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Psychiatry 101: Who Is A Psychiatrist And When To Visit One?

Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana

3 min read

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The word ‘Psychiatry’ is derived from the Medieval Latin word psychiatra or ‘healing of the soul’. While both psychiatry and psychology deal with mental health, most people find it challenging to distinguish a psychologist from a psychiatrist.

Who Is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are mental health physicians who undergo extensive medical and professional training before attaining a practitioners’ license. As medical specialists, psychiatrists are not only trained to diagnose and treat psychological and social aspects of mental, addictive, emotional and behavioral disorders but can also conduct tests and prescribe relevant medication if required.

Contrary to popularly held notions, a psychiatrist will not immediately know what is wrong with you as soon as you enter his/her office. While psychiatrists differ from psychologists in the fundamental way that they possess the qualifications to administer medication, you will still need to confide in them regarding your struggles for them to be able to effectively diagnose you and decide whether you require medication or not.

In the case that you do, the dosage and frequency will also be determined by your particular case, which makes it necessary for you to take an active part in your treatment by confiding in the professional. One fear that people hold is that their private information will reach their family members or peers, even members of society.

It is essential to remember that a psychiatrist is not at liberty to share your personal information with anyone unless it is in a professional setting or you are at a threat of seriously harming yourself or someone else. Most people hesitate in opening up to psychiatrists because they feel embarrassed and think that they will undergo judgement.

The first thing to remember is that psychiatrists have studied and heard all kinds of struggles, and they are the last people who will judge you. They are there to help you feel like the best version of yourself, to assist you in tapping into the highest potential your mind has to offer to you. They will be able to diagnose and treat you better the more you open up.


4 years of specialized residency is required after 5 years of MBBS and a 1-year internship. Psychiatrists also do an in-depth study of pediatrics and neurology along with many other medical fields.

What Can a Psychiatrist Do?

Along with treatment and diagnosis, psychiatrists also help prevent occurrence of several disorders related to mental health such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and psychosis (e.g. hallucinations and delusions).

They can also help patients in overcoming emotional stress and trauma through psychotherapy aka ‘talk therapy’, relevant medication or a combination of both; the treatment plan varies from case to case.

Generally, your therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist if talk therapy alone is not sufficient treatment, and the severity of your symptoms requires immediate relief, such as combating hallucinations, suicidal thoughts or manic impulses. Alternatively, you can directly reach out to a psychiatrist if you feel like you require immediate attention to alleviate your symptoms.

Additionally, a psychiatrist can also treat other mental conditions, some of which are:

  • Panic Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Eating Disorders
  • Dissociative Identity Disorders (DID)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Insomnia

Advantages of Seeing a Psychiatrist

Due to their strong knowledge of biology and neurochemistry, psychiatrists can distinguish between an actual mental disorder and mental side effects of underlying conditions because they have wide-ranging knowledge pertaining to how the mind interacts with the body. In addition to psychological counselling, they can also work in coordination with other medical specialists to provide a more effective treatment.

Psychiatrists are often referred to by psychologists for treating more serious mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia, as they possess a wider treatment option range and adequate formal training.

Common Workplaces

In addition to working in hospitals and private practices, psychiatrists can also choose to work with specific groups-such as children or the elderly, in companies and corporations, forensics, research-based institutions and academia (teaching). It is advisable to attend a session with them if you feel like workplace or academic stress is overbearing to the point of significantly interfering with the quality of your life and basic functioning.

When to See a Psychiatrist?

You can visit the psychiatrist’s office for an accurate diagnosis of a suspected mental health issue and to see if it is not, in fact, a side effect of another medical condition. If already diagnosed, a psychiatrist can also be visited in case of ineffectiveness of prescribed medication, multiple diagnoses or complex side effects.


Since psychiatry has only recently been recognized as an independent specialism in Pakistan, there aren’t many sub-branches of this specialty in Pakistan. However, the following sub-specialties of psychiatry are recognized internationally

  • Addiction Psychiatry (For Substance Addiction Treatment)
  • Community Based Psychiatry: (Focusing on children, the elderly and general adults 18-60)
  • Forensic Psychiatry: (For criminals and offenders)
  • Neurodevelopmental Delays: (For brain developmental issues and effects)
  • Liaison Psychology: (PTSD and physical pain management)

Despite social misconceptions pertaining to psychiatric and psychological illnesses in Pakistan, their recognition and treatment should not be taken lightly. Receiving therapy or medical treatment does not deem you ‘crazy.’ Mental health issues are not a matter of shame.

Just like any other part of your body, your mind is susceptible to illness and deserves to be taken care of. In fact, it can be argued that your mind is the most fundamental organ, one that sets you apart from all other life on the planet.

Naturally, it is embowed with more responsibilities than we can even fathom, the navigation of which is no small feat. Our functioning is most heavily reliant on our ability to think clearly, and if you feel this ability is being compromised even in the slightest, do not hesitate to book an appointment with a top Psychiatrist in Karachi, Multan and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com.

You can also call our helpline at 042 3890 0939 9 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your mental health issues. Take the first step in normalising receiving treatment for mental health and removing the unnecessary stigma around it.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana
Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana - Author Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana is a Psychiatrist practicing in Lahore. She is Ph.D from Spain, MD from China and MCPS from Pakistan. If you wish to seek her advice on mental health issues, please visit oladoc and get an appointment with her.

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