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Psychiatry 101

What is psychiatry, who is a psychiatrist, what does a psychiatrist do? Will i become addicted to the medications?

What is psychiatry ? Who is a psychiatrist?

Psychiatry is a medical speciality dedicated to the study and treatment of abnormalities related to perception, cogniton, mood and  behaviour. A Psychiatrist is a medically trained professional who holds an additional qualification beyond their MBBS, usually a masters or diploma (MD or DPM) in psychiatry. They are licensed to practice medicine and to conduct psychotherapy. 

What does a psychiatrist do ?

A psychiatrist evaluates and treats people with mental illness. In addition to mental illness, psychiatrists can also help in coping with stress or loss, with improving sleep,with issues related to relationships, parenting, substance use . . . the list is endless. Simply put a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who deals with distress arising from perception, cognition, mood and behaviour. The issues dealt with could be anything ranging from a child who has difficulty with academics or a couple who cannot get along ,to someone with  schizophrenia or dementia. He/she can either prescribe medications and/or provide counselling (psychotherapy) depending upon the diagnosis.

How are mental illnesses diagnosed? 

Mental illness are diagnosed based on criteria set forth by the WHO. All illnesses including depression, anxiety, stress reactions, grief and substance dependence have specific diagnostic criteria which require expert interpretation, with appropriate timelines. The link for the diagnostic and classificatory system is here.

How can medication change the way  one thinks ?

Psychotropic medication act by modulating chemical substances in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are chemical substances that neurons use to communicate. Our thoughts and perceptions are thus modulated by these neurotransmitters. Medications are prescribed to correct neurotransmitter imbalances. More about neurotransmitters and mental illness here.

Are psychiatric medications safe? 

When drugs were introduced to treat mental illness around 75 years ago, they carried a number of side effects, like what you see in the movies. The drugs have come a long way since then, both in terms of safety and efficacy. All kinds of side effects occur with every medication you take, from the paracetamol for fever to the medications you take to control blood sugar and psychiatric meds are no different. To summarize, like the meds you take for diabetes or cardiac disease, the benefits far out weigh the risks of not taking medication out of fear of side effects. Not all psychotropic medications make you drowsy, always talk to your doctor before going off meds !

Have a specific question about psychiatry ? Please ask us here or on facebook here

The Vivid Mind is a psychiatry and mental wellness clinic in Anna Nagar, Chennai. We aim at providing holistic, multimodal care for those suffering from disruptions in feelings, behaviours, productivity or relationships. We offer effective management strategies for depression, anxiety, unexplained physical symptoms, addictions, child/adolescent problems and other behavioural issues.The information provided in this website does not substitute for a medical consult.