A psychiatrist is a doctor who works in the field of psychiatry, which means that they specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are different to psychologists and counsellors as they have a medical degree. This allows them to prescribe medication, which they may do alongside prescribing treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy or counselling.
As doctors, they are registered with the General Medical Council in the UK, and will be on the council’s List of Registered Medical Practitioners. If they became an NHS consultant after 1 January 1997, they must also be on the Specialist register.
If you think you have a mental health problem you should go and see your GP, who will then refer you appropriately. You may be referred to a psychiatrist if you are suffering from symptoms such as delusions, thoughts of violence to yourself or others, hallucinations or disordered thinking. These symptoms may have significantly changed your behaviour, way of life and thought processes and as a result you might not be able to maintain relationships or function on a day-to-day basis any more. They can be a symptom of, or accompaniment to, a wide range of mental health conditions, for example schizophrenia, types of depression, anxiety and personality disorders. You should also arrange to see a psychiatrist if you have previously been diagnosed with a mental health problem but feel that your condition is worsening, or the treatment you have been prescribed is not working.