By Dr. Faizi Ahmed, MD
When it comes to psychotropic medication management, counseling, or therapy, there are many options for the type of mental health professional you choose. From psychiatrist to a psychologist, counselor and therapist, each discipline has a specialty. One type of doctor that may or may not be well known is the Neuropsychiatrist.
A Neuropsychiatrist is a unique kind of psychiatrist. As a scientific specialty, neuropsychiatry addresses how diseases of the nervous system contribute to mental disorders. Therefore, these specialists study both psychiatric and neurologic disorders. As a medical specialty, a neuropsychiatrist works to understand and treat patients that suffer neurologically-based behavioral and cognitive challenges.
As a subspecialty of psychiatry, neuropsychiatry is a field enjoying rapid growth. Neuropsychiatry shares deep connections to neuropsychology and behavioral neurology (a subspecialty of neurology that addresses the conditions resulting from brain injury or disease). In the past, neurology and psychiatry had a divide between the two disciplines based on the idea that there is a difference between the mind (meaning the things we think and do) and the brain (the physical organ in our head). However, in recent years, many have debated whether there exists a difference between the mind and brain.
A Neuropsychiatrist has primary training in either general neurology and psychiatry, although some doctors have training in both. The combination of skills and knowledge from both of these sciences is one way neuropsychiatrists differentiate themselves from those that practice at a general level for either of these fields. They have additional training highly specialized to their field, as well as clinical knowledge. According to the American Neuropsychiatric Association, “neuropsychiatry requires experience specific to the evaluation, differential diagnosis, prognosis, pharmacological treatment, psychosocial management, and neurorehabilitation of persons with complex neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioral conditions.” A closely related colleague of the neuropsychiatrist is the behavioral neurologist. The specialist chooses his or her title based on the discipline the doctor received his or her primary training, i.e. if it was psychiatry, then neuropsychiatrist, and vice versa.
Part of the vision for a neuropsychiatrist as it pertains to patient care is to help facilitate understanding and compassion for people that suffer neuropsychiatric conditions. As a result of the doctor’s medical training, these specialists approach treatment as a medical condition rather than a psychological condition.
Neuropsychiatrists evaluate patients that have suffered illnesses and injuries to the brain and nervous system. These conditions affect how the patient behaves, feels, and thinks, and can include the following symptoms:
- Trouble with memory
- Disorders affecting mood; i.e. mood swings
- Inability to learn or struggling to master new skills
- Impairment of the nervous system
Neurologists often work in close collaboration with neuropsychiatrists to help evaluate patients. When the cause of the patient’s dysfunction is uncertain, neuropsychiatrists help with diagnosis through evaluation to determine the extent of reasoning insufficiencies. They also might employ a CT or MRI. Tthe neuropsychiatrist can then recommend treatment or a rehabilitation plan for the patient. In some cases, they suggest management strategies for the symptoms, particularly in those cases where recovery is doubtful or not possible. On the research side, neuropsychiatrists help develop the models that present both the normal and abnormal functions of the human brain.
Patients that would benefit from the expertise of a Neuropsychiatrist include:
- Stroke patients to evaluate the extent of the damage caused by the event
- Parkinson’s disease patients to determine a baseline for the patient’s brain function before further decline occurs
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients to identify the disease in the early stages
- Traumatic brain injuries to discover how the injury will affect the patient’s cognitive function
- Learning disabled patients to develop a management and treatment plan
There are many choices of mental health professional from which to choose when you need help. A neuropsychiatrist can be beneficial to a wide variety of patients, and are especially useful when the issues are behavioral, cognitive, or neurological. Their expertise differs from the field of specialists because of their knowledge of the brain. It is a neuropsychiatrist that could help you understand the condition affecting you or your loved ones.
If you have questions as to whether a neuropsychiatrist is right for you or your loved one or to learn how Achieve Wellness Group can help, please contact us.
Dr. Ahmed provides Neuropsychiatric services at Achieve Wellness Group. is a board-certified psychiatrist with fellowship training in neuropsychiatry. Attending medical school at Xavier University, he then completed his residency in psychiatry at Temple University Hospital. He worked as an Assertive Community Treatment psychiatrist at Horizon House, Inc. and then joined a fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine completing a two-year training program in neuropsychiatry and behavioral neurology. Dr. Ahmed specializes in treating the problems occurring after brain injury, including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and diseases of the nervous system. Specializing in dementia, he has a particular interest in the holistic dementia care. Dr. Ahmed is an expert in drug interactions and also has an interest in complementary and alternative treatments in psychiatry.
“Neuropsychiatry has two referents: a scientific field and a medical subspecialty.” www.anaponline.org. Web. 25 August 2016. <http://www.anpaonline.org/what-is-neuropsychiatry-behavioral-neurology>.
“American Neuropsychiatric Association” www.anaponline.org. Web. 25 August 2016. <http://www.anpaonline.org/mission-and-vision.>
“Neuropsychiatrists and neuropsychologists.” www.brainandspine.org/uk. Web. 25 August 2016. <http://www.brainandspine.org.uk/neuropsychiatrists-and-neuropsychologists>.