Difference between Psychology and Psychiatry

DifferencesMedical Conditions & TreatmentHuman Behaviour

Our mental health affects how we perceive, think, feel, and act as a human individual. One’s mental health is determined by how they handle stress, behave in society, and what choices they make. Mental health is vital at every stage of life. One needs help of an expert when their grossly disturbed emotional state and in turn the behavior together sum up to a mental illness. In such cases, one might get confused on whether to approach a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist. When it comes to mental illness, both areas of study Psychology and Psychiatry, provide insight on human minds and the effect of disorder of human mind or body on their behavior.

Read through this article to understand the difference between Psychology and Psychiatry.

What is Psychology?

In the context of human nature, Psychology is an attitude or nature of a person. In the context of discipline, Psychology is the study of human mind and the human mind's effects on their behavior. Psychology is an autonomous discipline of study by its own.

Psychology being a discipline of its own, one needs to undertake M.A., M.Sc., or Ph.D. in Psychology as a specialization.

Specializations in Psychology

There are some further specializations in Psychology as listed −

  • Animal Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Consumer Psychology
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Media Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Social Psychology

What All Mental Disorders Can Psychology Treat?

Psychology can help to a large extent to cure the following disorders −

  • Anxiety − Feeling restless and tensed either because of a trigger or continuously. It can be enforced from outside or an affected individual can have anxious personality.

  • Bipolar Disorder − A person having oscillations between two opposite or extreme moods. The affected individuals are aware their own self.

  • Depression − Feeling sad, and demotivated

  • Eating Disorder − Developing unhealthy eating habits over obsession of food, or over maintaining weight and body shape.

  • Hysteria − Inability to control any emotion or feeling.

  • Paranoia − Delusion that one is threatened/followed by something or someone.

  • Phobia − Excessive fear of a person, object, or a situation.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder − Getting unwanted thoughts repeatedly (obsession) and an urge to do something repeatedly (compulsion).

  • Post-traumatic Disorder − Upsetting after undergoing an unpleasant experience.

  • Bipolar Disorder − Oscillating between two different moods where there is no problem of self-identity unlike in Split-personality.

  • Split-Personality Disorder − Having multiple dissociative personalities, which do not have cognizance of one another where thoughts, actions and behavior of each personality may be completely different from each other.

The mental diseases which are less severe, have the root causes outside one’s body, and which can be cured with talk therapies can be treated with the help of the knowledge of Psychology. Psychology emphasizes on making the patient talk about their thoughts and feelings, and works on reshaping their psychology with normal thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

What is Psychiatry?

It is a branch of Medical Sciences which focuses on treating mental disorders. It covers knowledge of how biological factors in human body can affect one's mental health and what medication can be given as a part of treatment.

One needs to undertake graduation MBBS and/or post-graduation MD in Psychology as a specialization.

Specializations in Psychology

There are some further specializations in Psychology as listed −

  • Adult Psychiatry
  • Addiction Psychiatry
  • Child Psychiatry
  • General Psychiatry
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Multi-specialty Psychiatry
  • Neuro Psychiatry
  • Organizational Psychiatry

What All Mental Disorders Can Be Treated in Psychiatry?

Psychiatry can treat the following mental illnesses −

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) − It is inability to develop normally due to difference in brain as compared to the normal brain. It can be identified at early age. The autistic person has different ways of learning, moving, and interacting. They make repetitive movements or no movements on a trigger and they are into themselves.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder − It is neurodevelopmental disorder in which the patient has trouble paying attention, concentrating, or controlling impulsive behavior. This mental disorder is revealed in childhood and remains as is throughout the adulthood. Not paying attention to details, inability to follow instructions, and taking undue risks without thinking of consequences are some overt symptoms.

  • Schizophrenia − It is a complex brain disorder with distorted perception of reality. The patient experiences hallucinations and delusions, lacks motivation, remains isolated from society and behaves as if in a different scene than in reality.

  • Alzheimer's Disease − It is noticeable loss of memory due to age-related changes in brain and other lifestyle factors.

  • Dementia − It is loss of brain cells and connections between them. It can happen due to aging and tumor.

Psychiatry treats the mental diseases oriented in the disorder of the brain and neurology. They often prescribe some medicines like antidepressants, antipsychotics, mild sleep pills, mood stabilizers, etc., depending on the patient’s situation.

Difference between Psychology and Psychiatry

The following table highlights the major differences between Psychology and Psychiatry −

Key Factor Psychology Psychiatry
Discipline It is an independent discipline. It is a branch of medical science.
Treatment Methods or Steps This discipline provides a wide range of talk therapies This discipline provides a range of assessment, deduction, drug prescription if required, and some talk therapies
Objective of the Study They study emphasizes on conducting psychological testing, counselling, and providing psychotherapy. The study finds the cause behind the mental disorder rooted in the person's brain or neurology.
Area of Work Psychologist need not work in hospital premises. They can have their own clinic. Works in hospital premises as well as in their own clinics.
Scope of Work with respect to Treatment A psychologist cannot prescribe medicines/drugs. If they find that the mental disease is acute or chronic and beyond talk therapies, then they recommend visiting a Psychiatrist. Since the study involves knowledge amount medicine as well, a psychiatrist can prescribe medicines and drugs to arrest further damage.


Psychology and Psychiatry both aim to achieve the same result and that is, sound health of the person affected with a mental disease. While the two disciplines have many things in common, each of them aids to identify and address the affected individual's mental disorder in a different manner. Psychology treats and can cure the mental disorders induced by one’s internal or external factors. Psychiatry can treat the mental disorders caused by changes in their brain/neurology.

Updated on 29-Sep-2022 13:30:36