How is anxiety and depression diagnosed in Singapore?

Doctor's Answers (2)

Dr Ng Beng Yeong

"Psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience"

In Singapore, psychiatric conditions are diagnosed using a face to face interview and an assessment of the mental condition (what doctors called mental state examination). Many of the doctors here use the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria. For patients thought to have anxiety or depression, the psychiatrist may also order a blood test to exclude abnormalities in the thyroid hormone level.

Given your problem of going to new places and fears of social situations, the first diagnosis that comes to my mind is that of social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia). Treatments would include psychological treatment (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medications (SSRIs).

 It is interesting that you asked about anxiety and depression in the same breath. Yes, the two conditions or sets of symptoms are commonly reported by patients in our local setting and also in many  parts of the world. Anxiety and depression oftentimes coexist in the same person and when you see one, you see the other as well. They are just like twins!

I hope you will get the help that you want soon. Wishing you speedy recovery.

The diagnosis of mental disorders is usually based on diagnostic criteria such as the DSM 5 (published by the American Psychiatric Association) or the ICD-11 (published by the World Health Organisation).

Some of the common symptoms of depression include:

  • Low mood, most of the day, almost everyday
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in weight
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Poor concentration or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death 

Some common symptoms of generalized anxiety include:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry, which are often difficult to control
  • Feelings of restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration or mind going blank
  • Muscle tension

As you can tell from the above, the symptoms of depression and anxiety can overlap. Therefore, I would highly suggest seeking psychiatric help for a formal diagnosis of depression or anxiety (or something else) as it may be confusing for the layperson to try to diagnose him or herself!

Furthermore, there are several diagnoses under the umbrella of anxiety disorders (incl. generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder etc.), and some individuals may suffer from one or more of these conditions.

A psychiatrist will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and offer personalized treatment options based on a thorough assessment involving extensive history taking, physical and mental state examination. Sometimes, certain blood investigations and/ or brain scans may be required to make a diagnosis.

Since you're currently studying in a university, you can consider seeking help from the school psychology clinic if there is one available.

All the best!

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