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General Discussion

I'm A Psychologist In Singapore With A Special Interest In Stress, Anxiety, And Mood-Related Disorders, AMA!

Posted by

Matthew Woo profile picture
Matthew Woo
VIP 161 days ago


Hello DxD community! I’m Dr Matthew Woo. I’ll be replying to all your comments on Friday, 14 December.

Proof: 

 

Background: I am Singapore registered psychologist. Currently, I am the principal consultant clinical psychologist with Riverlife Psychology. Prior to this, I was at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for 19 years! I've had plenty of experience with mental health patients. 

My clinical experience and interests are primarily in the area of trauma, stress, anxiety and mood-related disorders. I also specialise in EMDR therapy and mental health issues and can do a range of assessments related to personality profiling and forensic evaluations.

Did you know that about 10% of the population in Singapore suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders? Many of these people with psychological conditions suffer in silence. This can affect their relationship with their families and their work performance.

Through this AMA, I hope to help anyone (or their loved ones) dealing with any mental condition effectively manage it. 

Leave a comment below asking me about any psychological conditions, e.g. :

  • Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Signs & symptoms of an disorder
  • Who is most at risk
  • Types of mood-related disorder
  • Types of therapy for anxiety and stress disorders
  • How can therapy help
  • How to help a loved one who has an disorder
#Mental Health #Psychiatry
Comments (61)

Hi everyone, I'm Jeeyan, one of DxD's content editors. I'll be moderating this AMA. Dr Matthew will be coming on live Friday, 14 December, from 1:00-2:30 PM to answer all your questions. Feel free to start leaving your questions and comments for him below!

Hi Dr Matthew, thanks for taking this AMA session up! Really appreciate it :) 

I understand that people with mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. So, my questions for you are:

1. In our modern society, why do you think there's still public stigma surrounding people with mental health issues? 

2. How does this stigma affect individuals with mental health issues?  

3. What do you think we can do to eliminate this public stigma?

Compared to 25 years ago, which was when I started work as a psychologist, the stigma of mental illness and mental health conditions is already much better now. 

We have the counsellors in school settings to thank. Nowadays, most (maybe all) schools have psychologist or counsellors. So the students get used to counselling as a way to cope with problems, which helps with removing the stigma about mental illnesses. You can be quite surprised, our teenagers and younger kids are quite open to psychology interventions and care. The mindset is very different now among the younger ones, and once again, we have the school counsellors to thank for this phenomeneon. 


Anonymous
159 days ago
Do psychotherapists form genuine bonds with their patients? Are the bonds formed less 'real' because of the financial transaction between patients and psychotherapists?

Not sure what you refer to by genuine bonds or real bonds, but in psychotherapy terms, we refer what we say as 'therapeutic alliance' or 'working relationship' that is grounded in fundamentals of minimal transference response, mutual respect, understanding and yes of course on a financial transaction or psychotherapy fees. There are ethical boundaries between client and psychotherapist that are observed, and certainly, the psychotherapist is not a friend of the client. 


Hi all! I'm Darren, the community manager at DxD. I will be moderating this AMA as well.


I have had personal experiences working with psychotherapists and think highly of them. Let's hope this AMA goes smoothly!

ivrta
158 days ago
what causes OCD? are you born with it? 
If we look at OCD from a cognitive behavioural perspective, it is your thoughts about feared outcomes that is causing the problems;

If we look at OCD from a trauma perspective, it is your adverse childhood experiences that is giving the symptoms;

If we look at OCD from a biological perspective, it is your chemical imbalance in the brain, a regulation of serotonin levels, that is causing the condition;

there are just too many perspectives, depending on what you read and who you consult with. 

william_and-_the_pooh
158 days ago

what does a psychologist treat? what's the difference between them and psychiatrist?

the basic difference between psychologist and psychiatrist is that a psychologist treats symptoms and mental health conditions with interventions and programs, while a psychiatrist, being a trained medical doctor, with specialty training in psychiatry, treats mental health conditions with medications
Ash_Toh
158 days ago
i have always wanted to be a psychologist... i am still in secondary school now. what training and qualifications do i need?
most places would require you now to have your masters in psychology. do check with the singapore psychological society for more details on the area of specialisation that you choose :-)
Anonymous
159 days ago
What is the efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of GAD
Well done. You must have checked my profile to ask me a question about EMDR :-) EMDR is good to desensitise (decrease) the range of negative emotions in response to emotional triggers.  Many of my clients come in to desensitise or work on decreasing the intensity of negative emotions to certain emotional triggers. Certainly, the fears and concerns and worries that subsume under GAD can be treated effectively with GAD. I have lots of good stories to tell about treatment of GAD with EMDR :-)

  

Anonymous
159 days ago
Do Anti-depressants like Fluoxetine (Prozac) really work for patients with mood disorders / GAD and adjustment disorders?  
The short answer is yes, but depending on the profile of side effects that is idiosyncratic to the patient or the progress that they have received under medications, some patients may opt to take psychotherapy to supplement the medications that they are taking and value add to the medications. 
Jacob
159 days ago
How do you discern between what is mania and what is hyperactivity?

Mania is the mood condition at the elevated end of bipolar disorder, and is usually referred to in the context of a manic depressive illness. Usually a diagnosis with adults. Taken into context and comes with all the other symptoms that includes grandiose personality, spending sprees, pressure of speech, expanded vocabulary, sleep disturbances. 

Hyperactivity is usually a sign or syndrome of ADHD. Usually a diagnosis for children. A general level of restlessness, fidgeting, together with distractibility. However adult ADHD is a possible diagnosis as well, but adult ADHD will not have the pressure of speech, expanded vocabulary, irritiablity and sleep disturbances that you would find in a manic patient, or patient with BPD. 

Ethan
159 days ago
How do I help someone who is in denial of their mental illness?

By mental illness, I am thinking that the person has significant impairments in the capacity for work, social relationships and daily routine. Most DSM criteria would include this "significant impairment" for a condition to be severe enough to be a mental illness. 

Is there some way you can talk to him to persuade him/her to seek help? Do point out how talking to someone who is a professional can help to reduce impairments in work, social relationships and daily routine (as pointed out above). 

Is there a friend (or mate) who can also reach out to this someone in denial?

Maybe a church mate, someone from the same faith to speak to him/her? 

Mei Fen_86
158 days ago

HI, I just wanted to find out how much does it cost to see a psychologist? How much is it per session? I mean.. I am thinking about going to see one but I don't have much money so I kind of want to have a rough guide to budget.

In the public hospitals, the fees to see a psychologist will be between $40 and $120. So that can one of your options :-)

Psychologists in private practice charge between $120 to $300. 

wishy_starling
158 days ago

are all psychologists in Singapore private practice? are there psychologists in public hospitals? cause i was wondering if the cost can be subsidised with like medisave or insurance or something

Medisave is only possible, I think, if there is inpatient admission; that is, you see the psychologist as an inpatient. I don't remember medisave being used for outpatient psychologist services, but you can check this easily. 

Some clients have insurance that allows them to see psychologists in private practice for a limited number of sessions. These clients are typically expatriates, and are usually not from the local Singaporean population. 

Yeehui
158 days ago

what are the most common mental health conditions you see in Singaporeans? is it stress? 


The second Singapore Mental Health Study, conducted in 2016, found the 3 most common mental health conditions are: mood disorders - depression and bipolar disorder; anxiety disorders - OCD and generalised anxiety disorder; and alcohol use disorders - alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

The clients I see have a range of problems and disorders not limited to the above description :-) These are some examples of clients i see: 

• Phobias • Panic disorder • Obsessive compulsive disorder • Generalised anxiety disorder • Grief • Depression • Childhood abuse • Performance and test anxiety • Physical/Sexual abuse • Marital relationship difficulties • Sleep disturbances, especially nightmares • Dissociative disorder or traits • Negative body image • Pathological gambling • Victims of crime • Victims of natural and manmade disasters • Victims of accident, surgery and burnt victims • Victims of marital and sexual dysfunction

confusedgal
158 days ago

is alcoholism a kind of mental illness? i think my boyfriend is addicted to it. what can i do?

Well, EMDR, which is a brand of therapy I practise, can desensitise an individual to urges for alcohol. I have many interesting testimonies that surround the use of EMDR for cravings for alcohol

There are also clinics in private practices that treat alcohol/substance use/abuse and addictive disorders. 

There is also a National Addiction Centre at IMH that your bf can go to for help. 

Anonymous
158 days ago

How do I tell if I have dysthymia or normal depression?

A person with dysthymia would have a childhood history of depression. Most cases of depression have an adult onset
Anonymous
158 days ago
How do psychologists help with depression?
Taz
158 days ago
i wanna know too.. i mean, is it just simply by talking and talking? 
Most psychologists would use CBT to deal with depression. By challenging the cognitions, the mood and behaviour would change. Essenitally
Anonymous
158 days ago
Is depression purely biological in nature?
I would think that environmental and situational factors play a big part in bringing about depressed mood or lowered levels of mood. Learning to see a situation differently can cause changes in behaviour and mood levels. 
Anonymous
158 days ago

Isn't the treatment for OCD (exposure and response prevention) akin to torture techniques (joke)?

Anonymous
158 days ago
exactly..... 
Exposure therapies have to be systematic and progressive in increasing the levels of anxiety, so that it does not appear as "torturous" to the client
Anonymous
158 days ago
Can psychotherapy help with schizophrenia?
I would think that medication is first line for schizophrenia. Any kind of psychotherapy for schizophrenia needs the client first to be on psychotic medications. Psychotherapy is adjuct or secondary to medication in the treatment of schizophrenia. 
pat
158 days ago
people who have been diagnosed with depression, will they ever completely recover? or will they always have it, just that it's under control?
Complete recovery hmm...I would need to know more of the context. 

I have many interesting stories of recovery for my depressed clients. As well as stories of clients who have partially recovered. It depends on the level of motivation, the idiosyncratic response of the client to a particular brand of therapy, the response to anti depressants. 

Sally
158 days ago
how do i find a good psychologist? what should i be looking out for? i dont know where to start....
Most people base their choice of counsellor or psychotherapist on the rapport or therapeutic alliance, which in lay-person terms basically mean "can my psychotherapist understand what I am saying and do I feel comfortable enough to share my problems so that we can work towards a solution together"; other factors include the psychotherapy fees, the general liking and respect for the psychotherapist's expertise. 
Xxx
158 days ago
do you think millennials are more susceptible to mental illness? if yes, why? is it because we are called the strawberry generation?
I would not say that millennials are more susceptible, but that millennials are more open to seeking help for their emotional conditions. This is, as I explain earlier, that there is a healthy base of counsellors in the school settings, which helps to demystify and destigmatise "looking for help for my emotional condition"
ber1989
158 days ago
is mental illness simply a sign of weakness? or are our fluids in the head unbalanced? i mean i am struggling a lot with it but have never sought help and i really want to be well but it's so difficult.. i feel lousy and i often wish that i can be stronger and suck it up.
I am not sure how to answer your question, but do give psychotherapy a try, it may just help you!
Pearlidontcare
158 days ago
how do people get bipolar? is there a way to prevent it? or do you just get it out of the blue
The main reason, according to interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT, evidence based therapy for treatment of bipolar), is that  people get bipolar is because these individuals have certain vulnerability to changes in the cicardian rhythm (the 24 hours sleep wake cycle). 
Anonymous
158 days ago
if my mother has depression, does it mean that i have a high chance of being depressed too?
Environmental factors help as well, so it is not to say that you have a high chance of being depressed
Fellicina
158 days ago
how do i be there for someone who has depression? my friend has recently been diagnosed with it. And I am at a loss... on how to help her out. I am afraid i will say/do the wrong things that will trigger her
Anonymous
158 days ago
what is the diff between bipolar i and bipolar ii
Bipolar 1 is mania and depression

Bipolar 2 is hypomania (lower grade mania) and depression

emma
158 days ago
why are people mostly unaware that they have a mental condition? is it more of denial? what do you think we should do to help them realise?
For these individuals to be aware that they have a mental condition, we can point out to them that they have clinically significant impairments in their social relationships, work and daily routine. 
Anonymous
158 days ago

what can psychologist do for people who are bereaving?

EMDR, which is a brand of therapy I practise, can help deal with bereavement. CBT and mindfulness therapies can also help deal with grief and bereavement concerns. 
George Xiang
158 days ago
i am curious, what's your day to day like? do you get depressed or stressed that you see so many people with mental health issues on a daily basis?
no lah, you get used to it. It is okay now, after 24 years of practice. 

:-)

thanks for checking and looking out for my mental health :-)


Anonymous
158 days ago
Is there any gold standard to diagnose Schizophrenia?
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