Mental Health takes to the Internet
Online psychiatry is the use of the internet to administer or deliver psychiatric services to clients or patients. It falls under the broader realm of tele-psychiatry, which is any sort of distance psychiatric practice.
Online psychiatry is most commonly used as a resource. Information on many different mental disorders is widely available, as well as self-evaluation tools and forums for collaborating with others of the same or similar disorder. However, online psychiatry can also include delivering and receiving psychiatric services online.
Real-time interaction with a psychiatrist
In under-served or remote areas, online psychiatry has proven to be especially useful. Live interactive two-way audio-video communication—videoconferencing —over voice-over IP (VoIP) or email exchange is the modality best suited to patient care and the most direct form of communication between doctor and patient. The most common method of online psychiatry, however, is the use of online chats between the patient and psychiatrist.
An online psychiatrist may be more approachable
Mental health patients may be comforted by the anonymity of the internet, which can lead to more openness and an easier time with questioning. For example, someone with social phobia may find the limited contact easier to tolerate. People with paranoid schizophrenia who may feel uncomfortable sharing personal information, may ask questions more freely if they feel more anonymous.
Sometimes patients simply cannot make it into the clinic. Major Depression can cause patients to be tired and low on energy, so online psychiatry may remove the hurdle of a trip to the office, facilitating more regular contact with the patient. People with OCD may fear leaving their homes because they may risk becoming contaminated. People with body dysmorphic disorder may not want to go in public out of fear and shame over their appearance. People with disorders like PTSD and Panic Disorder, may fear crowds, so online psychiatry may be a good option in these cases as well.
Limitations of online psychiatry
Drawbacks of online psychiatry include the problem that the connection between therapist and patient is not as intimate as it would be with an actual, face-to-face therapeutic session. However, given our society's current mental health care crisis, the limitations of online psychiatry seem outweighed by the potential benefits.
The future of online psychiatry
As the reach of the internet continues to grow, and more communities are able to get online, the effectiveness of online psychiatry will increase.
Many people are already looking for answers on the internet for all sorts of questions; online psychiatry aims to answer those questions specific to the field of psychiatry.