A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor. We are trained as specialists to recognize, diagnose, and treat mental health issues. As with all health matters, mental health issues can be transient or chronic, and vary from mild to severe intensity. Sometimes mental health symptoms are precipitated by a life situation or an event, or may be in relation to a physical health issue. Psychiatric illness can also be the result of nervous system dysfunction and its effects on behavior. Psychiatry utilizes research in the fields of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Biology in an interdisciplinary approach to focus on the biological, psychological, and social elements of well-being.
The history of Psychiatry dates back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician. The term itself was first coined by the German physician Johann Christian Reil in 1808. Its translation literally means “treatment of the soul”. While poorly understood for many years, the field has evolved and great strides have paved the way toward the greater good of mental wellness. In the early 1900’s, Sigmund Freud, an Austrian Neurologist, developed the principles of Psychotherapy. The process of Psychotherapy is to explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, providing valuable information about these influences on one’s sense of self and behavior. Throughout the 1950’s, psychotherapy was the principle intervention in the treatment of mental health disorders. In the present day, the field of Psychiatry has continued to evolve, and has become more inclusive of the biological mechanisms involved in illness and experience.
The scope of clinical care can range from strictly medication management of illness (psychopharmacology) to strictly counseling (psychotherapy). A combined approach utilizing both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy has become the most common practice of care. Treatment varies depending on the clinical issue and the level of functional impairment. One of the biggest problems with mental health illness is getting individuals into treatment. Sometimes denial of illness, fears about treatment, and perceived stigmas deter intervention.
The simple truth is, life can be challenging on a daily basis. High stress levels can lead to negative life experiences and affective and cognitive instability. Mental illness can be debilitating and can impair quality of life. As with any medical issue, having a discussion with a physician can create an opportunity to explore the extent of these issues and to determine the most useful modality of intervention. Practical solutions can help create a road map to the repair and resolution of conflict and to the determination of further management.