Can I be detained at IMH for treatment even if I am not a threat to myself and others?

Doctor's Answers (2)

Dr Beng Yeong Ng

"Psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience"

Thank you for asking such an interesting question. It must be challenging for you to continue to feel the threat of being sent to a psychiatric hospital like the IMH against your wishes and being forced to stay there to undergo inpatient treatment.

The reality is that the condition obsessive compulsive disorder can be readily treated, and most patients are treated in the outpatient setting. Most patients respond very well to SSRIs (a group of medications) and a form of psychotherapy called exposure with response prevention. With the right medications and psychological treatment, you can get well, have a normal life, and pursue your life goals again.

Most patients with OCD are not aggressive or suicidal, and hence they may not be forced to stay in a psychiatric hospital against their wishes. Most of them have insight into their problems and will readily comply with the instructions given by the therapist. 

A point to note will be that the response to SSRIs may take a few months and the psychiatrist would usually prescribe high hoses of the medicine for such persons with OCD. It is important not to give up too readily; it really takes a few months to see the response.

Many persons with OCD would perform rituals, which may involve extensive cleaning and washing. Sometimes these rituals may spill over and involve their family members as well. I remember seeing a case of a housewife who will not allow her husband and children to enter the house until their feet are properly and thoroughly washed. She will personally carry pails of water to the door to help them wash their feet. As a result, many family members are exasperated and at their wits' end. Often, the psychiatrist needs to come in and provide guidance and emotional support for the family members.

I also remember another case who would keep asking the family members for assurance and reassurance. The best way to handle this kind of situation is for the family member to say, "I notice that you have the tendency to keep asking the same question over and over again. This is part of your OCD. If I were to keep answering your question, that is not going to help you at all. From now on, I will only answer your question once. After that, you would have to learn to manage your own anxiety and calm yourself down."

I hope that you will find these tips useful and learn to manage your symptoms, work closely with your psychiatrist, and live harmoniously with your family members. 

Cheers! And I wish you a smooth recovery process.

Dr Paul Ang

"Family Physician with special interest in Mental Health"


That is a very interesting question that I think many people would want to know the answer to. 

Well, **drum-rolls**, the answer is no.

If you are not going to harm yourself or others, IMH doctors are not able to exercise the right to detain or treat you by force.

But from my experience, patients who are on follow-up and are compliant to treatment experience a much better quality of life. Most of them are very thankful for having been treated and would not look back.

Do consider getting treated. Either at IMH or private clinics.

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