Colours of Your Mind

In Colours of Your Mind, we share with you case studies to illustrate the various mental disorders so that you can have a better understanding of these conditions. Through this sharing, we hope that you can recognize signs of mental disorders — as early as possible. Content will be added or updated from time to time. So, do look out for new entries.


“1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Once I caught a fish alive. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Then I let it go again. Why did you let it go? Because it bit my finger so.

Which finger did it bite? This little finger on the right.” This is not a simple nursery rhyme.  At least not to Danny (not his real name). It was a curse to him.





Do You Know

The realm of mental health is truly immense. Facts and myths about the human mind abound. How much do you know about your thoughts, behaviour and emotions?


In this Do You Know column, we present knowledge regarding different aspects of the mental realm that is interesting, informative and intriguing in a brief and digestible format. We hope the knowledge gained can help you further understand mental health and dispel incorrect beliefs.



Do You Know that some habits can develop into an addiction?


  • Everybody has habits. We need habits to function and survive in our daily living. We learn that, by doing something in a certain manner and in our own personal way, we can adapt better to tasks and challenges. We then keep doing it because it works! Habits eventually become second nature and an intrinsic part of our lives.


  • We use habits to cope with life problems, bad feelings and stressful situations. Well, these habits work at first. Sometimes, the result can even be pleasurable! They become our coping methods.


  • However, some people learn to use unhealthy or not-so-appropriate habits, such as drinking alcohol excessively, taking drugs, gambling and spending long hours on the internet, to deal with their distress. Over time, as they repeatedly engage in these inappropriate habits, they get ‘locked in’ and spiral down a path that is ironically filled with greater problems as a result of their habits. Their lives become impaired by these habits. When this happens, they develop a condition called Addiction.


  • According to The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): “Addiction is a chronic brain disorder ….. a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviours.”





Do you know that a crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in person’s life? (Aesop)


  • Fear and worry are very normal emotions. Everyone experiences these emotions in response to the demands of a certain situation. For example, when one senses danger, fear is generated for ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ so as to help the person respond appropriately to that dire situation.


  • However, when fear and worry become overwhelming and persistent, these emotions are no longer normal. Dread and worry can dominate a person’s life so much that his or her day-to-day living is affected. This person’s pattern of thinking and behaviour becomes extremely distressing and tormenting.


  • This person may be suffering from an Anxiety Disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Separation Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia and other Specific Phobia.


  • Anxiety Disorders are the commonest mental health problems affecting the population. Almost 20% of a population is affected by an anxiety disorder.



  • Instead of letting anxiety, worries or panic take over control of one’s life, why not have it treated? Treatment can release that tight grip on one’s thinking and emotions. Anxiety disorders can be treated with medications or therapy, or both.


Do you know that depression is one of the commonest mental health problems affecting the general population?


  • Every one of us experiences “ups” and “downs” in our mood from time to time. But people who suffer from depression experience a downward slide in their mood with greater intensity, more frequently and for longer periods of time.


  • World Health Organization (WHO) defines depression as a “persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for two weeks or more”.


  • The Singapore Mental Health Study 2016, revealed that depression is the most common mental disorder in Singapore, affecting 6.3% of the adult population at some time in their lifetime.


  • Globally, 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. According to the WHO, depression is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. By 2020, it will become the second leading cause of disability worldwide.


  • More women than men are affected by depression. Children and old folks are just as affected by depression as adults. Like a silent assassin, depression can disrupt and destroy any aspect of the sufferer’s life including employment, relationships, finances and physical health. At its worst, depression can result in suicide.


  • There is effective pharmacological and psychological treatment for depression. Recovery from depression is possible.


Do You Know that OCD can paralyse you?


  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD as it is more commonly known, is a chronic debilitating condition that can severely paralyse a person’s life.



  • As the name indicates, obsessions and compulsions are the key features.


  • Obsessions are repetitive, persistent and unwanted thoughts, images or urges that are experienced as disturbing and intrusive.


  • Compulsions are behaviours or mental acts that are repeatedly performed in response to an obsession. The sufferer feels helpless because he or she is not able to resist the strong urge to carry out the compulsion.


  • OCD is also known as a “doubting disease” because the sufferers have doubts about their thoughts, perceptions and actions. Self-doubt is the key reason that paralyses the sufferers. This doubt is so maddening that it overrides intelligence, rationality and reality. It is so powerful that it cannot be suppressed. This causes the sufferers to repeatedly generate obsessions that can lead to compulsions.


  • Common OCD behaviours include repetitive hand-washing, cleaning, checking and counting.


  • There are OCD-related conditions that are also characterised by repetitive behaviours such as skin picking, hoarding and hair-pulling.


  • Like all other mental disorders, OCD is treatable through medications and psychotherapy.


Do you know that The American Psychological Association defines ‘Schizophrenia’ as a treatable brain disorder?


  • Schizophrenia is a treatable brain disorder that affects one’s thoughts, emotional experiences and overall life functioning. Individuals with Schizophrenia may experience hallucinations and delusions, exhibit unusual behaviours, and face cognitive challenges (e.g., poor memory, attention and concentration).


  • It is uncommon for someone with Schizophrenia to be violent. They are, however, more likely to be victims of bullying, violence or crimes instead.


  • When individuals with Schizophrenia are compliant with the medication and treatment course, they are able to function effectively. Recovery is possible.


  • Not everyone with Schizophrenia requires long-term inpatient care. Appropriate treatment today may include a combination of outpatient care, medication, psychotherapy etc.


  • Ineffective parenting does not cause Schizophrenia. Studies have found a combination of multiple factors to be associated with an increase in one’s risk of developing the condition (e.g., genetic predisposition, environmental stressors, substance abuse, pregnancy or birth complications).


  • The development of Schizophrenia is not due to one’s character flaw or weakness.


  • Cultural beliefs related to punishment from or sins committed by ancestors has no causal link with a loved one developing Schizophrenia in the family.


  • Children and adults are both susceptible to developing Schizophrenia. However, the assessment and treatment of childhood psychosis is more challenging, given the developing brain and body.


  • No two individuals with Schizophrenia are the same. The experience and exhibition of symptoms differ from person to person.