Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional disorders (see mental illness). The term alienist is an old term for a psychiatrist.

Note that psychiatry is practiced by psychiatrists, psychology by psychologists. Psychiatrists have medical training, while psychologists have extensive training in therapy and psychological testing.

Table of contents
1 Mind vs. brain
2 Anti-psychiatry
3 Famous psychiatrists
4 Psychiatrists in fiction

Mind vs. brain

Psychiatric illnesses were for some time characterised as disorders of function of the mind rather than the brain, although the distinction is not always obvious. In the current state of knowledge this distinction does not hold true, as most psychiatric conditions have their correlates in term of brain abnormality.

For a long period of history, neurology and psychiatry were a single discipline, and following their division the steady advance in understanding of the basic functioning of neurons and the brain is bringing areas of the two disciplines back together.

Psychiatry was at first a pragmatic discipline that was part of general medicine, combining medicine and practical psychology. The work of Emil Kraepelin laid the foundations of scientific psychiatry, but was derailed by the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud. For many years, Freudian theories dominated psychiatric thinking.

The discovery of lithium carbonate as a treatment for bipolar disorder, followed by the development of fields such as molecular biology and tools such as brain imaging has led to psychiatry re-discovering its origins in physical and observational medicine without losing sight of its humane dimension.


Unlike most other areas of medicine, there is a politicised anti-psychiatry movement that opposes the practices of, and in some cases the existence of, psychiatry. Some opponents of psychiatry state that selective financing by large multinational drug companies of both high ranking professional psychiatrists, research and educational material has lead the practice of psychiatry to be subversively, and in some cases inhumanely misled.

Famous psychiatrists

Psychiatrists in fiction

Links moved from medicine, to be sorted and explained: Bipolar disorder -- Depression -- Mental Retardation -- Schizophrenia -- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder -- More

See also: