Psychiatry is the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental, emotional, psychological, and behavioural illnesses.
Many people seek psychiatric help at some point in their lives for numerous reasons. They may be personal problems or feelings that come on suddenly such as panic attacks, hearing “voices” or thoughts of hallucination or they may be long term feelings of sadness, anxiousness, hopelessness and inability to cope. These psychiatric problems can cause a person’s outlook to become distorted and feelings may become overwhelming making life feel out of control. Not all of these conditions require psychiatric support.
Our Consultant psychiatrists are experienced in helping you to manage or overcome these disorders and can assess if you need further support. They offer confidential one to one consultations where they will examine your mental and physical wellbeing together with your personal and family history and what’s currently happening in your life. They often specialise in a certain area of psychiatry and may offer treatments including medication and psychotherapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
What conditions can psychiatrists treat?
A psychiatrist is a medically qualified doctor who can assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. These include:
Addictions – including alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking
These are health disorders whereby you are unable to stop doing something that is causing harm to you or others. Your addiction can take over your life and affect your health, work, relationships and finances. Addictions can be managed and over time with the right support and treatment you should expect to recover.
Alzheimer's and dementia
Dementia is a medical condition that causes problems with memory, thinking and learning new things due to damaged brain cells. It is often caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia and it gets worse over time but some symptoms can be helped such as depression and behavioural issues to make life more enjoyable.
Anxiety, panic and phobias
Anxiety is the feeling of fear when faced with threatening or difficult situations. It can be a problem if the feeling is too strong or if it is there all the time. Panic is the sudden rush of fear and a feeling of losing control. A phobia is a fear of a situation, or object and can dominate life. You can learn to control these fears and to relax.
Bereavement and loss
Everyone grieves in different ways after a bereavement or loss. Grieving may involve many emotions. Some people need support to help them come to terms with their loss.
Depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and bipolar disorder
Depression is very common. It involves deep, persistent sadness or low mood that can interfere with your everyday life. There are many treatments for depression and you can get better. Depression can return but you can make lifestyle changes and learn strategies to help prevent this.
Seasonal Affective Disorder has been termed ‘winter depression’ and has similar symptoms to depression.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition whereby your mood can swing very high (mania), or very low (depression), for weeks or months. There are treatments for the highs and lows and you can learn how to control these episodes.
Eating problems are often due to an intense fear of becoming fat and can damage your health.The most common and well known eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Eating disorders can be dangerous and may lead to serious ill health. A psychiatrist can discuss your thoughts and feelings to help you to understand how the problem started, and how to make changes.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD involves having recurring thoughts (obsessions) that make you anxious, and doing things over and over again (compulsions) to help you to feel less anxious. Psychotherapies and medication can help change your reaction to these obsessions and compulsions.
If you have a personality disorder, parts of your personality makes it hard for you to live with yourself and/or other people. This can sometimes lead to self-harm. There are self-help strategies you can employ, psychotherapies and medications to help and improve these disorders over time.
Physical, sleep problems and tiredness
A serious physical illness can affect every area of your life including your emotions and psychological wellbeing. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a physical illness that causes extreme tiredness after little effort. Some people suffer from insomnia and have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. You can make changes at home to try and improve your symptoms and problems sleeping and psychiatry may support these.
Postnatal mental health
Postnatal depression may feel similar to depression with often a great deal of focus on the baby and in being a mother. Talking therapies and medications may help if self-help options are not working.
Schizophrenia and psychosis
Schizophrenia affects how you think, feel and behave and may cause you to have abnormal experiences. Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, difficulty thinking and loss of interest. Psychosis causes you to perceive or interpret things differently from others and may involve hallucinations or delusions. A combination of medications and psychotherapy are used to treat these conditions.
Stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma
In today’s world, stress is becoming more common. It happens when you struggle to cope with the demands of your life or an event and feel too much mental or emotional pressure. Treatment often involves identifying the cause and triggers of your stress, and developing effective coping techniques.
After a traumatic event you may feel long lasting distress. People with post-traumatic stress disorder may have flashbacks or nightmares and feel physical symptoms such as aches, anxiousness and depression. Psychotherapies and medications can be effective in the treatment of PTSD.
Seek help early
The sooner you recognise or suspect a mental, emotional or behavioural problem it’s advisable to get help as it is usually easier to recover in the early days rather than when you hit rock bottom. Your GP can advise you and refer you to the appropriate person who may be a psychiatrist.
What treatments do psychiatrists use?
Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments including various forms of psychotherapy (talking therapy), and medications based on the individual needs of each patient.
Psychotherapy is a talking relationship between you and a psychiatrist or therapist. It is used to treat many mental disorders and emotional difficulties by eliminating or controlling symptoms to allow you to function better. Psychotherapies can help you: change your behaviours or thought patterns, explore the effect of past relationships and experiences on your current behaviours and to solve specific problems.
Treatment can involve a few sessions or many sessions over a period of years and can be done individually, as a couple, with a family, or in a group.
Types of psychotherapy include:
- CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. Cognitive therapy explores how your thoughts and beliefs may be causing emotional problems, and behavioural psychotherapy finds ways to help you change the way you act.
- Psychoanalysis identifies links between past events and how you think and act now to enable problem solving. It is intensive and long-term.
- Psychodynamic therapy uses similar techniques to psychoanalysis but is a less intensive and aims to find quicker solutions for more immediate problems.
- Humanistic therapies explore how you think about yourself and recognise your strengths to help you think more positively about yourself.
- Interpersonal therapy links your relationships with others with your emotional problems.
- Family therapy focuses on family relationships, such as marriage and encourages all involved to work together and resolve problems.
- Counselling allows you to talk about and deal with your problems and feelings in a confidential environment.
- Mindfulness allows you active, open attention on the present.
Medications can be prescribed by psychiatrists to help treat mental disorders by correcting imbalances in your brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders. They are often prescribed in combination with psychotherapies.
Medications can include: antidepressants (depression, anxiety and panic disorder, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality and eating disorders), antipsychotic medications (psychotic symptoms including delusions and hallucinations, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), sedatives and anxiolytics (anxiety and insomnia), hypnotics (to induce and maintain sleep), mood stabilisers (bipolar disorder) and stimulants (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - ADHD).