Most of us, at one time in life or another, will struggle with a mental health disorder. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about one in four American adults is has a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. This may be a short-lived bout of anxiety or years-long depressive disorder. Maybe there is a struggle with disordered eating or social anxiety. Some may have recurrent nightmares related to a past trauma. Whatever the manifestation, a mental health condition can cause major disruption in one’s life.
Mental health practitioners are the professionals who can provide therapy, medication, treatments, tests and referrals, and often these services overlap. Only a psychiatrist is considered a medical doctor, or an M.D., as they have completed medical school and a four-year residency practicing psychiatry. To become a board certified psychiatrist, the doctor must pass a written and oral battery of tests administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Many then go on to gain additional training in specific areas of study, such as addiction psychiatry or child psychiatry.
In most cases, someone who is experiencing a chronic mental illness, who has been first seen by a medical doctor and even a psychologist and has not achieved remission, should then make an appointment with a psychiatrist Costa Mesa. These doctors can offer additional services that can potentially help provide relief from the mental health condition.
What Types of Therapy Does a Psychiatrist Provide?
There are many different types of psychotherapy modalities that a psychiatrist may utilize depending on the diagnosis. Most fall within these categories:
- Psychodynamic therapy. This is a long-term examination of the patient’s childhood experiences, personal history, emotional traumas, and psyche to help relate current mental health issues with a significant event that might be causal.
- Behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps patients change unhealthy or maladaptive behaviors using a reward and punishment model (B.F. Skinner) to bring about new positive behaviors.
- Cognitive therapy. This type of therapy deals with the irrational or dysfunctional thinking patterns that may be at the root of self-destructive behaviors, and to change them.
- Integrative therapy. This can involve combining two or more therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
A psychiatrist may be more apt to use psychodynamic therapy approaches, which are a deeper dive into the psyche and past events that have shaped current beliefs and behaviors. Psychologists utilize cognitive behavioral therapy as a short-term action-based therapy for changing disordered thought and behavioral patterns.
Medications that Psychiatrists Might Prescribe
Psychotropic drugs are used to help patients manage mental health disorders when other methods have not been successful. The class of medications most commonly prescribed is antidepressants, including SSRIs’, SNRIs, MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants. Other highly prescribed medications include mood stabilizers, hypnotics, stimulants, sedatives, and antipsychotic medications.
There are significant side effects that can accompany these psychotropic medications. These might include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, fatigue, blurred vision, irritability, and insomnia, among other adverse symptoms. When side effects outweigh the benefits of the drug, the medication will be discontinued and a new one trialed.
When it becomes determined that a patient is medication-resistant, meaning the individual did not have a successful response to the medication for controlling symptoms, the psychiatrist can then begin to consider alternative treatment approaches. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is one such therapy that is providing relief to those who were not helped by medications. TMS, a brain stimulation technique, has been shown to be a safe and effective noninvasive treatment for major depressive disorder and co-occurring anxiety disorder in patients who are medication-resistant.
What Is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?
There is often confusion about what makes the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist Costa Mesa. Both professions involve being practitioners in the mental health field, working to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. But there are some distinctions between the two professions:
Psychologist. A psychologist holds a doctoral degree, or a Ph.D, Psy.D, or Ed.D, in psychology. Following graduate school the psychologist will participate in an internship that is 2-3 years in length for extensive training in treatment methods and therapies. A psychologist is qualified to treat mental health disorders with counseling and psychotherapy, as well as psychological testing. Most will work closely with a psychiatrist to refer patients who need pharmacotherapy.
Psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the field of mental health. The psychiatrist completes medical school, residency, and board certifications. As a psychiatrist, they provide psychotherapy, prescribe medications, and treat patients with a medical condition that causes psychiatric symptoms. Some patients may be treated satisfactorily with medication alone, and others may benefit from the combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Which Mental Health Disorders Are Most Prevalent?
Among the various mental health disorders identified in the DSM-5, the prevalence of anxiety far out-paces other disorders, with 40 million Americans suffering from some form of anxiety. The spectrum of anxiety disorders includes:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
- Specific phobias
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Following anxiety, the next leading mental health disorder experienced by adults in the U.S. is major depressive disorder, with over 16 million people struggling with depression. Other mental health disorders that afflict millions of people include substance use disorder, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.
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