What’s the Difference Between a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist?

Both neurology and Psychiatry are related to the brain but have different focus areas. Both have similarities in their careers, however, they require to treat different conditions and require different qualifications. This article will cover what is the difference between a neurologist and psychiatrist and discuss both professions in detail. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

What’s the Difference Between a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist?

Neurologists and psychiatrists both work with diseases and conditions that seem to affect the mind and brain. Psychiatrists specialize in psychological disorders, whereas neurologists specialize in physiological illnesses. Psychiatrists address conditions that affect the chemical imbalances in the brain, behaviour and symptoms. 

They also study developmental challenges and experiences in life. Neurologists study the physical dysfunctions of the brain and bodily functions which are related to the nervous system. While both specialize in the study of the brain, their symptoms seem to vary and manifest in different ways. 

Who is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a type of physician who treats conditions related to the nervous system, brain, spine and nerves. Several other tests are also conducted by neurologists. 

These tests help identify the cause of several dysfunctions in the nervous system. These tests also help them diagnose patients with neurological conditions, and various treatments and cures are prescribed by the neurologist. 

Few neurologists recommend surgery or work with immunologists and rheumatologists that help address several complex nervous system disorders.

Who is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who reviews the patient’s mental and behavioural symptoms, these are then used to determine the best course of treatment for those issues. 

These are also used in identifying, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and psychological disorders. Treatments also include counselling, behavioural therapy and psychiatric medication. 

In order to provide comprehensive neurological care, psychiatrists may refer their patients to other healthcare specialists like counsellors, psychologists or rehabilitation therapists

What are the conditions psychiatrists and neurologists treat?

Treatment of the symptoms depends on the patient’s symptoms and how they affect the patient’s life, this results in them consulting a neurologist or psychiatrist. 

There are times when a neurological condition can cause psychiatric symptoms and vice versa. A neurologist treating a patient for damage to the brain can refer his patient to a psychiatrist who can then help treat the patient’s symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

There are some symptoms that both psychiatrists and neurologists can treat or may treat together: 

Hallucinations

Difficulty sleeping

Confusion

Memory problems

Fatigue

Confusion

Neurologists can help patients with any kind of symptoms involving the nervous system. They help patients experiencing pain, weakness and discomfort. There is a list of issues that neurologists treat:

Vertigo and dizziness

Pain in the various parts of the body. 

Headaches and migraines

Numbness and tingling

Shaking and muscle weakness

Problems with vision.

Brain damage

Seizures

Epilepsy

Strokes

Psychiatrists on the other hand focus on treating illnesses that impact people’s thought processes, feelings and behaviour. They try to help people improve their physical and mental processes. Here are a few of the symptoms and disorders that psychiatrists address:

Addiction disorder

Eating disorders

Depression

Anxiety disorders 

Mood swings

Dissociation

Schizophrenia

Developmental disorders

Emotional trauma

Duties

There is a list of roles and responsibilities that both neurologists and psychiatrists consult with patients, diagnose them and provide treatment. Here are some duties for neurologists:

Evaluating symptoms

Neurologists evaluate the patients to describe their symptoms and conduct physical exams. Questions related to their pain levels, reflexes and also measure several motor functions. 

Completing diagnostic scans

Neurologists complete scans like MRIs, MRAs, EEGs and VNGs to learn about the function and structures of the brain. It is important to order various brain and spine scans, this is the first step in helping find various diagnoses for neurological conditions. 

Testing nerve function

A special kind of training is done by neurologists in a type of test called electromyography (EMG). These tests use electrodes and needles to identify abnormalities in the nerves and muscles.

Prescribing medications

Many neurologists provide prescriptions to provide relief during the diagnosis process. 

Evaluating test results

Information is taken from blood tests, consultations, scans and other diagnostic procedures to identify the cause of each patient’s symptoms.

Psychiatrists typically have responsibilities like:

Assessing mental function

Psychiatrists use assessment, behaviours and conversations, that help in developing several psychiatric evaluations. The interview questions asked about their moods, behaviour and emotions.  

Developing treatment plans

Psychiatrists may recommend various medications or types of behavioural therapy, depending on the client’s symptoms. According to the dosage the side effects are carefully calculated. 

Collaborating with therapists

Several psychiatric patients also have therapists and counsellors assigned that help them manage life skills and emotional coping mechanisms alongside any medical treatment for psychiatric disorders. They also help provide care plans and provide holistic treatment.

Researching medications

Psychiatric medicine is constantly changing. Several manufacturers are constantly releasing new treatments. Modern research and innovations in medications and treatments are used to provide the best quality care to their patients.

Tracking patient progress

A psychiatrist may meet with their patients and develop a long-term to track their emotional and mental progress this is used while these professionals use different medications and try certain treatments. 

Work environment

Psychiatrists and neurologists can work in different types of medical environments. They can both work in hospitals or have their own private practices. 

Psychiatrists usually can also work at behavioural health facilities and rehabilitation centres for substance abuse. Neurologists on the other hand work in a more traditional doctor’s office environment with a sterile clinic room. 

A psychiatrist may have to work in a more relaxed office setting with couches and chairs to provide patients with a comfortable place to discuss mental issues, similar to a counsellor or therapist.

What is a neuropsychologist?

Neuropsychologists are psychologists that specialise in deciphering and understanding how behaviours interact with the brain. The role of the neuropsychologist is to understand how the structures of the brain and several systems of the brain region affect an individual’s thinking and behaviour.  Neuropsychologists try to understand the relationship between the brain and the behaviours of the people that engage in it. They also try to understand the disorders of the brain and the intensity of their effects on the cognitive functioning and behaviour of an individual. Neuropsychologists often work in hospitals and other clinical settings. 

What does a neuropsychologist do?

Neuropsychologists work in collaboration with doctors and neurologists.

They study and treat people who have been diagnosed with different brain or nervous system disorders. 

Various kinds of Illnesses, injuries, as well as disorders of both the brain and the nervous system, can affect how our cognitive functioning works. 

Here are some of the symptoms that help visit a neuropsychologist, these minds include; problems with memory, learning difficulty, mood disturbances and dysfunction of the nervous system. 

Neuropsychologists help in determining what are the impairments in your brain and the severity, they also help in understanding the degree of impairment which are caused by strokes, and they also help study Parkinson’s disease. A neuropsychologist also examines several symptoms and can tell you the prognosis, this helps to understand the effects of the illness. 

They also study Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders that can cause changes in one’s memory, personality, and cognitive abilities. Various traumatic brain injuries are studied by neuropsychologists and their impact on reasoning, decision making, and problem-solving.  The neuropsychologist also studies how learning disabilities develop and affect people over time. Treatment plans for several neuropsychologists are planned over time.

Conclusion

This article covers what is the difference between a neurologist and a psychiatrist and discusses both professions in detail. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions: What’s the difference between a neurologist and a psychiatrist?

Does a neurologist treat depression?

Neurologists are people who prescribe antidepressants to treat depression in neurological patients, chronic pain syndromes, eating disorders, neuropathic pain, panic attacks, premenstrual syndrome and migraine prevention

Can neurologists diagnose mental illness?

Neurologists can help confirm a diagnosis of depression as several medical conditions mimic depression symptoms. Symptoms that look similar to depression are common among adults who have substance abuse issues, medication side effects, medical problems, or other mental health conditions.

Is anxiety a neurological condition?

Anxiety causes no known neurological damage, though it can still cause symptoms such as Tingling hands and feet – Both adrenaline and hyperventilation are symptoms of anxiety and can lead to the development of tingling hands and feet.

Is Cognitive Neuroscience a Neuroscience field?

In the 1970s, Michael Gazzaniga, who was a neuroscientist and George Miller, who was a cognitive psychologist, pioneered the way toward cognitive neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience is considered to be a new field in both neuroscience and psychology. 

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2009). The cognitive neurosciences. MIT press.

Miller, G. A. (1989). George A. Miller. Stanford University Press.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?