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What Are the Different Types of Psychiatrists?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In addition to general practice psychiatrists, there are different specialized types of psychiatrists, including addiction psychiatrists, disaster psychiatrists and child/adolescent psychiatrists. Sports psychiatrists, geriatric psychiatrists, gay/lesbian psychiatrists and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) psychiatrists are among the other practitioners. All types of psychiatrists must complete four-year bachelor degree programs, often in a science, followed by four-year medical school programs and then residencies, which can also last four years. Specialty training can occur after that.

General psychiatrists lack specialty training and treat a range of people suffering from emotional and mental disorders without regard to age, background or special interests. Unlike psychologists, general psychiatrists, like all types of psychiatrists, are licensed medical doctors able to prescribe medication for psychological ailments. Through an independent practice or affiliation with a hospital or clinic, a general psychiatrist can treat an array of illnesses spanning bi-polar disorder to schizophrenia, using behavioral, interpersonal or psychodynamic therapy.

Specialty psychiatrists cater to a specific demographic. The most common specialist in the field of psychiatry is the child and adolescent psychiatrist, which caters to individuals under the age of 18. Such professionals treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, Asperger syndrome, and other ailments common in children, including depression. These psychiatrists often work in residential or outpatient treatment centers for troubled or mentally ill youth.

Disaster psychiatrists treat people dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes, fires, floods and other events that involve extreme loss, destruction and severe change to one’s stability and lifestyle. These professionals often arrive at the site of catastrophe and offer follow-up long-term or short-term aid to victims trying to restore their lives. Addiction psychiatrists also deal in the restoration of lives, treating people who suffer from drug use, alcoholism, and eating disorders, such as bulimia, severe emotional overeating or anorexia.

Of the remaining types of psychiatrists, geriatrics treat elderly patients, while gay/lesbian psychiatrists address psychological issues arising in people who are homosexual. Often, the latter also addresses psychological issues linked to being transgender or transsexual as well. Geriatric psychiatrists often treat those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, they might treat senior citizens grieving from loss, isolation or depression.

A fairly new specialty, HIV psychiatrists did not exist prior to the 1990s. Instead, people dealing the human immunodeficiency virus had to choose among other types of psychiatrists. Now, such patients and their relatives can receive psychological treatment from doctors who have studied and researched how living with the virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) affects self-esteem, motivation and quality of living.

Established in the late 1980s, sports psychiatry is another new field that has emerged. Sports psychiatrists help athletes improve their athletic skills, maintain mental balance, handle aggression and recover from mental disease. These doctors interact with players both during their sports careers and afterward.

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