What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

A rather ironic result of the English language being so varied is its ability to thoroughly confuse people in ways unparalleled by any other dialect. For reasons unknown to us, the creators of our language deemed it necessary to befuddle us by making certain words sound almost exactly the same, but have completely different meanings and implications. As an example, we can look at the names of two professions who share little in common other than the fact that they are both wrongfully assumed to be interchangeable in speech: psychology and psychiatry.

What is Psychology and what does a Psychologist Do?

Most people tend to assume that both psychology and psychiatry are essentially the same in that they both deal with the study of mental illness. However, when it comes to psychology, medicinal research is only the tip of the iceberg. In reality, psychology is the study of human behavior, the way the mind works, and the way that the mind affects human life. Much of psychology can be related back to various schools of thought of philosophy due to the fact that much of psychology is theoretical and rather abstract. That being said, it can also bleed into other academic subjects, including the popular field of neuroscience (particularly neuroplasticity). Seem like a lot to take in? You sure wouldn’t be alone in thinking so; the amount of schools of thought in psychology and its seemingly limitless number of general areas are beyond comprehensibility. A psychologist will most likely choose to seek a job in only one or two ares of the field. Currently, the most popular area of psychology is cognitive psychology, or the study of human faculties like memory, problem-solving, and attention span.

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What about Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is at least slightly easier than psychology to wrap your head around, partially thanks to the fact that it’s actually what most people tend to believe psychology and psychiatry both are: the study and treatment of mental illness. Worth noting is that there is a significant difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist; a therapist is someone who an individual with a mental illness visits for talk therapy, while a psychiatrist is there for concrete diagnosis and prescription of medicinal treatments.

The Bible of all psychiatrists is known as the DSM: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This guide to psychiatry is published by none other than the American Psychiatry Association itself, and is currently in its fifth iteration. All psychiatrists are generally required to be well-versed in the DSM-5, but are not technically required to adhere to it at all times. This is because of the fact that, as psychiatrists understand, mental illness is an extremely subjective problem, and is based entirely on the individual patient.

Psychology and psychiatry are different in almost every way, but the astounding fact of the matter is that most people who take an interest in one almost automatically find the other to be equally intriguing. Comprehending and unlocking the secrets and abnormalities of the human mind is surely an alluring topic, and hopefully, this article has allowed you to better understand how we tend to go about doing so.