It’s believed that an estimated 21% of adults in this country are living with a diagnosable mental health condition. That’s roughly 1 in 5 adults. The need for trained professionals in the field of psychiatry cannot be underestimated. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who’s had additional medical education and training to prepare to treat and specialize in diseases and disorders of the mind.
While psychologists and therapists can also treat mental health conditions, only psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who can prescribe medication. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the first step to diagnosing a mental health issue, but sometimes psychiatry and psychiatrist-prescribed medication is necessary to find the right mental health treatment. As with other types of doctors and specialties, there are many different types of psychiatrists. Below are a few of the most commonly found subcategories of the field. We’ll examine each in detail.
- Addiction Psychiatry
- Adolescent and Child Psychiatry
- Forensic Psychiatry
- Geriatric Psychiatry
- Occupational Psychiatry (or Organizational Psychiatry)
- Psychosomatic Medicine
Talkspace makes psychiatry accessible to anyone at any time by offering online psychiatry. Read on to learn about the different types of psychiatry, the conditions each addresses, and the associated mental health treatment for each.
An addiction psychiatrist specializes in diagnosing and treating individuals with substance abuse and addiction issues. They work with people who have substance, behavior, or impulse-related addictions. They’re also trained to treat the many mental health conditions that often accompany addiction (most commonly depression and anxiety). While most people associate “addiction” with alcohol and drugs, addiction psychiatrists are also trained to treat sex, gambling, food, shopping, internet, and any other addiction.
Treatment for addiction will include examining the underlying root causes from where a specific addiction is stemming. It helps people learn to identify, process, and manage the reasons why they might be dealing with addiction.
Psychiatrists trained in addiction can also prescribe medication if someone experiences withdrawals or if they need help managing their coexisting mental health conditions.
“An addiction psychiatrist has an additional training specialization fellowship in substance abuse disorders. They treat patients with conditions of drug, alcohol abuse, or other addiction problems that can complicate the primary diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.”
Adolescent and Child Psychiatry
As the name implies, an adolescent and child psychiatrist deals with mental health conditions that affect teens and children. While extremely severe mental health conditions are rarer in children, the need for mental healthcare for today’s youth is great.
Research shows that at least 20% of children and adolescents 9 – 17 years old are living with a diagnosable mental health condition that causes some form of mild impairment, and 10% have a condition that results in significant impairment.
Nearly 50% of serious adult mental health conditions begin by the time someone is 14, and we know that early intervention is a key predictor in reducing symptom frequency and severity.
Child psychiatrists usually limit their practice to those aged 18 years and younger. This specialization can be challenging, as many medications commonly used to treat symptoms of some disorders in adults are not approved for use with children. Common conditions in children include mood, anxiety, behavior, and attention disorders.
“A child and adolescent psychiatrist has additional training, research, and fellowship in child mental health disorders and behaviors, learning the early developmental challenges and different disease states. A child psychiatrist has specialized skills to take care of mental health problems in young children as well as address family conflict and issues.”
Forensic psychiatrists specialize in criminal cases and courtroom matters involving mental health issues. This type of psychiatrist can also work with inmates of correctional facilities and testify in courtroom cases.
A forensic psychiatrist might evaluate a suspect to determine if they’re competent to stand trial. They can also assist law enforcement in working up a suspect profile to aid in an arrest or to support prosecution.
“A forensic psychiatrist has additional training and fellowship to address the legal implications of mental health disorders addressing the challenges of the legal system for a person or a family with mental health challenges.”
A geriatric psychiatrist specializes in mental health issues in older people, generally defined as those aged 60 and older. This type of psychiatrist often works with people who’ve been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
A primary function of geriatric psychiatry to help prevent, evaluate, and diagnose emotional and mental conditions in elderly patients. They help prevent cognitive decline as people age, and they commonly treat mental health conditions like chronic depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that might relate to chronic illness or aging.
A neuropsychiatrist deals with mental illnesses and disorders that have resulted from brain injuries and/or diseases of the brain and nervous system. They have in-depth training in how the brain itself, and brain issues, can contribute to mental health conditions. The difference between a neurologist and psychologist is one deals with physiological and the other with psychological disorders.
This type of psychiatrist offers the types of specialized treatment people with brain-related mental health conditions need. Neuropsychiatrists can also treat people with conditions that stem from brain development, such as autism, ADHD, and Tourette’s syndrome (TS).
Occupational Psychiatry (or Organizational Psychiatry)
Occupational psychiatry (also known as organizational psychiatry) deals with grief, stress, and mental challenges found in the workplace. This subspecialty of psychiatry focuses on organizational and workplace behavior, and how vital a mentally-healthy environment is for both the people at an organization and the organization itself, too.
Often, these types of psychiatrists work in industries with many risks, such as law enforcement. Occupational psychiatrists can help companies create policies and procedures to promote good mental health. They can also assist in training management on policies that promote positive mental health for employees.
This relatively new field of psychiatry explores the relationship between psychiatric care and other fields, such as traditional medicine, sociology, psychology, and behavioral science. Also known as consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine seeks to improve a patient’s quality of life by treating related mental and physical ailments and complaints.
Many physical conditions, such as stress, are believed to have a mental component or cause. Examples of psychosomatic disorders or conditions can include stress that causes migraines, impotence, ulcers, or respiratory ailments. Psychosomatic medicine blends the lines of traditional medicine and psychiatry. C-L psychiatry can involve diagnosing, therapy, and research.
Finding the Right Psychiatrist for You
Knowing the different types of psychiatrists is essential to finding the right doctor to best help you with your mental health.
To find a psychiatrist in the right field, you can start with your primary care physician. They can likely recommend a mental health professional with expertise in the area of psychiatry that best applies to you.
You can also search for online therapy and support groups that offer recommendations for specific types of psychiatrists in your area. The most important thing to understand is that help is out there for any mental health condition you’re dealing with, and you deserve to find it.
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3. Kessler R, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas K, Walters E. Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):593. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15939837/. Accessed June 6, 2022.