Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health.
Psychiatry often prescribes medication to address mental health disorders. It sometimes combines this with talk therapy. The Psychiatrist bible is the DSM - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This book details all of the conditions that are relevant to psychiatry and susceptible to medication. The medications used by Psychiatrists are broken down into major categories:
* Anti-depressants - of which the most common is SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) although these are more commonly prescribed by GPs without recourse to psychiatrists.
* Mood Stabilisers such as lithium (that include anti-convulsants) help effective disorders where moods swing up or down or too often (to a point where it is controlling and negatively impacting the patient's life significantly).
* Anti-Psychotics were originally used for the treatment of disorders such as schizophrenia but recently atypical anti-psychotics have been developed that work well as an adjunct to medication for depression.
* Anti-Anxiety medication such as Xanax and Valium are used with caution by Psychiatrists due to their highly addictive nature.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Do not expect a sympathetic ear and a long chat as psychiatrists, particularly consultant psychiatrists, often see many patients in a day and spend as little as an average of 15 minutes with each. As the patient you will be responsible for taking medication and monitoring side effects.
Psychiatry works very well for understood disorders that have an organic cause. Medication is evolving all the time, targeting more and more specific complaints.
Addiction to prescription medication is a risk with many psychiatric medications. Difficulty coming off others, because of side effects, is another common problem. Finding the correct medication, dosage or combination of treatments can take many years and present something of a rocky road in itself. Often it is not advised to become pregnant on psychiatric medications.