The rate of addiction to drink and drugs among doctors could be as high as 10-15pc – but they make reluctant patients.
Dr Ide Delargy, chairperson of the Sick Doctor Scheme, said doctors have access to addictive medications and are good at denial and covering up.
Many present for help late and it can be sparked by a crisis, said Dr Delargy of the Irish College of General Practitioners.
Dr Delargy said doctors can face particular mental health difficulties because of perfectionist traits, a strong sense of responsibility, chronic self-doubt and being overly conscientious.
GPs who are not in a group practice, can be particularly vulnerable to stress-related behaviour, she told the annual conference of the Medical Council in Dublin.
There is also a belief that "doctors do not do illness" and a stigma about being psychologically ill which can lead them to self-medicate for minor and sometime more major illnesses.
Colleagues who act as whisteblowers can face difficulties as a result.
Dr Delargy was speaking as a survey revealed that 12pc of Irish adults have considered making an official complaint to the Medical Council or have actually done so.
A separate health committee, which has been set up by the Medical Council, has seen the number of doctors referred for help rise from 17 in 2009 to 35 in 2012.
The doctors have been suffering from alcohol, or addiction to alcohol and drugs in some cases. A number had addictions as well as a mental disability.
While a majority believed doctors do their jobs well, 7pc of those who responded to the survey rated their performance "fairly bad" or "bad".