What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor who deals with problems related to mental health. A psychiatrist will be either a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathy (DO). Psychiatrists can treat a broad range of problems, short-term and chronic, including anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Diagnosing and treating all mental, emotional and behavioral disorders fall in the realm of a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists are not the same as psychologists. They both can use psychotherapy to help people talk through their mental health disorders, but psychologists are not doctors. Psychiatrists, though, as doctors, can do medical and psychological testing and prescribe medications and a variety of medical treatments for mental health disorders. The range of conditions that psychiatrists can treat is much broader, and they have more tools at their disposal.

Psychiatrists also may specialize in specific problems or conditions. This might be addiction, substance abuse, geriatrics, children, adolescents, sleep problems or others. Although people seeking mental health care traditionally have gone to psychiatrists for therapy, today an increasing number of psychiatrists no longer do talk therapy, focusing instead on prescribing medication. Talk therapy has become more the domain of psychologists, social workers and other counselors.