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Is it better to see a psychiatrist or GP to discuss medication?

Chi-Chi photo Chi-Chi · 09 Sept, 2020

Daniella, 19

It's not always easy to understand the difference between the various kinds of professionals who can support you with mental health stuff. But our resident psychiatrist Chi Chi can explain it all as he answers this question which came in this week ...

Hi Daniella, and thanks for your question. People often are not sure what the difference is between all these professionals like GPs, psychiatrists and psychologists.

In general, your GP keeps an overall view of what is going on for you and your health - physical and mental health. They know the bigger picture for you and are your day to day contact if you need help or advice.

Your GP is your first port of call for advice about your mental health, and that includes sometimes prescribing medication or other support and therapies. If they feel that you would benefit from some more specific support, they can refer you to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) - and there you might see other professionals including (sometimes, depending on your situation and needs) a psychiatrist.

A psychiatrist has extra knowledge and expertise in treating mental health problems, and in prescribing medications, as well as lots of other approaches. So they tend to deal with more complex situations or illnesses, or those which have not responded to the standard treatments a GP might use as first-line support. They might be able to prescribe different medications, or balance interactions if you are on more than one drug. And they keep in touch with your GP, who will continue to be the person who monitors how you are getting on.

So whether this is a query about a medication you are already on, or whether you might benefit from taking something to help with whatever you’re experiencing, start off by chatting to your GP. They’ll be able to advise on whether they can help, or if this is something to talk to a psychiatrist about. Of you already have a psychiatrist they can get in touch with them if necessary. And if you don’t already have a psychiatrist, or another mental health professional supporting you, they can make a referral for a CAMHS assessment so you can get that extra support.

Hope that helps!

Chi Chi.

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