Choosing Between A Psychologist and A Psychiatrist For Treating Depression

When you're looking to treat depression, should you choose a psychologist or psychiatrist? Or both? Here's how to make the decision

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September 18, 2019
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The field of medicine has many disciplines that make it confusing. The human psyche and the emotions that are contained within are concepts that we still don’t fully understand. But the fact remains that we have to dispel any confusion surrounding matters of treatment because people’s lives could one day depend on the information we share.

The fields of psychology and psychiatry are so closely related that it’s rather easy to mistake one for the other. This confusion is due in large part to the fact that both these disciplines are meant to treat various mental health issues. This shouldn’t be taken lightly because knowing the difference between these professions will allow you to make an informed decision regarding what type of treatment you want to receive.

But before we get to the core of the topic, we first need to define what exactly we’re trying to treat.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a serious medical illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. It causes a person to feel a deep sadness and it also causes a person to lose interest in things that the individual used to be passionate about. The worst effect that depression has on a patient is that it hinders the individual from functioning properly both at work and at home. Symptoms usually last at least two weeks.

Depression is ironic in the fact that it is the most common mental issue, yet it is able to make the affected individual feel as though he is alone.

About one in 15 adults suffer from depression during any given year. Depression can manifest at any time, but it happens most commonly in people in their late teens to their late 20s.

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Who Is At Risk?

There is no single cause of depression, but rather, there are four risk factors that could determine whether you fall into depression or not. These risk factors include:

  • Biochemistry – An imbalance in the chemicals in your brain can directly affect your mood.
  • Genetics – it can be inherited and passed down to offspring.
  • Personality – People who are easily stressed are more prone to depression.
  • Environment – People who are subjected to violence and abuse on a constant basis tend are more likely to develop depression than those who aren’t.

So, how can depression be treated and what professional should you ask for aid?

Psychologist

A psychologist is someone who studies the mind and behavior of people. There are several types of psychologists, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on mental health psychologists, whose task is to help treat people who are experiencing psychological stress and mental disorders through these core mental health counseling functions.

Psychiatrist

On the other hand, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders as well as substance abuse. Like psychologists, they make use of various forms of psychotherapy to help a patient cope with depression.

Similarities

Both professionals can be found in clinics, hospitals, and other places like this depression treatment center in North Carolina. They have more or less the same treatment methods and they help patients talk through their problems with the aim of giving their patients the ability to deal with daily life on their own.

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Differences

The main difference between psychologists and psychiatrists lies in the fact that they each have a different type of training. Psychiatrists finish medical school, spend a year of internship, and also have three years of residency where they diagnose and treat mental disorders. Psychiatrists are allowed to prescribe drugs for the treatment of depression while psychologists cannot.

On the other hand, psychologists have a PhD in a specific area of Psychology and they go through a two-year internship period. While psychologists aren’t allowed to prescribe drugs for depression treatment, they are allowed to administer psychological tests while psychiatrists cannot.

Both professions also vary in their approach to treatment. Psychologists tend to take a more behavioral approach wherein when they determine the cause of depression, they often attribute it to a specific stimulus that triggers the depression.

Psychiatrists have a more neurobiological approach wherein the cause of depression can be attributed to a lack of a certain vitamin or nutrient, hence the drug prescriptions.

Conclusion

Whether you’re going to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist really depends on personal preference. While you could say that psychiatrists have more formal training in dealing with more serious mental health problems, they may often treat these problems with prescribed medicine. Not everyone is okay with taking drugs. People who prefer a no-drug approach tend to prefer working with psychologists. Moreover, because psychologists are trained to administer psychological tests, they can also evaluate a person’s emotional state more thoroughly than a psychiatrist.