According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as “the state of full physical, mental and social well-being, and not only the absence of disease . ” However, it is common for us to neglect all those ailments that do not come directly from our body.

Other times we are aware of our mental or emotional discomfort but we are not clear if we should go to the psychologist or psychiatrist. Problems of an emotional nature have traditionally been treated as problems to be solved by relying on the environment without going to any professional. And it is well known that having loved ones help us is very important when it comes to feeling better, but there are many things that can be done that are not enough or the best option.

We may not want to share what happens to us with someone who knows us well or that we do not have someone suitable or present to support us, or perhaps we have already sought a solution in those closest to us but it is not enough. Then we are asked questions: Do I have to go to a professional? Should I go to therapy?

Signs that we need a psychologist or psychiatrist

1. You have difficulties to cope with the day to day , that is, your daily functioning is hampered by your discomfort.

2. Physical symptoms appear that are not organic in origin or you suffer from panic or anxiety attacks .

3. Your emotions get out of control . For example, an intense and constant cry appears together with a feeling of deep sadness that lasts over time.

4. This emotional lack of control prevents you from acting the way you normally would.

5. You find yourself in an extreme situation that you do not know how to solve with the resources at your fingertips.

6. You have thoughts, ideas or you are trying to end your life .

7. You have great difficulties to rest or sleep that prevent you from leading a normal life.

In general, what characterizes the need to go to a mental health professional is that our state of discomfort prevents us from functioning normally in our daily lives.

Rule out organic causes

There are many endocrinological, neurological or cardiological diseases among others that can be expressed through behavioral symptoms such as

anxiety or depression. That makes it really important to rule out the presence of any organic pathology . For this reason, it is usually advisable to go first to the primary care doctor for a complete physical examination.

Which professional to go to?

A very common question asked of every mental health professional arises from the confusion resulting from the existence of two figures of therapeutic care. Should I go to the psychiatrist or psychologist?

Although they are two professionals who have the same goal, to improve the mental health of the person, their means of reaching it are quite different. On the one hand, psychologists, based on the emotions and behavior of the people who come to the consultation, make the diagnoses and propose a therapy to help overcome and face the situations that affect the individual . On the other hand, psychiatrists, from their medical approach, focus on organic aspects that can lead to a mental disorder, they seek to improve the patient’s life through pharmacological treatment that tries to reduce symptoms.

Knowing this, it remains difficult to be clear about which professional is the most suitable . As a general rule, it is recommended to go to the family doctor to carry out a complete physical examination (essential as we have mentioned before) that together with your personal medical history and the information you provide may indicate which is the best option. If we do not agree with this option or we have directly decided to private practice, there are some situations that can help us choose one or the other professional. Even so, it is very common for both of you to work together.

When to go to the psychologist?

Some situations that show the need for psychological consultation:

– Going through a traumatic situation that is the source of great emotional discomfort.

– Eating problems such as bulimia, anorexia or recurrent binges.

– Intense and constant feelings of sadness for a while. These feelings appear alongside negative thoughts frequently.

– Sometimes, linked to the feeling of sadness, suicidal thoughts or attempts to attempt against one’s life appear.

– Dependence or abuse of some type of substance, that is, the existence of an addiction. It may also be addiction to gambling, shopping …

– Suffering from an emotional imbalance such as excessive anxiety or stress, difficulty controlling emotions, uncontrollable anger, constant nervousness …

When to go to the psychiatrist?

The signs that would indicate that a psychiatrist might be the best option:

– A severe and disabling depression or anxiety.

– Suspicion of a mental disorder with psychotic symptoms such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

– Whenever another professional (doctor or psychologist) refers us to this specialist.

Where can I go to therapy?

In Spain there are two options. On the one hand we have the public care that our health system offers us. Its strong point is that it is made up of professionals with strong training and that it is free. The biggest disadvantage is that, like any great system, it has a large influx that can cause appointments to be scattered over time which could hinder therapy.

On the other hand, we have private care where we can choose the professional we want to attend to us. However, it can be very expensive, especially for treatments that last over time.

What you always have to keep in mind is that you must be a trusted professional with whom we establish a solid relationship in which we feel comfortable. In most cases it will be a person to whom we will tell very intimate things and, although both the psychiatrist and the psychologist will maintain the confidentiality of what was said in consultation, we do not have to feel comfortable with everyone.

This article is not intended to prescribe any treatment or therapy. By providing this information, the aim is to encourage people who feel that they would benefit from some treatment to go and banish the thought that a mental health therapy is “only for crazy people . 

As we pointed out at the beginning, we must understand our health as a whole and we must take care of ourselves in each and every one of the aspects that make it up in order to have a good quality of life. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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