What's a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in mental health. They specialise in diagnosing and treating people with mental illness.

Psychiatrists have a deep understanding of physical and mental health – and how they affect each other.

They help people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addiction.

What does a psychiatrist do?

Psychiatrists assess all of your mental and physical symptoms.

They make a diagnosis and work with you to develop a management plan for your treatment and recovery.

Psychiatrists provide psychological treatment, prescribe medications and do procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy.

As part of their work, a psychiatrist can:

  • provide urgent care for a sudden mental illness
  • help you to manage a long-term mental health condition
  • provide advice about lifestyle changes
  • work with you individually, or with you and your partner, family or carers
  • provide second opinions and advice to other doctors and health professionals
  • refer you to other health professionals
  • admit you to hospital if required.

What can a psychiatrist help with?

A psychiatrist can be of particular help if your mental health condition:

  • is complex or difficult to diagnose
  • involves suicidal ideas or plans
  • is severe or happens suddenly
  • needs medication that only a psychiatrist can prescribe
  • isn’t responding to standard treatment through your GP (family doctor).

Common reasons why someone might see a psychiatrist:

  • problems adjusting after major life changes or stress
  • anxiety, worry or fear
  • depressed or low mood that doesn’t go away
  • suicidal thinking
  • thoughts of hurting other people
  • hurting yourself on purpose
  • too much energy, being unable to sleep, wind down or relax
  • constant negative thoughts
  • obsessional thinking
  • feeling on edge or jumpy
  • feeling like people are after you or want to harm you
  • hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
  • delusions (fixed beliefs with no basis in reality)
  • rushing, disjointed thoughts
  • out of control alcohol or drug use
  • problem gambling, gaming or other addictive behaviours
  • problems around body image, eating or dieting
  • memory problems
  • poor concentration and attention, hyperactivity
  • violence, agitation or emotional outbursts
  • insomnia and other sleep problems
  • conditions that start in childhood such as autism, intellectual disability and childhood anxiety.

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