From ArticleWorld

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with studying, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists are specially trained in this area, but any physician should be able to deal with mental diseases at a basic level.

The practice of psychiatry

Psychiatry is practiced by specially trained personnel who can prescribe medication, although some basic mental care can be practiced by social workers or other untrained people, but they cannot prescribe medication.

The practice itself involves gathering information from many sources, not only by talking to the person who requires psychiatric care. The practice of psychiatry itself has many areas, dealing with any type of mental affection, ranging from child and adolescent psychiatry to Learning Disability psychiatry and forensic psychiatry.

There are two main ways people (the term of patient is considered pejorative in this case) are referred to a psychiatrist are self-referral and referral by a primary-care physician. In some cases, they may be referred by court order.

In any case, the psychiatrist must first develop a relation with the patient (if possible), he must obtain as much information and possible, and then take any action needed. The practice of psychiatry, as opposed to psychological care, involves a biological factor in any affection that may occur, so it may involve a special medication and hospitalization.


The DSM (short for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a psychiatric diagnose system under the supervision of the American Psychiatric Association. It is based around five main categories or axes:

  • Axis I: Psychiatric disorders
  • Axis II: Personality disorders / Mental retardation
  • Axis III: General medical condition
  • Axis IV: Social functioning and impact of symptoms
  • Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning (on a scale from 100 to 0)

The DSM system tries to unify a set of common affections under an unitary diagnosis system, although many specialists are becoming increasingly critical about the DSM system, as the categories are considered to be too broad and many symptoms overlap.

The International Classification of Diseases-10 system (ICD-10) is less specific, but is criticized even more, considered too vague and lacking scientific foundation.

Psychology vs. psychiatry

Despite sharing much scientific knowledge and practice, psychology and psychiatry are different practices and they should be seen as different practices. This is a common problem in some modern societies, where people believe that the mere fact of seeing a psychology is a sign of a mental disorder.

Psychiatry is a medical practice that deals with mental illnesses, and psychiatrists are doctors. In contrast, psychology studies the human behavior and thought, without involving medication. Most medical regulations worldwide actually do not allow psychologists to prescribe medications, and in general, if they are allowed to prescribe medication, they must have special post-university training. The common trend is not to allow psychologists to prescribe medication, not because they would lack the competence itself, but because treatment by medication is not in their field of practice. They can, however, refer people for psychiatric care.