Psychiatry

Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders. These include various maladaptations related to mood, behavior, cognition, and perceptions. See glossary of psychiatry. Initial psychiatric assessment of a person typically begins with a case history and mental status examination. Physical examinations and psychological tests may be conducted. On occasion, neuroimaging or other neurophysiological techniques are used. Mental disorders are often diagnosed in accordance with clinical concepts.

Focus and Theory

Psychiatry refers to a field of medicine focused specifically on the mind, aiming to study, prevent, and treat mental disorders in humans. It has been described as an intermediary between the world from a social context and the world from the perspective of those who are mentally ill. People who specialize in psychiatry often differ from most other mental health professionals and physicians in that they must be familiar with both the social and biological sciences. The discipline studies the operations of different organs and body systems as classified by the patient's subjective experiences and the objective physiology of the patient. Psychiatry treats mental disorders, which are conventionally divided into three very general categories: mental illnesses, severe learning disabilities, and personality disorders. While the focus of psychiatry has changed little over time, the diagnostic and treatment processes have evolved dramatically and continue to do so.

Diagnostic System

Psychiatric diagnoses take place in a wide variety of settings and are performed by many different health professionals. Therefore, the diagnostic procedure may vary greatly based upon these factors. Typically, though, a psychiatric diagnosis utilizes a differential diagnosis procedure where a mental status examination and physical examination is conducted, with pathological, psycho pathological or psycho social histories obtained, and sometimes neuro images or other neurophysiology's measurements are taken, or personality tests or cognitive tests administered. In some cases, a brain scan might be used to rule out other medical illnesses, but at this time relying on brain scans alone cannot accurately diagnose a mental illness or tell the risk of getting a mental illness in the future. Some clinicians are beginning to utilize genetics and speech during the diagnostic process but on the whole these remain research topics.

Treatment

  • Inpatient Treatment

Psychiatric treatments have changed over the past several decades. In the past, psychiatric patients were often hospitalized for six months or more, with some cases involving hospitalization for many years. Average inpatient psychiatric treatment stay has decreased significantly since the 1960s, a trend known as de-institutionalization. Today in most countries, people receiving psychiatric treatment are more likely to be seen as outpatients. If hospitalization is required, the average hospital stay is around one to two weeks, with only a small number receiving long-term hospitalization. Psychiatric inpatients are people admitted to a hospital or clinic to receive psychiatric care. Some are admitted involuntarily, perhaps committed to a secure hospital, or in some jurisdictions to a facility within the prison system.


  • Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment involves periodic visits to a psychiatrist for consultation in his or her office, or at a community-based outpatient clinic. Initial appointments, at which the psychiatrist conducts a psychiatric assessment or evaluation of the patient, are typically 45 to 75 minutes in length. Follow-up appointments are generally shorter in duration, i.e., 15 to 30 minutes, with a focus on making medication adjustments, reviewing potential medication interactions, considering the impact of other medical disorders on the patient's mental and emotional functioning, and counseling patients regarding changes they might make to facilitate healing and remission of symptoms. The frequency with which a psychiatrist sees people in treatment varies widely, from once a week to twice a year, depending on the type, severity and stability of each person's condition, and depending on what the clinician and patient decide would be best.