Monday, July 7, 2008

What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine which concerns itself with mental illness. Its inclusion among the branches of medicine, alongside neurology, cardiology, oncology, surgery, etc. reflects the belief in our modern scientific culture, that "symptoms of the mind" such as anxiety, depression, hallucinations, delusions, etc. can be approached using a "medical model": a full history of the symptoms is needed, an "examination" is made through spending time with the patient, appropriate tests are done to rule out various diagnostic possibilities, then a diagnosis is made, a name is given to what the problem is. Treatments can then begin. Just as in approaching a heart problem, the treatments may involve lifestyle change, rehabilitative efforts, but sometimes also medications, sometimes an urgent hospital stay. In psychiatry, one of the treatments can often be establishing a supportive and trusting psychotherapy relationship.

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