Should I See a Ph.D. or M.D. for Battle Fatigue and PTSD?

Reader’s Question

What type of treatment would one expect when visiting a Ph.D. versus a M.D.? I am looking for a doctor who can help with Battle Fatigue/PTSD. Who and what kind of treatment would best help me?

Psychologist’s Reply

In mental health services in the US, a Ph.D. is typically a licensed Psychologist or Counselor who provides psychotherapy as well as specific non-medical treatments for conditions such as phobias, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. An M.D. is both a Physician and a Psychiatrist and can prescribe medications for mental health problems. Both professionals would conduct an assessment of your situation and symptoms, recommend a course of treatment, and make appropriate referrals to other professionals if necessary as part of the treatment program. Psychologists/Counselors often refer patients to a Psychiatrist when medications are appropriate. Psychiatrists often refer to Psychologists/Counselors for psychotherapy or specific treatments.

What kind of treatment would best help you? With a diagnosis of Battle Fatigue/PTSD, any mental health professional would review your symptoms and complaints. Professionals also follow what is called a “decision tree” when conducting assessments. In your diagnosis, some of the decisions to be made are:

  • Are your PTSD symptoms such as “traumatic recollection” — the emotional remembering of traumatic events — attached to single events/issues (fear of air flight, upset by the presence of firearms, etc.), or are they more widespread? If they are specific and do not intrude into your daily life, a Psychologist/Counselor may be helpful. When your symptoms are more widespread, occurring frequently during the day, an antianxiety medication prescribed by a psychiatrist may be helpful.
  • Are you experiencing the physical and body symptoms associated with a mental health problem? Most significant mental health issues have strong connections to the brain’s neurochemistry. If you are experiencing the physical symptoms such as sleep/appetite problems, chronic fatigue, poor concentration, increased thinking speed, increased physical aches/pains, loss of sexual interest and motivation, weight loss, etc., then a Psychiatrist will provide the most help.

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In cases of Battle Fatigue and PTSD, we typically find a combination of both psychotherapy concerns and symptoms that should be addressed with medications. Research tells us that the quickest recovery from Major Depression, for example, uses a combination of Psychotherapy and psychiatric medication. In your case, I would obtain a consultation with either mental health professional. Both are qualified to evaluate your condition and create a treatment plan. In cases of PTSD, I would also recommend reading my article on Emotional Memory on this website. The article offers strategies for dealing with traumatic memories and backgrounds.

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