How Hard Is It to Be a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists treat all ages.
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Being a psychiatrist can be a very rewarding job, but it isn't without its challenges. Psychiatrists are mental-health professionals who diagnosis mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and make treatment recommendations. A psychiatrist often meets with patients weekly or bi-weekly to discuss challenges and monitor behavioral progress.

Diagnosis Dilemmas

    Psychiatric conditions are often difficult to diagnose, and therefore treat effectively. A May 2009 "PsychCentral" article noted that borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety are among the most difficult mental-health conditions to diagnosis. False diagnoses of bipolar, for instance, occurs 17 percent of the time. These challenges lead to frustrated patients and less-effective treatment by psychiatrists who either can't determine treatment or mistreat nonexistent conditions.

Patient Inconsistencies

    Mental-health conditions are typically chronic and require ongoing care. Mental-health professionals develop bonds with patients over time and often struggle with inconsistency in patient communication, attitude and behavior. In some meetings, patients may be open and talk; in others, they may shut down and share little. Additionally, patients may seek unnecessary medications to deal with difficult feelings. This is especially true with patients who have dual symptoms of substance abuse and mental-health problems.

Personal Limits

    The job requirements vary, but the workload is often rigorous and may extend beyond conventional 9 to 5 schedules. This is especially true for private-practice psychiatrists who extend flexibility for after-hours and weekend appointments to accommodate patients. Because of the potential volatility and possible suicide and safety risks, psychiatrists often feel compelled to accept evening and weekend calls from stressed patients. Additionally, the isolation of ongoing one-on-one meetings with patients bearing their souls can inhibit personal and social relationships and hobbies.

Threats and Violence

    A January 2013 article in the "The Baltimore Sun" highlighted the potential dangers for psychiatrists. Mental-health disorders often include volatility, personality changes and irrational behavior. Coupled with access to guns and other weapons, psychiatrists can become a target of frustrated, angry or disturbed patients. This is especially true when patients blame psychiatrists for lack of progress or personal problems. The article indicated that some psychiatrists feel compelled to commit patients to mental-health facilities if they feel they are in danger.

Becoming a Psychiatrist

    Becoming a psychiatrist requires significant time, discipline and effort. Generally, you need a state license to practice and specific education and training requirements vary. A medical degree from an accredited school is a standard expectation. Additionally, you normally need around four years of residency experience in a psychiatric practice, clinic or hospital. Some specialties, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, require five years of residency.

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