Psychiatry is that branch of medicine which deals with disturbances in psychological function. Such disturbances may be gross and clearly pathological, such as not knowing where you are (disorientation), hearing voices (hallucination), or believing one is being persecuted from outer space (delusions) or extreme variants of normal experience; such as feeling so miserable that life has no meaning and worrying so much that your sleep is fitful, your concentration impaired, and your ability to work seriously compromised.
The practice of Psychiatry is also much concerned with the psychological and social antecedents and consequences of illness. It deals with such questions as why did the patient develop his or her symptoms at this particular point in time; and what are the factors in his or her personal life which contributed to these symptoms. Similarly psychiatrists are involved in the psychological, social and family consequences of illness, whether this is a reflection of the clear-cut disturbance in brain function (as after a brain injury), or whether it is the understandable concern the patient may have regarding his or her future as a consequence of being ill.
Studying psychological medicine requires you to “widen the lens” through which human behaviour and the health of your patients are understood. Behaviour itself is the externalised result of cognitions, thoughts and emotions based in biology, psychology, social, cultural and contextual experience. Interpersonal behaviour is significantly affected by the ability to think, reflect and communicate. Therefore, psychological medicine may be defined as the clinically applied study of human behaviour and experience. As such, it assists clinicians in understanding the ways in which people (this includes patients, colleagues & themselves) behave and the reasons for this behaviour.
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