This page provides some background information to help you understand what a psychiatrist is and whether is the right specialist for you.

If you native language is Italian and you find easier to speak to a doctor in your mother-tongue, please check out our directory of Italian speaking psychiatrists in London and the UK

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental illness. They are also able to assess the connections between physical and mental aspects of the illness.

Psychiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health condition and when possible, they deal with the prevention of it.

The difference between psychiatrists and other professionals is that they have to be medically qualified doctors and therefore can prescribe medication.

There are six specialties within psychiatry:

  • general psychiatry (for patients aged 18-65)
  • child and adolescent psychiatry  (patients under the age of 18)
  • old age psychiatry  (adults over the age of 65)
  • psychiatry of intellectual disability
  • forensic psychiatry  (prison inmates and those in secure hospitals)
  • medical psychotherapy

The conditions treated by a psychiatrist can be:

  • anxiety
  • dementia
  • learning disabilities
  • phobias
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • personality disorders
  • schizophrenia and paranoia
  • depression and bipolar disorder
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • sleep disorders, such as insomnia
  • addictions, such as drug or alcohol misuse

During the first appointment the psychiatrist carries out an initial assessment that involves information about the mental and physical health of the patients. He/she can also ask questions about their problems and thoughts.

Once the initial assessment is completed, the psychiatrist decides which treatment to follow. He/she might prescribe medication and/or recommend more sessions (with him/her or another professional).

In some cases, he/she might choose to admit someone to hospital (even against their will), but the final decision has to be made by a team of different professionals.