Psychiatry is a medical field concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions.

A doctor who works in psychiatry is called a psychiatrist. Unlike other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and counsellors, psychiatrists must be medically qualified doctors who have chosen to specialise in psychiatry. This means they can prescribe medication as well as recommend other forms of treatment.

Mental illness is extremely common and far more prevalent than most people realise. This kind of illness therefore ranks alongside cardiovascular disorders and cancer as one of the nation's biggest health problems.

Mental health problems can take many forms including depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, anxieties, phobias, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dementia.

There are six specialties within psychiatry. 

Specialties are: 

  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • General psychiatry
  • Medical psychotherapy
  • Old age psychiatry
  • Psychiatry of intellectual disability (PID)

What conditions can psychiatrists treat?

Mental health conditions that may be diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Phobias 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Schizophrenia and paranoia
  • Depression and bipolar disorder
  • Dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia
  • Addictions, such as drug or alcohol misuse

Psychiatrists may also provide psychological support for people with long-term, painful or terminal physical health conditions