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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is not a disorder of 'split personality' but rather a disorder of fragmented mental processes. It is a major psychotic illness. Many suffering from schizophrenia would, usually, have suffered the symptoms of psychosis for at least six months before seeking help. Sufferers will have experienced a deterioration in interpersonal relationships and in daily functioning at school or at work. Although it can affect anyone at any age, its onset is usually in adolescence or young adulthood. Schizophrenia affects men and women equally.

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Signs and Symptoms

A person who is suffering from schizophrenia may present positive and/or negative symptoms. Positive symptoms reflect a distortion or exaggeration of functions that are normally present, whereas negative symptoms reflect a deficiency of a mental function that is normally present.

Positive Symptoms:

  • Hallucinations (e.g. voices, smells, tastes experienced that do not exist)
  • Delusions (i.e. of being persecuted or controlled, or his / her mind being read)
  • Bizarre or disorganised behaviour

Negative Symptoms:

  • Poverty of speech
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional blunting (i.e. not displaying any emotion whether positive or negative)
  • Apathy
  • Attention impairment
  • Lack of motivation and drive

Treatment

Untreated psychosis can cause a considerable amount of suffering, distress and bafflement to the person who has the condition and to those around him. In addition, persons with untreated psychosis are at a higher risk of suicide, aggression and drug abuse. Seeking professional help early is important.

Medication

Medication remains the main treatment method. As schizophrenia is often due to abnormal biochemical balances in the brain, medication can help to normalise these imbalances. This type of medication is known as antipsychotics or neuroleptics. They can relieve the hallucinations, delusion and thinking problems associated with schizophrenia. These antipsychotic medicines are also important in reducing or eliminating the chances of relapse.

Psychotherapy

Besides medication, another effective form of treatment is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps the person make sense of his illness, can take various forms and can be conducted on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. Issues that may need to be dealt with include: the person’s feelings about the illness, his / her experience of medication, denying the illness, the impact that the illness has on the person’s self-esteem, interpersonal relations and other aspects of his / her life.

Rehabilitation and Counselling

Rehabilitation and counselling help the individual to function in society. Social skills training, which can be provided in group, family or individual sessions, helps to build social relationships and independent living skills.

Specialised Programme

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The Early Psychosis Intervention Programme at IMH emphasises early detection and treatment. This team works closely with private doctors, polyclinics and social agencies to help spot the early signs of mental disorders amongst those aged 18–40. EPIP also works with educational institutions and youth workers to identify the onset of psychosis amongst the young.

These partners help to refer patients to IMH or, if applicable, jointly assess them. At EPIP, every outpatient is assigned a case manager, who will assist in managing his overall needs. Psychosis can be treated with medication, medical support and good family care.

For more information on EPIP, please call 6389 2972.

To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200.

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