Psychiatry is different from other areas of medicine - and mental suffering is different from other areas of illness. When the body is ill, it impacts the body. When the mind is sick, it impacts the person—the very substance of who that person is. And that can be unsettling. No wonder there is a stigma among the general public that psychiatry is a pseudoscience and that one should be slow to trust mental health care providers. It's both unfair and unfortunate that a doctor saying they are a psychiatrist at a dinner party earns far less respect than a doctor saying they are a neurosurgeon or a cardiologist.
The brain is one of the most important and most complex things that exists, however our understanding of brain science is still in its infancy. Psychiatrists are at the frontline of the many ethical, legal, moral, and medical issues that confront them when they encounter patients who are hallucinating, catatonic, aggressive, suicidal, paranoid, high on drugs, and physically sick. They need to base their assessments through clinical observations and history-taking, as opposed to predominantly using laboratory tests. This is because diagnostic imaging or blood tests don’t exist for most psychiatric disorders.
As doctors, psychiatrists understand the ins and outs of the body as well as the mind. Their training - four years of medical school followed by four years of psychiatric residency - allows them to diagnose basic and complex psychiatric conditions which include: psychosis; affective disorders; anxiety disorders; and behavioural disorders. They are also able to prescribe medications, to deliver psychotherapy, and to administer somatic therapies. Some psychiatrists specialize in liason psychiatry, childhood and adolescent psychiatry, or forensic psychiatry.
There are those with the opinion that psychiatric treatment (medication) is dangerous, unnecessary, and should be avoided at all costs. Others say that psychiatrists have dramatically improved their quality of life. Unfortunately, while other medical professions benefit from online reviews or word-of-mouth referrals, psychiatric care still carries a stigma and most people who see psychiatrists keep their opinions and experiences to themselves. People don't tend to feel comfortable posting public reviews and sometimes avoid even telling their close family/friends about their psychiatrist.