​​Psychosis happens when a person loses touch with reality. It is not a specific illness, but rather a syndrome showing some degree of disturbance in perception and judgement. It is a distressing condition that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, communication and behaviour.

Around 1 in 50 people experience a psychotic episode in their lifetime. When a person experiences psychosis, they may experience hallucinations (where they hear voices or see things that do not exist, or disordered thinking or delusions (false beliefs that they are going to be harmed or that people are talking about them).

Some of these forms of disturbances show up as:

  • Perceptual disturbances such as feelings that things around have changed
  • Mood disturbances such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability and anger
  • Cognitive disturbances such as poor attention and concentration, difficulties in thinking, suspiciousness and unusual beliefs
  • Behavioural disturbances such as change in sleep and appetite patterns, social withdrawal, loss of interest in things, deterioration in occupation and academic functioning

Different people will probably interpret these disturbances differently. Some may see them as symptoms of stress, especially if the changes are associated with some stressful life events. Others may see them as part of the person’s personality. Cultural influences may also play a part in how the symptoms of psychosis might be interpreted. Psychotic symptoms are often attributed to supernatural causes rather than biological causes.

One’s personal understanding of the disturbances will determine if an individual will seek help. Even for those who suspect that it may be a mental condition, the stigma of seeking psychiatric help may deter them from consulting a psychiatrist. It is not surprising that there is often a long delay, sometimes even a few years, before the person reaches out for professional help.

​​The exact causation of psychosis is thought to be related to neurological and biochemical changes that occur in a person’s brain during their teenage and early adulthood years. There are other factors such as genetics or the use of recreational drugs or a history of intermittent brief psychotic symptoms that may predispose someone to developing a psychotic disorder. However, most people suffering from a psychotic disorder do not have these risk factors. If a person shows signs of psychosis and has these risk factors, it would be best to seek evaluation soonest possible.

​​People can recover fully from psychosis as the condition is highly treatable. The sooner the treatment, the better the outcome of recovery.

There are also new and effective medicines, as well as improved treatment programmes now that optimize a person’s recovery.

Besides medication, counselling, and psychotherapy, practical assistance such as getting help with school or work and arranging accommodation are other important aspects of treatment.

​​IMH’s Early Psychosis Intervention Programme (EPIP) team works closely with healthcare professionals in other hospitals, polyclinics and social agencies to help spot the early signs of mental health challenges among those aged 16 – 40. EPIP also works with educational institutions and youth workers to identify the onset of psychosis among young people.

These partners help refer patients to IMH or, if applicable, jointly assess them. At EPIP, every outpatient is assigned a case manager who will assist in managing their overall needs.

Besides seeing clients at outpatient clinics, EPIP emphasises psychosocial programmes, run at Club EPIP, that empowers, people in recovery by addressing issues relating to social skills, stigma, leading a healthy lifestyle and cognitive remediation, just to name a few. The aim of these is to meaningfully restore people to their roles in society. For more information, please visit EPIP​ or call 6389-2972 between 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Fridays for enquiries.

IMH also provides assessment and treatment for psychosis in individuals of other age groups. To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call the IMH appointment line at 6389-2200.