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What Is The Difference Between A Psychiatrist And A Psychologist?

People dealing with mental health problems like depression or anxiety disorder are suggested to consult a psychiatrist and/or psychologist. But this does not imply that psychologists and psychiatrist are the experts who provide similar medical service. So how do you figure out that you need to visit a psychologist or a psychiatrist for catering to a mental health concern? While the two fields of science may have similarities, they do have significant differences which set them apart from each other.

Psychologists and psychiatrists differ in their approach towards mental health problems

What are the similarities in a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists and psychologists are different types of doctor who study ways to deal with mental health issues. They are both there to talk people through their problems and help them when they are finding difficulty in dealing with their emotions. They try to help you manage struggles of everyday life.

Difference between psychologist and psychiatrist

While psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) who graduate from a medical school and have residency in assessment and treatment of mental health disorders, psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and study the mind and behaviour.

Psychologists are not medical doctors. They can have a PhD in philosophy or PsyD in clinical or counselling psychology. They are also trained in giving psychological tests like IQ and personality tests, unlike psychiatrists.

Psychiatrists have the authority of prescribing medications to people dealing with mental health problems. This is because of their medical training. However, the same is not the case with psychologists. Only a psychologist who has taken a course in psychopharmacology can prescribe limited number of psychiatric medications.

How psychologists and psychiatrists are different in their approach

Psychologists and psychiatrists are both trained for practicing psychotherapy, which refers to talking to patients about their problems in life. But their background training makes them both approach to mental health problems in different ways.

For instance, a psychologist will track sleep patterns of a person who is depressed and cannot get out bed. S/he will also track eating patterns and negative thoughts that might be causing such a behavioural activation.

Both psychology and psychiatry backed by complete trust and confidentiality

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, will have a stronger sense of biology and neurochemistry. Before calling someone “depressed”, they will first check if a person is suffering from any other medical condition like vitamin deficiency of thyroid problem. It is only after doing the mental diagnosis that a psychiatrist will prescribe medicines.

Whom should you call

Serious mental health problems such as major depression, schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder should be checked with a psychiatrist. This is because these conditions have severe physical symptoms and it might get difficult for the patient to take basic care of himself/herself. Psychiatrists have better formal training and treatment options for patients with such mental illness, as compared to psychologists.

In the meantime, there are many patients who do not prefer to take medications. Their mental health conditions are less severe and they usually are afraid of getting addicted to medicines. They are also apprehensive about the medicines would react on their body chemistry. If you feel the same, you should probably visit a psychologist.

Nonetheless, a clinically depressed person can benefit from medication (psychiatrist) and someone dealing with phobia can find relief by taking some therapy (psychologist). A psychologist dealing with a person – with more severe symptoms such as suicidal tendencies or highly irrational thoughts – will usually ask him/her to consult a psychiatrist for better diagnosis and treatment through medicines.

Do not shy away from seeking help from psychologist or psychiatrist when needed

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are visiting a psychiatrist or a psychology. If you are facing problems in dealing with life and are going through an emotional crisis, you must seek help. Both psychology and psychiatry are built around strong relationships which are backed by complete trust and confidentiality. After you seek primary level help from visiting a doctor, the secondary level of help will be provided to you by the doctor.

But no matter what, do not continue hiding your discomfort and pain because of a mental illness for too long.

Mental illness is as serious as physical illness and must be taken seriously under all circumstances. We are living in times when celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Ellen DeGenres, Cara Delevingne and many more have come out in the open and spoken about depression. If you feel you are experiencing prolonged sadness or any other kind of emotional crisis, do visit a psychologist or psychiatrist at the earliest.

The Writer