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Branch of medicine concerned with mental disorders. Until the 18th century, mental health problems were considered forms of demonic possession; gradually they came to be seen as illnesses requiring treatment. In the 19th century, research into and classification and treatment of mental illnesses advanced. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory dominated the field for many years before it was challenged by behavioral and cognitive therapy and humanistic psychology in the mid-20th century. Psychiatrists hold medical degrees and can prescribe drugs and other medical treatments in addition to conducting psychotherapy. The psychiatrist often works as a member of a mental health team that includes clinical psychologists and social workers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on psychiatry, visit Britannica.com.