Everyone goes through a time in their life when they are struggling emotionally. Sometimes the distress can become so powerful and intense that you might find your sleep, mood, appetite, ability to think clearly and manage day-to-day life suffer. Usually, most people are able to go through the issues with the support of friends or family but sometimes despite this some can find themselves become more emotionally or mentally unwell. The job of a medically qualified psychiatrist is to assess the precipitating and maintaining factors for the upheaval and with the careful use of medication, talking therapy, practical advice on making adjustments to one’s life/routine, guide you back to a better quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
Having lived and worked in London for all of my adult life and having colleagues with busy jobs in and around the capital, I am aware of the impact that work related stress has on one’s sleep, energy, motivation, mood and I am able to assess and treat stress related problems as well.
I am aware that you may have not seen a psychiatrist before and your perception of a psychiatrist may in part be derived from films, TV and books. The myths of what psychiatrists or psychiatry are persist. Psychiatrists are medically qualified doctors that have gone through rigorous medical training encompassing different branches of science from neuroscience, neurology, pharmacology and psychology. They learn and use interview skills honed over many years to formulate diagnoses and generate treatment plans. This is very much similar to a physician or surgeon that asks you a lot of questions about your symptoms and then proceeds to examine you looking for signs and symptoms of disease or illness.
The diseases and disorders we diagnose in psychiatry have been internationally developed and ratified using scientific and statistical methods. They are listed and defined in the same medical classification books as those for physical illnesses such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes etc… We are unable to resort to a blood test or a scanner to visualise pathology, as the disease or disorder in psychiatry is localised on the microscopic level or deep within some faulty programming in the brain, so rely on looking for patterns of symptoms and signs that cluster into recognised disorders and diseases described to us by the patient in a consultation. Psychiatrists and brain researchers are working on ways to localise parts of the brain and its associated programming that are responsible for driving anxiety, depression or an addiction disorder but as the brain is the most complicated and delicate structure in the universe that we know of, we are still a long way from devising laboratory investigations or simply reprogramming the brain by plugging it into a computer.
Despite all the advances in medicine and surgery, the most accurate diagnoses are still gathered from taking a detailed history by asking the patient and relatives lots of questions and examining the patient carefully – psychiatric medicine is no different. The medications and therapies we use have been tested and validated by doctors, therapists and medical researchers around the world using scientific methodology before being ratified by healthcare systems, patients and carers into evidence based treatment. The best treatment plans invariably incorporate biological (medication), psychological (talking therapy) and social (adjusting social factors such as work, relationships etc…) approaches to bring about a fuller recovery.