Psychiatry vs Psychology

  1. A common source of confusion in the general public is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, with most people using the terms interchangeably.
  2. Though both fields broadly deal with the science of the human mind and behaviour, there are some important differences. Knowing this can help you avoid confusion and choose the right professional.
  3. Psychiatry is the science of the human brain, the biological processes in the brain that influence a person's thoughts, emotions, behaviour, mental capabilities and the medical diseases that affect the brain. A deep understanding of the neurobiology of the brain is also required.
  4. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with an MBBS degree and a postgraduate degree of M.D., DNB or Diploma in psychiatry.
  5. Psychiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat mental illness with medication as well as supportive therapy.
  6. A psychologist's area of study is the science of human behaviour and thought. Psychologists commonly have a bachelor's degree, an MSc or in some cases a PhD.
  7. They are experts at evaluating mental illness from a psychological perspective,providing psychological and supportive therapy and counseling. They also perform tests such as IQ, Personality, etc.
  8. However, as they are not trained as medical practitioners, they will not be able to prescribe medication, or independently treat severe illnesses like Schizophrenia and Dementia.

Other mental health professionals with special training in mental health :

  1. Psychiatric Social Worker
  2. Psychiatric Nurse

Whom do I choose?

Persons who suffer from day to day distress, stress, relationship issues, identity crises, difficulty coping with daily life may benefit from choosing a psychologist who is specialised in that specific issue, and can provide a structured, long term treatment.

Severe mental illnesses and those with neurological components require a Psychiatrist's intervention. Cases of Substance abuse, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder require medication and thus, a psychiatrist will be a better option.

In many cases psychiatry and psychology are complimentary, and each professional may refer you to the other one.