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What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry is an area of medicine focused on diagnosing, preventing, and treating mental health disorders, including substance use disorders. Mental health disorders, also called mental illness, refer to a wide range of disorders that affect behavior, cognition, and mood. Some examples include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Physicians who specialize in psychiatry are psychiatrists. Many people confuse psychiatrists with psychologists, but the two professions are different. The primary difference is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can prescribe medications. Though psychologists often hold doctorate degrees, they are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medications.

Psychiatrists may undergo additional training to become specialized in one area of psychiatry, such as:

Why is psychiatry important in healthcare?

Psychiatry is important to healthcare because it offers specialized medical care for patients with behavioral health conditions. These treatments may include medications, psychotherapy, and psychosocial interventions. Through the work of psychiatry, patients can see an improvement in their quality of life.