How do I know if I have to go to the psychologist or psychiatrist?

When it comes to mental health there is a question that usually manifests itself on a recurring basis: should I go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist? You know that something is wrong and you feel the need to turn to a specialist, but not everyone is clear about the difference between these two professions and in which cases it is appropriate to resort to one or the other. This is why we explain in detail how to know if you have to go to the psychologist or psychiatrist as well as the difference between the two professions.


  1. Difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
  2. What to consider when choosing?
  3. When to go to the psychologist?
  4. When to go to the psychiatrist?

Difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Before even thinking about going to a medical consultation with any of these professionals, it is essential to know the difference between the two in order to take the right step.

  • The psychology is the science responsible for the study of perceptions, sensations and mental processes of human beings regarding their social and environmental surroundings. For its part, psychiatry is a branch of medicine in charge of the study, diagnosis and treatment of psychic or mental disorders.
  • Based on this, the difference is very clear: psychiatrists are doctors and therefore, in addition to diagnosing, they can initiate drug treatment by prescribing the use of various medications. Psychologists for their part cannot legally prescribe any type of drug and if they suspect that the patient’s condition may require it, they should immediately refer him to a psychiatrist.
  • Psychologists carry out consultations and diagnoses based mainly on the behavior and emotions of the individual; therefore, their goal is to help the patient overcome those situations that affect him, trying to obtain the best mental and emotional well-being. For his part, the psychiatrist has a medical approach based on the analysis of the organic aspects that can lead to a mental disorder, his goal is to reduce the symptoms and improve the patient’s life through treatment and appropriate medication.
  • Although there are differences, there are many cases in which both professionals must work together, for example when a patient suffers from depression requiring both guidance to overcome their problem and medication to combat the condition.

What to consider when choosing?

Knowing if you should go to a psychologist, a psychiatrist or simply your family doctor is not always so clear, because sometimes it is important to carry out a complete physical examination to determine if the problem could be emotional, mental or physical. The best thing is that if you feel that something is not going well, you visit your family doctor first.  This specialist, evaluating your medical history and the information you provide, will be able to tell you which alternative is the most appropriate.

There are some cases in which the patient may need both specialists, for example in the case of suffering from depression, severe anxiety or bipolar disorder. Despite them there are certain signs that can tell us which of these professionals to choose and we will explain them to you below.

When to go to the psychologist?

There are some situations or signs that may show the need to consult a psychologist, some of them are:

  • Having gone through a traumatic situation that generates emotional discomfort.
  • Have eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.
  • Suffering from intense and constant sadness or have frequent negative thoughts.
  • Having suicidal or very defeatist thoughts.
  • Facing a process in which you want to overcome an addiction, a situation that requires the help of a specialist.
  • In the face of any significant emotional lack of control such as excessive stress, difficulty controlling emotions, frequent nervousness, attacks of anger, etc.

When to go to the psychiatrist?

There are also signs or conditions that may reveal the need to visit a psychiatrist, some of them are:

  • Severe depression.
  • Very pronounced anxiety.
  • Frequent panic attacks.
  • Suspicion of a mental illness or disorder such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, psychosis among others.
  • Provided that after previously consulting a doctor or psychologist you are referred to this specialist.

This article is merely informative, we do not have the power to prescribe any medical treatment or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

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