In most cases, when you begin struggling with your mental health, you should head to a psychologist. These professionals provide various forms of therapy, but they are not medical doctors, and they cannot prescribe medication. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors and can prescribe medications. And sometimes, you really should be seeing a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. Here are a few key instances in which that is true.
You're having suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal thoughts can be scary, embarrassing, and dangerous. While a psychologist would be able to help you through suicidal ideation with talk therapy, many patients need more than talk therapy to make it through this serious situation. A psychiatrist may be better equipped to ensure you get the medical care you need, which may include a period of in-patient treatment, anti-depressants, and diagnosis of any underlying mental health conditions that are contributing to your suicidal thoughts.
You're self-harming or dealing with an eating disorder.
Self-harm usually results from a mental health problem, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. A psychiatrist will be better equipped to figure out what underlying conditions may be leading to your self-harm. This is not something to take your time with, since waiting to seek treatment could result in serious physical harm. Eating disorders are often considered a type of self-harm and should be treated with the same urgency. A psychiatrist can collaborate with a nutritionist, various therapists, and even your primary care doctor to get you proper care.
You've already tried therapy, to no avail.
Perhaps you've already seen a psychologist or therapist for your troubles, but you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. Sometimes, the problem may be that you have not found the right therapist yet. But other times, the problem might be that you need more than therapy to heal. You might need psychiatric medications or a more involved form of therapy that only a psychiatrist can provide. It's worth seeing a psychiatrist for an evaluation. If they think you just need to keep looking for a different therapist, they'll tell you that. But chances are, they'll have some recommendations for other, more involved treatments, or they'll diagnose you with a condition that makes your struggles make more sense.
Not every mental health struggle requires the help of a psychiatrist, but many do. Make sure you know when it's in your best interest to see a psychiatrist and make your appointment soon.