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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.

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



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

* John Cade

* Emil Kraepelin

* Kay Redfield Jamison

* Carl Gustav Jung

* Milton Erickson

* Sigmund Freud

* Richard von Krafft-Ebbing

* W. H. R. Rivers

* Antoni Kepinski

Psychiatrists in fiction

* Dr Alistair Crown in Bernice Rubens's novel A Solitary Grief (1991)

* The radio talk-show presenter Dr Frasier Crane in the sit-com Frasier

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