The reality is that psychiatric conditions are very common- it’s been estimated that almost half of the U.S. adult population will have had a psychiatric condition in their lifetimes, and almost 20% will have had one during the past year-over 60 million people! Most conditions begin during the childhood or teenage years. Approximately 20% of children or teenagers will have had at least a mild psychiatric condition in any year. 10% of teenagers will have a psychiatric condition severe enough to cause significant problems with functioning. Examples of conditions psychiatrists treat include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

The more scientists learn about psychiatric conditions, the more we see that they are medical conditions just like other illnesses that doctors treat. Studies indicate that brain activity is often different for people suffering from depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. and other conditions. Some studies have shown that certain types of counseling and medications can improve this abnormal activity.

You might have experienced the mind/body connection yourself. Have you ever been so nervous about something (giving a talk in front of the class or office, going on a roller coaster for the first time), that your heart pounded and your stomach fluttered? Have you ever had such a hard day at school or work that you came home with a big headache? Those are ways that the mind interacts with the body.

A psychiatrist diagnoses a psychiatric condition after a careful evaluation of the patient. Rating scales and collateral tests can be helpful, but the diagnoses are mainly based on a careful clinical history and mental status examination. The psychiatrist can refer to a colleague such as a psychologist or neurologist for testing to provide additional supporting information if the diagnosis is unclear.