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California Psychiatric Association Documents
Psychiatry: Medicine's Newest Revolution


The Art and Science
of
Diagnosing and Treating Mental Disorders


NEW UNDERSTANDING

Thanks to new discoveries in genetics, modern brain research and advances in psychiatry, mental illness is no longer the frightening mystery it once was.

One in five Americans will suffer at least one form of mental illness in his or her lifetime. Among the most common illnesses are depression, anxiety, panic and compulsive disorders. At least two million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, the mental illness usually causing the greatest disability.

Medical science, however, has made momentous advances in diagnosing and treating these mental disorders. Today we know that the most serious mental illnesses have a biological basis similar to other serious physical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Most serious mental illnesses have a biological basis.


NEW DISCOVERIES

Medical breakthroughs over the last decade have provided physicians with new understanding of the biological basis for most serious mental illnesses.

Two genes responsible for manic-depressive illness have been discovered on the same chromosome that carries the genes for diabetes and hemophilia. Researchers may have found a gene linked to schizophrenia. And, using computerized brain imaging techniques, physicians can show chemical abnormalities in the brains of those suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders.


We now know that many illnesses manifested by psychological symptoms are actually the result of physical disorders. Depression, nervousness or sadness can be caused by strokes, thyroid disease, other endocrine disorders, auto-immune disease or tumors. While memory loss and confusion can also be caused by many different medical conditions, we know that some mental symptoms may be caused by prescription side effects or drug interactions.

Because of such breakthroughs, many of yesterday's psychological mysteries are today being treated medically and with success.

 

 

Many illnesses manifested by psychological symptoms are actually the result of physical disorders.


AT THE HEART OF THE ISSUE

We have moved beyond the dark ages in care for the mentally ill. Just as leeches and "bleeding" gave way to modern medical care, treatment for mental illness has moved on to modern psychiatry.

The brain, like the heart, can be affected by physical, emotional, social and behavioral influences like the heart, the human brain is a vital organ whose illnesses can be successfully treated.

Changes in lifestyle and behavior often may provide relief from the symptoms of mental illness, just as they can with diseases of the heart. And, increasingly, sophisticated medicines can end the suffering for most mental and heart patients so that many return to normal, productive and rewarding lives.

The brain, like the heart, can be affected by physical, emotional, social and behavioral influences.

 


YOUR PSYCHIATRIST IS KEY

Psychiatrists are the only health care specialists with the training, the qualifications and the experience to fully understand, diagnose and treat mental illness.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, graduates of four-year medical schools They complete not only a medical internship in a hospital setting for one year, but also three or more years in an approved hospital-based psychiatric residency program to become specialists in disorders of the brain and mind.

There are many limited-license, non-medical mental health practitioners such as social workers, who have two years of post graduate training, and psychologists, who generally hold non-medical doctoral degrees. These practitioners provide therapy for people who are having emotional, interpersonal or family problems.

 

Only psychiatrists are fully qualified to identify the source of the problem and develop appropriate treatment decisions from the broadest range of options psychotherapy, lifestyle or behavior changes, further medical tests, a prescription for medicines or a combination of treatments.

 

Only psychiatrists are fully qualified to identify the problem and develop appropriate treatment


PSYCHIATRY TODAY

Today's psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental illness, much like a cardiologist treats heart disease or an internist treats diabetes.

Only the psychiatrist is qualified to assure that what appear to be "psychological problems" are not actually the manifestation of an underlying medical illness.

While various forms of psychotherapy still play a fundamental role in the treatment of many patients, a modern psychiatrist will also be found reviewing medical records, examining patients, analyzing laboratory reports, or writing a prescription for medicine.

The exciting scientific discoveries of the last decade and the specialized training of modern psychiatry have combined to change the face of mental health care.

Today's psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental illness.


California Psychiatric Association DISCLAIMER
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