Viviamo in un epoca in cui ogni spiritualità si converte in profitto.

(…) Che la felicità del vivere, è falsa, come l’arte che la esprime.

In una simile epoca di perduta genuinità è forse la follia, la soluzione per la nostra esistenza?

Karl Jaspers

Psychiatry and Psychiatrists


What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, including Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Schizophrenia and Eating Disorders. Compared to psychology, psychiatry tends to consider mental disorders as the result of a malfunction of the central nervous system and this is why they are treated mainly with medication. For what it concerns the concept that psychiatry has regarding psychological distress, it appears emblematic what the famous French psychiatrist Henry Ey writes, on the eve of his death, “the notion of mental illness has to move into the orbit of biology and medicine“. It should however be considered as a discipline of synthesis because it tries to simultaneously evaluate various areas including the psychological, psychiatric, neurological and social ones. Therefore as the French psychiatrist Henry Ey affirms, psychiatry can be seen as “a branch of medicine that has the pathology of relational life as an object at that level that ensures human autonomy and adaptation in the conditions of their existence “.

When is Psychiatry born?

Since Hippocrates time, doctors have dealt with mental illness, but at that time they were interpreted as dysfunction of biological “humors” (bile, blood, etc.) and their genesis was placed in organs distant from the brain, such as the liver or the heart. According to the assumptions of the time the brain got sick because of the pathogenic action of these organs and then, contrary to what is believed now, it was not the main cause of psychological suffering. Later, in the Middle Ages, mental disorders have begun to be seen and considered in religious terms, so that they were seen as a sign of divine punishment. Only at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with J.P. Pinel (1975-1826) simple assertion that the “alienated” were ill (and as such could be treated with an humanitarian approach) that is allowed the refoundation of psychiatry, also with regard to its institutional aspect.

Who is a psychiatrist? And a psychologist?

A psychiatrist is a graduate in Medicine and Surgery who later specialized in Psychiatry. Being a doctor the psychiatrist has a deep understanding of the biological factors involved in the genesis of psychiatric disorders and may prescribe drug therapy, if necessary to the care of mental disorders. A psychologist is a graduate in Psychology who, if specialized in psychotherapy, may practice as a psychotherapist, that is the specialist that helps people feel better through the relationship established with the patient and words (contact a psychologist expert in depression and anxiety).

 Is a psychiatrist a doctor?

Yes, as mentioned above, the psychiatrist is a doctor who graduated in Medicine and Surgery, who specialized in Psychiatry.

Which disorders does the psychiatrist treat?

The psychiatrist deals with the treatment of mental disorders, among which the most known are mood disorders (such as Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder), Anxiety Disorders (such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Panic Attacks Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder), Schizophrenia and Eating Disorders (such as Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia).

Why go to a psychiatrist?

When you suffer from a mental disorder is very important to consult a psychiatrist, that can help people that are suffering. Only in this way, in fact, you can carefully evaluate the clinical picture and undertake the most appropriate treatment (whether pharmacological and /or psychological), eliminating the need for self-medication, which can often worsen the symptoms.

How to choose a psychiatrist?

The choice of the psychiatrist is very important, as it is essential, in addition of course to specific skills, to establish a physician-patient relationship based on trust, which can allow the patient to speak freely of his discomfort and, therefore, to deal with the disease globally. In the curriculum of the psychiatrist in question one should also evaluate if he/she has experience in the care of their disorder, if , for example, has specific skills in the treatment of anxiety or depression (click here to contact a psychiatrist and psychotherapist experienced in treating depression and anxiety) rather than eating disorders.

 Who are the most famous psychiatrists in history?

One of history’s most famous psychiatrists is certainly Emil Kraepelin. Emil Kraepelin  (Neustrelitz 1856- Monaco of Bavaria 1926) was a German psychiatrist and was the first one to classify, in the fifth edition of his treatise, mental disorders according to a medical model. Here we can find the first descriptions of Schizophrenia, defined by Kraepelin “dementia praecox”. Subsequently another equally famous psychiatrist, Eugen Bleurer (Zollikon 1857-1939), replaced this term with Schizophrenia (from the greek schizein: break, fragment), relying more on the clinical picture instead of the evolutionary criteria considered by Kraepelin model.

Karl Jaspers (Oldenburg 1883- Basel 1969) was a famous German philosopher and psychiatrist who gave a major stimulus to the reflections in both psychiatric and philosophical fields. A classic of psychiatric literary consists precisely of the two volumes of General Psychopathology, in which Jasper condensed his theories on mental illness and from which originated some diagnostic criteria.

Sigmund Freud (Freiberg 1856 – London 1939), was not a psychiatrist, but an Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst, and is famous for being the founder of psychoanalysis, one of the main currents of modern psychology. His theory is based largely on the role of the unconscious on behaviour and human thought and on relationships between people.

What does the forensic psychiatrist do?

The forensic psychiatry defines a field of knowledge in which the psychiatric clinic is related with the law: takes care of mental disorders for what it concerns to legal principles.

Since the psychiatrist is a specialist of depression … how to overcome depression? How can you fight depression?

First it must be said that good care passes through diagnosis, that is that first the problem must be recognized. This can be done only by a specialist, either a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Drug therapy, especially antidepressants are a good remedy. Do not underestimate the importance of matching also a psychotherapy, especially once you get out from the episode of depression.CLICK HERE for more information on how to treat depression.

Is there a book that describes properly human and mind functioning?

There are many, but there are some (very recent ones) that are able to describe well the functioning of individuals and of their mind, clearly, and offering innovative ideas, so that one can get an idea of the incredible discoveries that have been made since Freud or Kraepelin. You can read “L’Intreccio” edition FrancoAngeli.



Which are the best psychiatric centers? Which are the centers of excellence in the treatment of depression and anxiety?

Among the various centers of psychiatric care is opportune to suggest the department of psychiatry at the Hospital San Raffaele Turro, a center of excellence for the treatment of Mood disorders such as Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder.

Another excellent psychiatric center in Milan is Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, where there is an outpatient service for the treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

Another well-known center for the treatment of mood disorders is the Unit of Psychiatry of the Hospital Santa Chiara of Pisa.

Can I book a psychiatric visit with the national health service?

Yes, there is the possibility of psychiatric visits with the national health service either at the outpatient services in various treatment centers or at the so-called psycho-social centers (CPS, as defined in Lombardy, but whose name varies according to regions, for example in Liguria Department of Mental Health, DSM, or in Puglia Center for Mental Health, CIM). The latter, being local services, only accept patients of their area for treatment.