Definition and Overview

Psychiatry follow-up is a visit to a psychiatrist or other mental care providers after the initial consultation and treatment.

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that focuses on the management, treatment, and prevention of various mental disorders. A person who specializes in it is called a psychiatrist, but since this usually requires an interdisciplinary approach, the person may also see a social worker, therapist, and even a general physician.

For example, a patient who’s suffering from cancer sees an oncologist, who specializes in the disease. However, if he develops depression and anxiety, which may become psychosomatic, he may then approach a psychiatrist to treat the disorder.

Mental disorders are normally outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which was created and published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). APA is responsible for the classification and creation of criteria for mental health disorders. The field also has subspecialties, which include:

  • Geriatric for seniors
  • Child and adolescent (paediatric)
  • Forensic psychiatry for prisoners and other individuals who are in a more controlled or secure environments (it involves criminology and establishes the connection between psychiatry and law)
  • Psychosomatic medicine, which refers to the connection between the mind and body (it implies that the mind can have a profound effect on the body, including worsening a particular condition)
  • Brain injury medicine
  • Palliative care
  • Emergency psychiatry such as for people who commit suicide or experience substance overdose
  • Social
  • Sports
  • Cognition disorders like dementia

    Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A psychiatry follow-up may be recommended if:

  • The patient undergoes psychiatric treatment – Treatment may include therapy and medications, both of which require a certain number of follow-ups to assess their effectiveness.
  • There’s a preexisting condition that may involve mental health disorders – Certain health conditions may increase the risk of mental health disorders. For example, a person who has sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, may develop symptoms of depression. Also, some studies show that people who have hormonal imbalance and obesity may have less stable mental health usually due to hormone-related activities.
  • The person has a learning disability – Treatment and management of learning disability is a subspecialty of psychiatry since it involves problems with mental faculties. Several studies also point out that people with learning conditions also have problems with social skills, among others.
  • The patient has a brain injury – Brain injuries, especially if they are severe, can lead to different mental health problems. In fact, a 2014 Danish study suggests that suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may increase the risk of mental health disorder by as high as 400%. Moreover, a 2008 Brazilian study showed that a TBI, especially if it occurs between the ages of 11 and 15, may increase the risk of schizophrenia by at least 45%. At this point, the primary objective of a psychiatry follow-up is to prevent such development and to recognize the early signs so that prompt intervention can be carried out.


Regular follow-ups, particularly after hospitalization, have many benefits. These include reduced incidence of hospital readmissions and other adverse outcomes like suicide.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Psychiatry follow-up may be conducted for a few weeks or months and is mainly performed by a psychiatrist, although the patient may also have to see other doctors, such as a general physician, for a more holistic approach. It is recommended that the patient undergoes psychiatric follow-up in the same treatment facility where he receives his initial consultation and/or care.

During the follow-up, the psychiatrist may:

  • Assess the success of the treatment
  • Determine new symptoms
  • Manage worsening signs and symptoms
  • Adjust medications when necessary
  • Update the patient’s medical profile, taking into consideration any newly diagnosed illness, as well as new information on family history

    Possible Risks and Complications

Some patients may have a hard time following subsequent psychiatry visits due to numerous reasons including but not limited to geography (e.g., distance of the patient from the health care provider), age, and severity of the condition. One of the major impediments is also the relationship between the patient and the doctor. Based on surveys, a patient who has a good, comfortable relationship with his doctor is more likely to follow the latter’s orders, such as attending follow-up visits.

Another possible issue is the lack of psychiatrists. Recent studies suggest that although many are now entering the field, it still remains the less favorite among would-be health practitioners. This may then result in a shortage of psychiatrists. In order to resolve this, many mental health care facilities are now adopting technologies such as videoconferencing or telemedicine so that patients can have easier access to psychiatrists.

Reference

  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
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