When you are looking for help with a mental health problem, it’s important to understand the roles that various mental health professionals play. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry–the branch of medicine dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who blends medical and psychiatric expertise to provide comprehensive psychiatric mental health care for patients suffering from various mental health disorders.


As trained medical professionals, both psychiatrists and psychiatric NP’s hold a unique position in mental healthcare, possessing both medical expertise and the specialized knowledge to address psychological issues. Their comprehensive approach encompasses various aspects of mental well-being.


Both psychiatrists and psychiatric NP’s have the expertise to diagnose mental health disorders. They can identify and differentiate between various conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, ADHD, and more. This is important because, in mental health care, your diagnosis informs your treatment plan. It allows you to receive evidence-based care that is tailored to your needs. Additionally, these professionals have the authority to prescribe medication, allowing them to address biochemical imbalances in the brain that contribute to psychiatric symptoms. Medication combined with other therapeutic modalities can significantly alleviate symptoms and improve overall functioning.


Finally, many psychiatrists and psychiatric NP’s offer psychotherapy, a crucial component of mental health treatment. They can employ evidence-based therapeutic techniques to help people explore their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a supportive environment. 


When to See a Psychiatrist or Psychiatric NP: Problems That Prescribers Can Help You With


Here are some conditions that psychiatric prescribers can help you with.


Mood Disorders Like Depression and Bipolar Disorder


If you are feeling down or sad most of the time, have difficulty getting out of bed, have stopped enjoying things you used to like, believe you are worthless, or have thoughts of suicide, this could mean you are depressed. If you’ve ever had a period of time in which you had an abnormally elevated or irritable mood, that could be a sign of Bipolar Disorder. A psychiatrist or psychiatric NP can help with both of these problems.


When to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric NP

If you are depressed or suffering from manic episodes, and your symptoms haven’t improved from therapy alone, it’s time to see a prescriber. They will listen to you describe your symptoms and take your family history. They can use this information to determine what types of medications might work best for you. Then they might prescribe an antidepressant like Prozac, Zoloft, or Lexapro for depression. If you have bipolar disorder or another mood disorder associated with an unstable mood, they might prescribe a mood stabilizer.


Your provider can also offer some psychotherapy and advice for lifestyle changes you could take to help with your mood. They might recommend changing your diet, drinking more water, practicing sleep hygiene, or getting more exercise. In addition, they can offer referrals to therapists who can meet with you every week to continue psychotherapy. 


Substance Abuse and Other Addictions


Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex psychiatric and medical condition. It involves out of control use of drugs or alcohol despite harmful consequences. People with SUD focus so much of their attention on gaining access to and using their substance of choice that their ability to function in daily life is impaired. 


Excessive and repeated use of substances like alcohol, marijuana, and opiates can cause permanent changes in your brain functioning. Even when you’re no longer high or drunk, these changes can persist. 


Not everyone with SUD has the same symptoms. Nonetheless, most people with SUD have at least some of the following: 


  • Using more of the substance than you intended to
  • Experiencing intense cravings
  • Being unable to stop or cut back
  • Continuing to use even when it causes relationship problems
  • Neglecting responsibilities due to substance use
  • Giving up important social or occupational activities because of the substance
  • And other symptoms.


In addition, some people have addictions to certain behaviors, like gambling. 


When to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric NP

If you have tried multiple methods to treat your addiction–like behavioral therapy, group therapy, and 12-step programs–and you still can’t stop using, it’s time to see a prescriber. They can prescribe medication to relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings. They can also offer coping skills and psychotherapy.


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects 11% of school-age children. About 3/4 of these kids will continue to have symptoms as adults. 


ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Kids with ADHD might have difficulty sitting still or paying attention in class to a much higher degree than other kids their age. They might also have trouble completing big projects, regulating their emotions, initiating tasks, and following directions. Adults with ADHD have similar symptoms. Adults’ hyperactivity symptoms may decrease with age, but the impulsivity, restlessness, and difficulty paying attention may continue. 


When to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric NP

The best treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication, parent and child education, school supports, and behavioral therapy. If you have tried dealing with the symptoms on your own and you are still struggling, it might be time to see a prescriber for psychiatric medication. A psychiatrist or psychiatric NP can be a huge support for people with ADHD. First, the provider will conduct an assessment and provide an official diagnosis that parents can use to get accommodations at school. If necessary, they can also prescribe medications like Adderall, Concerta, Vyvanse, and others to alleviate ADHD symptoms. And finally, these professionals can offer behavioral techniques and education to help kids and adults manage their ADHD in their day to day lives.


Anxiety Disorders


Everyone worries sometimes. But when the worrying becomes so frequent and intense that it interferes with your daily functioning, that could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. There are a number of mental health diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of “anxiety disorders.” Some might cause you to worry frequently about many things, some include worrying excessively about specific things, and some cause panic attacks. 


When to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric NP

If you find yourself spending hours a day worrying, or anxiety is keeping you from doing things you need to do like socializing, working, or taking care of yourself, it’s time to seek help. Some people are able to manage anxiety with psychotherapy alone. And sometimes, the anxiety is so intense that they need medication. A psychiatrist or psychiatric NP can treat these conditions with medication and help you learn skills to reduce your worrying. 


And Many More!

Psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners have experience treating a wide variety of mental health problems including those listed above, plus Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, Hoarding, PTSD, Schizophrenia, Sleep disorders, and more.


How Can I Find a Psychiatrist Near Me?


If you live in Maryland and are suffering from a mental illness, Gladstone Psychiatry and Wellness is here to help. We have many talented psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists


Call us at 443-708-5856 to schedule an appointment, or email new.patient@gladstonepsych.com. Be well!