Discussion Forum

Why do psychiatrists have to go to med school?

When they only prescribe meds and diagnose patients? It just seems like a waste. I know knowledge is good, but why isn’t there a specially tailored advanced degree for psychiatrists, since they’re not actually doing things like GP’s are doing, or working in the ER. Is it so that they can better understand their patients? I mean if a mental health patient goes into cardiac arrest in a mental health ward, the psychiatrist isn’t going to be able to do much, are they? Or are they since they did have to go to med school?

7 Comments

  • Psychiatrists have to go to med school because psychiatry is the medical approach to psychology.

    Think of it like this, psychology can be approached in many ways. There’s many ways to look and treat a mental disorder. For people who take the cognitive approach to mental disorders, they would go on to their masters and doctorate in clinical cognitive psychology. For people who take the biological/medical approach to psychology, they would go to med school.

    In order to medically/biologically treat mental disorders (which physically occurs in the brain) you need to a medical/biological background. Thus, med school provides that thorough understanding of how the body works ALONG with the brain. Psychiatry takes the stance that all mental disorders manifest themselves physically in the brain.. very much like how disease manifest themselves in the body.

    So, basically, psychiatrists are the medical doctors for mental disorders. They treat it like a physical disease. And use physical treatments for the mental disorders (psychotropic drugs).

    Think of it not being much different than someone having to go all the way through med school in order to become a nephrologist. The only difference is that instead of focusing on kidneys…. psychiatrists focus on the brain (mental diseases more specifically).

  • Um, most doctors mostly or “only” diagnose patients and prescribe meds. The trick to being a doctor isn’t being able to do thing that other people can’t, it’s knowing which tests to order, being able to make the diagnosis, and knowing when a drug is appropriate and knowing which drug to give. That takes time and training.

  • Psychiatrists have to go through medical school so they understand the way that the human body works. They need to completely understand what is normal and what isn’t, so they can guide through correct tests. This is necessary for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Psychiatrists understand the human body much better than you think, and it isn’t a “waste”. Imo, it’s a necessity!

  • Mental health and medicine go hand in hand. A boatload of medical disorders can mimic mental illness and vice versa. You can’t fully understand the differential diagnosis without knowing the medical disorders too. Also, the science of brain chemistry and behavior is very complex, and being able to understand the nature of medications that alter that chemistry is extremely important.

    Remember, some psychiatrists are not just sitting in an office listening to people. A number of them do consultation-liason (C-L) work, whereby they help with medical patients and bridge the gap between medical and psychological paradigms.

    Your so-called specialized degree is just that, 4 years post medical school. Otherwise, you can become a psychologist, but not work in “medicine” or prescribe drugs.

  • I guess so that they can have an understanding of a patient’s mental health in the broader context of their overall health. As well as being dependent on psychological state, mental health can be influenced by all sorts of physical factors, such as nutritional status, thyroid function, hormone levels, and the presence of various diseases, including infections, tumours and neurological conditions.

    Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, perform physical examinations, order lab tests (like blood tests) & tests like MRIs, as well as recommending treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

    In order to understand and do all of these things, a psychiatrist needs the background of a medical degree.

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