Psychiatry is the medical specialty concerned with the study of mental disorders and the diagnosis, management, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders.
Psychiatry is not to be confused with psychology - the scientific but non-medical study of the mind, incl. behaviour and mental processes. Both of these terms are derived from the prefix psych- which refers to the mond or, more accurately, to the "psyche" i.e. the "mind or the soul; the mental as opposed to the physical aspects of a person".
An excellent introduction to psychiatry is the Pengiun Paperback: "Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis" by Eric Berne, a psychiatrist and writer based in North America.
Some cultures and political regimes have abused this important area of medicine by defining persons whose social, political, or religious views they did not consider to be helpful or acceptable as "mentally ill" and confining them to institutions that were effectively prisons - but often referred to as some type of "hospital". The issues pertaining to these cases are concerned with social sciences, political sciences and human rights law rather than with medicine. Nevertheless, psychiatry and the politics of "mental illness" are key areas in the growing field of medical ethics. These topics are hotly debated in countries that legislate to detain persons whom medical doctors consider a risk to themselves or deem "likely to commit" a crime - even if the individual has not actually acted illegally, or even threatened to do so.
- A medical specialist in the field of psychiatry is called a psychiatrist.
- Psychogeriatrics is the branch of psychiatry concerned with the mental health of older people, geriatrics being the branch of medicine concerned with associated with conditions attributed to 'old age'.
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