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Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treatsmental and emotional disorders (see mental illness ). The termalienist is an old term for a psychiatrist, and the term shrink (from "headshrinker") is a (sometimes offensive) slang term for a psychotherapist.

Note that psychiatry is practiced by psychiatrists, psychology bypsychologists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and may prescribe drugs , while psychologists have extensive training in therapy and psychological testing, and do notprescribe drugs.


Mind versus brain

Psychiatric illnesses were for some time characterised as disorders of function of the mind rather than the brain , although the distinction is not always obvious. Inthe current state of knowledge this distinction does not hold true, as most psychiatric conditions have their correlates in termof brain abnormality.

For a long period of history, neurology and psychiatry were a singlediscipline, and following their division the steady advance in understanding of the basic functioning of neurons and the brain is bringing areas of the two disciplines back together.

Psychiatry was at first a pragmatic discipline that was part of general medicine, combining medicine and practical psychology.The work of Emil Kraepelin laid the foundations of scientificpsychiatry, but was derailed by the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud . For many years, Freudian theories dominated psychiatricthinking.

The discovery of lithium carbonate as a treatment for bipolar disorder , followed by the development of fields such as molecular biology and tools such as brain imaging has led to psychiatry re-discovering its origins in physical and observational medicine withoutlosing sight of its humane dimension.


Unlike most other areas of medicine, there is a politicised anti-psychiatry movement that opposes the practices of, and in some cases the existence of, psychiatry.Some opponents of psychiatry state that selective financing by large multinational drug companies of both high rankingprofessional psychiatrists, research and educational material has led the practice of psychiatry to be subversively, and in somecases inhumanely, misled. These claims are strongly contested by psychiatrists.

Famous figures in psychiatry



  • Kay Redfield Jamison - a psychologist who, whilst not apsychiatrist herself, is professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a MacArthur Fellow.

Psychiatrists in fiction

Links moved from medicine , to be sorted and explained: Bipolar disorder -- Depression -- Mental Retardation -- Schizophrenia -- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder -- More...

See also

Health science - Medicine

Anesthesiology - Dermatology - Emergency Medicine - General practice - Intensive care medicine - Internal medicine - Neurology - Obstetrics  &  Gynecology - Pediatrics - Public Health  &  Occupational Medicine - Psychiatry - Radiology - Surgery

Branches of Internal medicine

Cardiology - Endocrinology - Gastroenterology - Hematology - Infectious diseases - Nephrology - Oncology - Pulmonology - Rheumatology

Branches of Surgery

General surgery - Cardiothoracic surgery - Neurosurgery - Ophthalmology - Orthopedic surgery - Otolaryngology  (ENT) - Plastic surgery - Podiatric surgery - Urology - Vascular surgery

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