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What can I expect at the first consultation?Seeing a psychiatrist is no different from seeing any other doctor. Just as a doctor may ask details about your cough, a psychiatrist will take a thorough history to understand your problem. Some questions about your childhood and background may be asked as your past experiences shape your perception of the present. A mental state examination and physical examination are also performed. If warranted, blood investigations or psychological tests may be ordered. After the diagnosis is made, the treatment plan is discussed with the patient. Treatment may be medication or psychotherapy or usually a combination of both. The first consultation usually lasts 40 minutes to an hour.
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?Firstly a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in the study of the brain and mental illness. As doctors, psychiatrists are trained to diagnose medical conditions and prescribe medications. There is a need for physical examination and at times blood investigations too as certain medical conditions can mimic a psychiatric condition. For example, a person with hyperthyroidism can have anxiety-like symptoms. Furthermore recent research show that many of the psychiatric illnesses are due to neurochemical imbalances i.e. a disease of the brain and not just the mind. A psychologist is not a medical doctor but is someone who is trained in providing psychological interventions i.e. through talking and interaction with the client can effect changes in the person's behaviour. Some psychiatrists are also trained in psychotherapy and are proficient in providing both psychotherapy and medication. In most psychiatric conditions, research has shown that combination therapy is often the most effective.
If I see a psychiatrist, does it mean I am 'mad'?"Of course NOT!. This is a common misconception that has unfortunately been perpetuated, which creates the stigma surrounding mental illness. Life can be stressful and even the strongest amongst us will break under immense pressure. Sometimes we just need to be guided back on track. Crises can be seen as an opportunity for growth. Furthermore, current research show that many of the psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and psychosis are due to imbalances in the neurochemical transmitters in the brain.
Do I need to be on medication?Depending on your diagnosis and severity of your condtion, the psychiatrist will discuss the appropriate treatment plan with you. If your condition is mild, psychotherapy and social support may suffice. However if your condition is moderate to severe and has impacted your work or functioning, then you may need a combination of both medication and psychotherapy.
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