As medical doctors, they have access to tests that are unavailable to the psychologist. A few of the tests that a psychiatrist may perform to diagnose your problem is a psychological test, lab test, and/or one-on-one evaluations. 

After they have determined your psychological problem, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication like antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, stimulants, sedatives, and mood stabilizers. They may also recommend electroconvulsive therapy or light therapy. In addition to these therapies, your psychiatrist may refer you to a psychologist for talk therapy. 


Clearly, there is a lot to learn when it comes to psychiatry. We have only scratched the surface of the field’s practices, history, and unique contributions to mental health. This is a fascinating field that can provide a lot of help to someone in crisis. 

If you are struggling, don’t stay in silence. Find a psychiatrist today and start getting your life back on track.