Mental Health
Not Sure When to See a Psychiatrist? Use This Guide to Find Answers and Support

Not Sure When to See a Psychiatrist? Use This Guide to Find Answers and Support

8 min read


Lauren Carlson

Despite the strides made in recent years to raise awareness and destigmatize mental health issues, seeking professional help remains a daunting step for many. If you've ever found yourself wondering whether it's time to see a psychiatrist, you are not alone. Acknowledging the need for support and guidance is a courageous act, and this blog aims to provide the insight and assurance you seek.

It's essential to recognize that mental health is as crucial as physical health. Just as we visit a doctor when we experience physical ailments, seeking the expertise of a psychiatrist can play a vital role in maintaining our psychological well-being. While friends and family can be a tremendous source of support, sometimes, professional intervention is necessary to address deeper issues and find effective solutions.

Seeing a Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist

Deciding whether to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist can depend on various factors, including your specific needs, symptoms, and personal preferences. Both psychiatrists and psychologists play essential roles in mental health care, but they approach it from different perspectives. Understanding the distinctions between the two can help you make an informed decision about which professional to seek help from.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They have completed medical school and are trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses using a combination of therapy and medication. If you suspect you may have a mental health condition that requires medication management, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, a psychiatrist is the appropriate professional to consult. Psychiatrists can assess your symptoms, prescribe medications if necessary, and provide ongoing monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan.

On the other hand, psychologists are mental health professionals who have likely obtained a doctoral degree in psychology. They specialize in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders using various therapeutic techniques. Psychologists typically provide talk therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, or other evidence-based approaches. If you are seeking therapy to address emotional issues, improve coping strategies, or work through relationship difficulties, a psychologist can be an excellent choice. They can help you explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and develop healthier ways of dealing with challenges.

In some cases, a combination of psychiatric medication and therapy may be the most effective treatment approach. In such situations, collaboration between a psychiatrist and a psychologist can be beneficial, with each professional focusing on their respective areas of expertise.

Branches of Psychiatry

Psychiatry is a diverse field that encompasses several main branches, each focusing on specific areas of mental health and related specialties. The main branches of psychiatry include:

General Psychiatry

General psychiatry is the foundation of the field and involves the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders. General psychiatrists work with patients across various age groups and address conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Child and adolescent psychiatry focus on the mental health of children and teenagers. Child and adolescent psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders specific to this age group, as well as providing guidance for behavioral and emotional challenges during critical developmental stages.

Geriatric Psychiatry

Geriatric psychiatry, also known as geropsychiatry, focuses on the mental health needs of older adults. Geriatric psychiatrists assess and treat mental health conditions that may arise or persist in the elderly population, including dementia, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments.

Addiction Psychiatry

Addiction psychiatry deals with the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors. Addiction psychiatrists help individuals overcome dependencies on substances such as alcohol, drugs, or gambling, and address the co-occurring mental health issues that may contribute to addiction.

Forensic Psychiatry

Forensic psychiatry involves the interface of mental health and the legal system. Forensic psychiatrists may evaluate individuals for competency to stand trial, assess mental health issues in legal cases, and provide expert testimony in court proceedings.

Emergency Psychiatry

Emergency psychiatry focuses on the evaluation and management of acute mental health crises. Emergency psychiatrists provide urgent assessments and interventions for individuals experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

These branches often overlap and work collaboratively to address the complex and diverse challenges in the field of psychiatry. Psychiatrists may choose to specialize in one of these branches or work in a combination of areas based on their interests and expertise. Additionally, advancements in the field of psychiatry continue to create new sub-specialties and areas of focus, expanding the scope of mental health care.

Are you reluctant to see a psychiatrist?

Reluctance to see a psychiatrist can stem from various reasons, such as the stigma surrounding mental health, fear of receiving a diagnosis, or worries about the potential side effects of medication. Additionally, concerns about privacy and past negative experiences with mental health professionals can also contribute to hesitation.

To overcome this reluctance, it's essential to educate yourself about mental health conditions and available treatment options. Speaking to friends or family who have sought mental health support can also provide valuable insights and reassurance.

If you're not ready for psychiatric care, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor first. They can help you explore your feelings, cope with challenges, and guide you toward the next steps that align with your comfort level.

Remember that seeking help for your mental health is not a sign of weakness; it is an act of courage and self-awareness. By taking your time, being compassionate with yourself, and acknowledging your feelings, you can gradually work towards seeking the support you need.

When to see a psychiatrist for your mental health treatment 

Knowing when to see a psychiatrist for mental health treatment can be essential in addressing and managing various mental health concerns. While the decision may vary based on individual circumstances, here are some situations when it is advisable to seek the expertise of a psychiatrist:

Persistent Symptoms

If you've been experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms of a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, or hallucinations, it's essential to consult a psychiatrist. They can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to provide an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Difficulty Functioning

If your mental health symptoms are interfering with your daily life, relationships, work, or school performance, seeking help from a psychiatrist can aid in improving your functionality and overall well-being.

Suicidal Thoughts or Self-Harm

If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is crucial to seek immediate help. Psychiatrists can provide urgent support and safety measures to help you through these challenging times.

FYI: If ever you or someone you know are having these thoughts, dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish. Learn more

Unexplained Physical Symptoms

Some mental health conditions can manifest with physical symptoms such as unexplained pain or digestive issues. If medical evaluations have ruled out physical causes, a psychiatrist can explore the potential connection to mental health.

Difficulty Coping with Stress

If you are finding it challenging to cope with stress, trauma, or significant life changes, a psychiatrist can help you develop coping strategies and resilience.

Substance Abuse Issues

If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, a psychiatrist can address both the underlying mental health issues and the substance use disorder to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Previous Mental Health Conditions

If you have a history of mental health conditions and are experiencing a recurrence of symptoms, seeking professional help can prevent the condition from worsening.

Concerns about Medication

If you are already taking psychiatric medications but have concerns about their effectiveness, side effects, or interactions, a psychiatrist can review your treatment plan and make necessary adjustments.

Family History of Mental Health Issues

If you have a family history of mental health conditions, you may be at increased risk. Consulting a psychiatrist can help with early detection and intervention.

Lack of Improvement with Other Treatments

If you've tried other forms of mental health treatment, such as therapy or counseling, but have not seen significant improvement, a psychiatrist can offer additional insights and treatment options.

Should you consult a psychiatrist to manage your medications? 

Consulting a psychiatrist is generally recommended when it comes to managing medications for mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health and have extensive training in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They are uniquely qualified to assess your symptoms, determine if medication is necessary, prescribe appropriate medications, and monitor their effectiveness and potential side effects.

Psychiatric medications can play a crucial role in the treatment of various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, etc. However, it's important to remember that medication is not always the first line of treatment, and the decision to use medication should be made in collaboration with a psychiatrist or another qualified healthcare professional.

Lastly, while primary care physicians can also prescribe certain psychiatric medications, they may refer you to a psychiatrist for more complex cases or situations where specialized knowledge is needed.

Advantages of consulting a psychiatrist for medication management 

Consulting a psychiatrist for medication management offers numerous advantages, providing specialized expertise and personalized care in the treatment of mental health conditions. Here are some key benefits:


Psychiatrists have in-depth knowledge of psychiatric medications, including their indications, dosages, potential side effects, and interactions with other medications. They can tailor the medication regimen to your specific needs and closely monitor your response to ensure optimal outcomes.

Accurate Diagnosis

Psychiatrists are skilled in conducting comprehensive evaluations to accurately diagnose mental health conditions. Proper diagnosis is crucial for prescribing the most appropriate medications and avoiding unnecessary or ineffective treatments.

Monitoring and Adjustment

Psychiatric medications may require ongoing monitoring and adjustment to ensure they are effective and well-tolerated. Psychiatrists can assess your progress, monitor any side effects, and make necessary adjustments to your medication regimen to optimize your treatment.

Holistic Treatment Approach

Psychiatrists often take a holistic approach to mental health care, considering both medication and other therapeutic interventions. They may recommend or coordinate additional treatments such as therapy or lifestyle changes to complement medication management and support your overall well-being.

How will a psychiatrist involve me in the decision-making process regarding my treatment?

Psychiatrists prioritize patient involvement in the decision-making process to create a collaborative and patient-centered approach to mental health treatment. They start by actively listening to your concerns, experiences, and preferences during the initial evaluation. This open and non-judgmental communication fosters trust and allows the psychiatrist to gain a comprehensive understanding of your unique needs and challenges.

To empower you in making informed decisions, the psychiatrist will provide thorough explanations of various treatment options available, including different therapeutic approaches and potential medications. They will discuss the benefits, risks, and potential outcomes of each option, ensuring you have the knowledge necessary to make choices aligned with your comfort level and treatment goals.

The psychiatrist will work with you to clarify the treatment objectives and develop a plan that best suits your individual circumstances. Throughout the treatment process, they actively seek your feedback on how you are responding to the interventions. Your input is highly valued, as it helps the psychiatrist assess progress, identify areas that may need adjustment, and tailor the treatment plan accordingly.

Informed consent is an essential aspect of patient involvement. Before initiating any treatment, the psychiatrist will ensure you have a clear understanding of the proposed interventions and their potential implications. This process allows you to agree or decline based on your comfort level and comprehension.

Furthermore, psychiatrists often emphasize the significance of self-care and coping strategies. They provide tools and techniques that you can use to manage symptoms, enhance emotional well-being, and improve overall mental health.

In some cases, a comprehensive treatment approach may involve collaborating with other mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors. Psychiatrists value a multidisciplinary approach and work collaboratively with other providers to ensure coordinated care and optimize treatment outcomes.

By actively involving you in the decision-making process, psychiatrists foster a therapeutic alliance built on trust, respect, and shared responsibility for your mental health care. Your active participation and feedback play a vital role in tailoring the treatment to your specific needs and achieving positive outcomes in managing mental health conditions.

How MyWellbeing can help you find support

Looking for a therapist who understands your unique needs and can support your well-being journey? Use MyWellbeing to find your online therapist or coach. With our user-friendly platform, finding the right therapist has never been easier. Simply create an account, provide some basic information about yourself and your therapy preferences, and let our powerful search engine do the work. We'll match you with a curated list of therapists who align with your specific criteria, including location, specialties, and therapeutic approaches. Browse through detailed therapist profiles, read about their qualifications and experience, and take your time to make an informed decision.

Download MyWellbeing's 2024 Mental Health Planner!
Thank you! Your download was sent to your email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.
Think this could help someone?
Share it with your network!
Want more helpful content like this sent to your inbox weekly?
Click here to sign up for the MyWellbeing Newsletter!

Recommended Reading

Author's headshot

About the author

Lauren is a member of the content team at MyWellbeing. She originally began her career in Client Services within the field of Advertising Technology. Recently, she transitioned career paths to pursue her passion for helping others. In December 2022, Lauren graduated with a Master’s degree in School Counseling and is primarily focused on working with middle school and high school students.

Find the right therapist or coach for you

Complete our free, confidential questionnaire to easily and quickly match with 3 personalized coaches or therapists.

Get matched