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10.1192/bjp.185.3.266Access the most recent version at DOI:
2004, 185:266-272.BJP

A. Okasha
Focus on psychiatry in Egypt

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Mental disorders have been recognised inMental disorders have been recognised in

Egypt for millennia; 5000 years ago, theyEgypt for millennia; 5000 years ago, they

were considered to be physical ailments ofwere considered to be physical ailments of

the heart or uterus, as described in thethe heart or uterus, as described in the

Ebers and Kahun papyri (Okasha, 2001).Ebers and Kahun papyri (Okasha, 2001).

These disorders carried no stigma, as thereThese disorders carried no stigma, as there

was no demarcation then between psychewas no demarcation then between psyche

and soma. In the 14th century – 600 yearsand soma. In the 14th century – 600 years

before similar institutions were founded inbefore similar institutions were founded in

Europe – the first psychiatric unit wasEurope – the first psychiatric unit was

established, in Kalaoon Hospital in Cairo.established, in Kalaoon Hospital in Cairo.

Egypt is central to the Arab world,Egypt is central to the Arab world,

which, despite its wealth and its naturalwhich, despite its wealth and its natural

and human resources, has fared poorly inand human resources, has fared poorly in

many aspects of development. Importantmany aspects of development. Important

problems include illiteracy (especiallyproblems include illiteracy (especially

among women), lack of job opportunitiesamong women), lack of job opportunities

(especially for young people) and slow(especially for young people) and slow

economic growth because of loss ofeconomic growth because of loss of

traditional economies, low productivity,traditional economies, low productivity,

and lack of innovation and competitive-and lack of innovation and competitive-

ness. Military spending is triple that ofness. Military spending is triple that of

other regions. Rapid expansion of Arabother regions. Rapid expansion of Arab

populations threatens progress, especiallypopulations threatens progress, especially

in countries with limited resources such asin countries with limited resources such as

Egypt.Egypt.

PSYCHIATRIC EDUCATIONPSYCHIATRIC EDUCATION
INEGYPTINEGYPT

Egypt has 17 medical schools; all of themEgypt has 17 medical schools; all of them

have psychiatric departments, seven ofhave psychiatric departments, seven of

which are departments of neuropsychiatry.which are departments of neuropsychiatry.

They have offered a diploma of neuro-They have offered a diploma of neuro-

psychiatry for more than 60 years, a master’spsychiatry for more than 60 years, a master’s

degree in psychiatry for the past 25 yearsdegree in psychiatry for the past 25 years

and a doctorate for the past 20 years.and a doctorate for the past 20 years.

Students must complete a thesis andStudents must complete a thesis and

written, oral and clinical examinations.written, oral and clinical examinations.

MENTALHEALTHSERVICESMENTALHEALTHSERVICES

Egypt, with a population of over 70Egypt, with a population of over 70

million, has about a thousand psychiatristsmillion, has about a thousand psychiatrists

(one psychiatrist for approximately 70 000(one psychiatrist for approximately 70 000

citizens), more than 1300 psychiatric nursescitizens), more than 1300 psychiatric nurses

and about 200 clinical psychologists, withand about 200 clinical psychologists, with

hundreds of general psychologists workinghundreds of general psychologists working

in fields unrelated to mental healthin fields unrelated to mental health

services. There are many social workersservices. There are many social workers

practising in all psychiatric facilities, butpractising in all psychiatric facilities, but

unfortunately they are general socialunfortunately they are general social

workers with minimal graduate training inworkers with minimal graduate training in

psychiatric social work. In 1960 there waspsychiatric social work. In 1960 there was

an attempt to educate psychiatric socialan attempt to educate psychiatric social

workers at the Institute of Social Servicesworkers at the Institute of Social Services

in Cairo, but this lasted for only 2 yearsin Cairo, but this lasted for only 2 years

because of a shortage of applicants.because of a shortage of applicants.

Egypt has about 9700 psychiatric beds,Egypt has about 9700 psychiatric beds,

one bed for every 7000 citizens (i.e. 15 bedsone bed for every 7000 citizens (i.e. 15 beds

per 100 000 population), constituting lessper 100 000 population), constituting less

than 10% of the total number of hospitalthan 10% of the total number of hospital

beds (110 000). The two largest mentalbeds (110 000). The two largest mental

hospitals in Egypt were facing great diffi-hospitals in Egypt were facing great diffi-

culties regarding care, finances, treatmentculties regarding care, finances, treatment

and rehabilitation while accommodatingand rehabilitation while accommodating

about 5000 patients. Three new hospitals,about 5000 patients. Three new hospitals,

each providing 300 beds, have now beeneach providing 300 beds, have now been

built on the premises of these two hospitals,built on the premises of these two hospitals,

with a view to providing sufficient mentalwith a view to providing sufficient mental

health services of the highest quality.health services of the highest quality.

The new policy of deinstitutionalisationThe new policy of deinstitutionalisation

and the provision of community care mayand the provision of community care may

reduce the number of psychiatric in-reduce the number of psychiatric in-

patients, but will not solve the problem.patients, but will not solve the problem.

Aftercare services in Egypt are still limited,Aftercare services in Egypt are still limited,

owing to the poor understanding of mostowing to the poor understanding of most

people of the need for follow-up care afterpeople of the need for follow-up care after

initial improvement. Community care ininitial improvement. Community care in

the form of hostels, day centres, rehabilita-the form of hostels, day centres, rehabilita-

tion centres and health visitors is only avail-tion centres and health visitors is only avail-

able in major cities; otherwise it is providedable in major cities; otherwise it is provided

by the family (Okasha & Karam, 1998).by the family (Okasha & Karam, 1998).

MENTALHEALTHPOLICYMENTALHEALTHPOLICY

The National Mental Health ProgrammesThe National Mental Health Programmes

1991–1996 and 1997–2003 focused on1991–1996 and 1997–2003 focused on

the inclusion of mental health in primarythe inclusion of mental health in primary

health care, training family doctors to dealhealth care, training family doctors to deal

with the main bulk of mental disorders,with the main bulk of mental disorders,

and raising public awareness regardingand raising public awareness regarding

recognition of mental disorders and referralrecognition of mental disorders and referral

routes. The future policy of psychiatricroutes. The future policy of psychiatric

services in Egypt is to build medium-stayservices in Egypt is to build medium-stay

hospitals of 600 beds, which will servehospitals of 600 beds, which will serve

three neighbouring governorates, andthree neighbouring governorates, and

short-stay hospitals of 100 beds. Theshort-stay hospitals of 100 beds. The

encouragement of intensive psychiatricencouragement of intensive psychiatric

out-patient treatment in all generalout-patient treatment in all general

hospitals is proposed.hospitals is proposed.

Mental health legislation was intro-Mental health legislation was intro-

duced in Egypt in 1944, in advance of mostduced in Egypt in 1944, in advance of most

other Arab and African countries. Most ofother Arab and African countries. Most of

the existing laws dealing with mental healththe existing laws dealing with mental health

are now old, having been written prior toare now old, having been written prior to

the new concepts of community psychiatrythe new concepts of community psychiatry

and the integration of mental health intoand the integration of mental health into

other health services (Okasha & Karam,other health services (Okasha & Karam,

1998). An attempt to update them is now1998). An attempt to update them is now

in progress.in progress.

PROFILEOF PSYCHIATRICPROFILEOF PSYCHIATRIC
DISORDERS INEGYPTDISORDERS INEGYPT

Hysteria (conversionHysteria (conversion
or dissociative disorder)or dissociative disorder)

Hysteria occupies a position at the top ofHysteria occupies a position at the top of

the list of psychiatric diagnoses. There hasthe list of psychiatric diagnoses. There has

been much controversy as to the relevancebeen much controversy as to the relevance

of its nosological status. In 1990, the firstof its nosological status. In 1990, the first

1000 people presenting to the out-patient1000 people presenting to the out-patient

clinic of the Institute of Psychiatry of Ainclinic of the Institute of Psychiatry of Ain

Shams University in Cairo were screenedShams University in Cairo were screened

to determine whether they fulfilled DSM–to determine whether they fulfilled DSM–

III–R criteria for either conversion orIII–R criteria for either conversion or

dissociation disorder (Okashadissociation disorder (Okasha et alet al,,

19931993aa), replicating a study undertaken at), replicating a study undertaken at

an Egyptian university hospital 23 yearsan Egyptian university hospital 23 years

earlier, where hysteria constituted 11.2%earlier, where hysteria constituted 11.2%

of the sample (Okasha, 1967). The newerof the sample (Okasha, 1967). The newer

study aimed to test the relevance of thestudy aimed to test the relevance of the

diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ (conversion anddiagnosis of ‘hysteria’ (conversion and

dissociative disorder). According to itsdissociative disorder). According to its

results, many disorders that would formerlyresults, many disorders that would formerly

have been diagnosed as hysteria would nowhave been diagnosed as hysteria would now

receive another diagnosis, mostly somato-receive another diagnosis, mostly somato-

form disorder. However, some disordersform disorder. However, some disorders

still require the diagnostic label of hysteriastill require the diagnostic label of hysteria

to reflect the symptoms and the underlyingto reflect the symptoms and the underlying

mechanisms (stress, primary gain, second-mechanisms (stress, primary gain, second-

ary gain, and motor or sensory symptomsary gain, and motor or sensory symptoms

that are culturally and symbolically specificthat are culturally and symbolically specific

for the stress). The prevalence of 5% in thatfor the stress). The prevalence of 5% in that

study is comparable with that of organicstudy is comparable with that of organic

mental disorders (5.1%), personality dis-mental disorders (5.1%), personality dis-

orders (4.9%) and anxiety disordersorders (4.9%) and anxiety disorders

(7.9%), indicating that hysteria cannot be(7.9%), indicating that hysteria cannot be

ignored as a diagnostic category. Factorsignored as a diagnostic category. Factors

that might contribute to a real decline inthat might contribute to a real decline in

the incidence of hysteria could be relatedthe incidence of hysteria could be related

to the industrialisation of Egyptian societyto the industrialisation of Egyptian society

and its increasing complexity, for whichand its increasing complexity, for which

2 6 62 6 6

BR IT I SH JOURNAL OF P SYCHIATRYBR IT I SH JOURNAL OF P SYCHIATRY ( 2 0 0 4 ) , 1 8 5 , 2 6 6 ^ 2 7 2( 2 0 0 4 ) , 1 8 5 , 2 6 6 ^ 2 7 2

Focus on psychiatry in EgyptFocus on psychiatry in Egypt

A. OKASHAA. OKASHA

Page 3

FOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPTFOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPT

the primitive mechanism of defence againstthe primitive mechanism of defence against

frustration is no longer strong enough tofrustration is no longer strong enough to

ward off anxieties. However, the decreaseward off anxieties. However, the decrease

in the diagnosis of hysteria could also bein the diagnosis of hysteria could also be

attributed to the diagnostic system used.attributed to the diagnostic system used.

The ICD–10 and DSM–III–R, which doThe ICD–10 and DSM–III–R, which do

not favour the diagnosis of hysteria becausenot favour the diagnosis of hysteria because

of its dynamic character, contain a numberof its dynamic character, contain a number

of categories for which the earlier diagnosisof categories for which the earlier diagnosis

would have been hysteria. These categorieswould have been hysteria. These categories

include other somatoform disorders such asinclude other somatoform disorders such as

somatisation, psychogenic pain disorder,somatisation, psychogenic pain disorder,

hypochondriasis, body dysmorphic dis-hypochondriasis, body dysmorphic dis-

order and undifferentiated somatoformorder and undifferentiated somatoform

disorder not otherwise specified.disorder not otherwise specified.

Anxiety disordersAnxiety disorders

Earlier studies of psychiatric morbidityEarlier studies of psychiatric morbidity

among university students in Egypt showedamong university students in Egypt showed

that anxiety states were diagnosed in 36%that anxiety states were diagnosed in 36%

of the study sample (Okashaof the study sample (Okasha et alet al, 1977)., 1977).
In 1981 Okasha & Ashour undertook theIn 1981 Okasha & Ashour undertook the

first attempt to study the socio-first attempt to study the socio-

demographic aspects of anxiety disordersdemographic aspects of anxiety disorders

in Egypt and to apply the Arabic versionin Egypt and to apply the Arabic version

of the Present State Examination in evaluat-of the Present State Examination in evaluat-

ing the profiles of clusters and symptoms ofing the profiles of clusters and symptoms of

anxiety in a sample of 120 patients withanxiety in a sample of 120 patients with

anxiety (Okasha & Ashour, 1981). Theanxiety (Okasha & Ashour, 1981). The

findings revealed that the most commonfindings revealed that the most common

symptoms were worrying (82%), irrit-symptoms were worrying (82%), irrit-

ability (73%), free-floating anxiety (70%),ability (73%), free-floating anxiety (70%),

depressed mood (65%), tiredness (64%),depressed mood (65%), tiredness (64%),

restlessness (63%), and anergia and retar-restlessness (63%), and anergia and retar-

dation (61%). Panic attacks were presentdation (61%). Panic attacks were present

in 30%, situational anxiety in 35%, speci-in 30%, situational anxiety in 35%, speci-

fic phobias in 37% and avoidance in 53%fic phobias in 37% and avoidance in 53%

of the sample. Male patients showedof the sample. Male patients showed

significantly more hypochondriasis andsignificantly more hypochondriasis and

anxiety on meeting people than females.anxiety on meeting people than females.

This can be explained by the fact thatThis can be explained by the fact that

men in our culture tend to somatise theirmen in our culture tend to somatise their

psychological symptoms, as the latter maypsychological symptoms, as the latter may

lower their prestige and degrade their pride,lower their prestige and degrade their pride,

because of the belief that ‘real’ men do notbecause of the belief that ‘real’ men do not

have psychological symptoms. Femalehave psychological symptoms. Female

patients showed significantly more in-patients showed significantly more in-

creased free-floating anxiety, loss of weightcreased free-floating anxiety, loss of weight

and conversion symptoms (Okasha &and conversion symptoms (Okasha &

Ashour, 1981). In 1993 anxiety statesAshour, 1981). In 1993 anxiety states

represented about 22.6% of diagnosesrepresented about 22.6% of diagnoses

made in a psychiatric out-patient clinic inmade in a psychiatric out-patient clinic in

a selective Egyptian sample (Okashaa selective Egyptian sample (Okasha et alet al,,
19931993aa).).

Obsessive^compulsive disorderObsessive^compulsive disorder

A study investigating the demographic pro-A study investigating the demographic pro-

file and symptoms of Egyptian patientsfile and symptoms of Egyptian patients

with obsessive–compulsive disorder foundwith obsessive–compulsive disorder found

that more than two-thirds of the patientsthat more than two-thirds of the patients

were male. The most commonly occurringwere male. The most commonly occurring

obsessions were religion and contaminationobsessions were religion and contamination

(60%) and somatic obsessions (49%),(60%) and somatic obsessions (49%),

whereas the most commonly occurringwhereas the most commonly occurring

compulsions were repeating rituals (68%),compulsions were repeating rituals (68%),

cleaning and washing compulsions (63%)cleaning and washing compulsions (63%)

and checking compulsions (58%). A thirdand checking compulsions (58%). A third

of patients had a comorbid depressive dis-of patients had a comorbid depressive dis-

order. A comparison was drawn betweenorder. A comparison was drawn between

the most prevalent symptoms in our samplethe most prevalent symptoms in our sample

and those of other studies performed inand those of other studies performed in

India, England and Jerusalem. ObsessionsIndia, England and Jerusalem. Obsessions

were found to be similar in content inwere found to be similar in content in

Muslims and Jews, differing from those inMuslims and Jews, differing from those in

Hindus and Christians, signifying the roleHindus and Christians, signifying the role

of cultural and religious rituals in theof cultural and religious rituals in the

presentation of obsessive–compulsive dis-presentation of obsessive–compulsive dis-

order. The obsessions of the patients fromorder. The obsessions of the patients from

Egypt and Jerusalem were similar, dealingEgypt and Jerusalem were similar, dealing

mainly with religious matters and mattersmainly with religious matters and matters

related to cleanliness and dirt. Commonrelated to cleanliness and dirt. Common

themes between the Indian and Britishthemes between the Indian and British

samples, on the other hand, were mostlysamples, on the other hand, were mostly

related to orderliness and aggressive issuesrelated to orderliness and aggressive issues

(Okasha(Okasha et alet al, 1994)., 1994).

Depressive disordersDepressive disorders

The prevalence rates of depression amongThe prevalence rates of depression among

selected samples from an urban and a ruralselected samples from an urban and a rural

population in Egypt were found to bepopulation in Egypt were found to be

11.4% and 19.7%, respectively. Dysthymic11.4% and 19.7%, respectively. Dysthymic

disorder was the most common diagnosticdisorder was the most common diagnostic

category in the urban population (4.1%),category in the urban population (4.1%),

whereas adjustment disorder with depressedwhereas adjustment disorder with depressed

mood was more frequently encountered inmood was more frequently encountered in

the rural population (6.7%). Major affec-the rural population (6.7%). Major affec-

tive disorder according to DSM–III criteriative disorder according to DSM–III criteria

was diagnosed in 1.9% of the urban popu-was diagnosed in 1.9% of the urban popu-

lation compared with 3.3% of the rurallation compared with 3.3% of the rural

population; the total prevalence was 2.5%population; the total prevalence was 2.5%

(Okasha(Okasha et alet al, 1988)., 1988).
A cross-cultural comparison betweenA cross-cultural comparison between

Western and Egyptian patients with depres-Western and Egyptian patients with depres-

sive illness reveals some differences.sive illness reveals some differences.

Depression among Egyptian patients isDepression among Egyptian patients is

manifested mainly by agitation, somaticmanifested mainly by agitation, somatic

symptoms, hypochondriasis, physiologicalsymptoms, hypochondriasis, physiological

changes such as decreased libido, anorexiachanges such as decreased libido, anorexia

and insomnia, which is not characterisedand insomnia, which is not characterised

by early morning awakening. Egyptianby early morning awakening. Egyptian

patients mask their affect with multiplepatients mask their affect with multiple

somatic symptoms, which occupy the fore-somatic symptoms, which occupy the fore-

ground, and the affective component ofground, and the affective component of

their illness recedes to the background. Thistheir illness recedes to the background. This

may be because of the greater social accep-may be because of the greater social accep-

tance of physical complaints than oftance of physical complaints than of

psychological complaints, which are eitherpsychological complaints, which are either

not taken seriously or are believed to benot taken seriously or are believed to be

cured by rest or extra praying. The increasecured by rest or extra praying. The increase

in somatic symptoms can be explained byin somatic symptoms can be explained by

the seriousness with which people in athe seriousness with which people in a

given culture view ‘psychological stress’given culture view ‘psychological stress’

compared with physical illness. Non-compared with physical illness. Non-

Western cultures emphasise social inte-Western cultures emphasise social inte-

gration rather than autonomy. Whengration rather than autonomy. When

affiliation is more important than achieve-affiliation is more important than achieve-

ment, how one appears to others is vital,ment, how one appears to others is vital,

and shame becomes more of a driving forceand shame becomes more of a driving force

than guilt. In the same way, physical illnessthan guilt. In the same way, physical illness

and somatic manifestations of psycho-and somatic manifestations of psycho-

logical distress are more acceptable andlogical distress are more acceptable and

likely to evoke a caring response than vaguelikely to evoke a caring response than vague

complaints of psychological symptoms,complaints of psychological symptoms,

which can be either disregarded or con-which can be either disregarded or con-

sidered a stigma of being ‘soft’ – or, evensidered a stigma of being ‘soft’ – or, even

worse, insane (Okashaworse, insane (Okasha et alet al, 1977; Gawad, 1977; Gawad
& Arafa, 1980). Egyptians who are& Arafa, 1980). Egyptians who are

depressed either resort to their primarydepressed either resort to their primary

health care physician, who is likely tohealth care physician, who is likely to

request unneeded and costly investigations,request unneeded and costly investigations,

or ask traditional healers to alleviate theiror ask traditional healers to alleviate their

suffering. A considerable number do notsuffering. A considerable number do not

ask for help at all, especially in rural popu-ask for help at all, especially in rural popu-

lations, among which absenteeism fromlations, among which absenteeism from

work or inability to face day-to-day affairswork or inability to face day-to-day affairs

is largely tolerated by the community.is largely tolerated by the community.

Suicide and parasuicideSuicide and parasuicide

Feelings of hopelessness and the intentionFeelings of hopelessness and the intention

to kill oneself are not common amongto kill oneself are not common among

Muslims, for whom losing hope in reliefMuslims, for whom losing hope in relief

by God and self-inflicted death are blas-by God and self-inflicted death are blas-

phemous and punishable in the afterlife.phemous and punishable in the afterlife.

However, rates of suicide attempts (para-However, rates of suicide attempts (para-

suicide), which are more likely to besuicide), which are more likely to be

intended to elicit care, have no significantintended to elicit care, have no significant

associations with religiousness amongassociations with religiousness among

Arabs. Although the wish to die is notArabs. Although the wish to die is not

uncommon among people with depressionuncommon among people with depression

in Arab cultures, it usually remains at thein Arab cultures, it usually remains at the

level of wishing that God would terminatelevel of wishing that God would terminate

their life, and does not progress to the wishtheir life, and does not progress to the wish

to kill themselves (Fakhr el Islam, 2000).to kill themselves (Fakhr el Islam, 2000).

The crude rate of suicide attempts inThe crude rate of suicide attempts in

Cairo was found to be 38.5 per 100 000.Cairo was found to be 38.5 per 100 000.

There was a high percentage in the ageThere was a high percentage in the age

group 15–44 years, with no major differ-group 15–44 years, with no major differ-

ence between the genders. Single patientsence between the genders. Single patients

represented 53% of the total, with studentsrepresented 53% of the total, with students

showing the highest risk (40%). Depressiveshowing the highest risk (40%). Depressive

illnesses, hysterical reactions and adjust-illnesses, hysterical reactions and adjust-

ment disorders (in that order of frequency)ment disorders (in that order of frequency)

were the main causes of the attempt. Over-were the main causes of the attempt. Over-

dose by tablet ingestion was the mostdose by tablet ingestion was the most

commonly used method (80%). Officialcommonly used method (80%). Official

government reports are misleading and dogovernment reports are misleading and do

not represent the true rate; assuming thatnot represent the true rate; assuming that

2 6 72 6 7

Page 4

OKASHAOKASHA

one in ten suicide attempts ends with actualone in ten suicide attempts ends with actual

suicide, a crude estimate of suicide in Egyptsuicide, a crude estimate of suicide in Egypt

would be about 3.5 per 100 000 (Okasha &would be about 3.5 per 100 000 (Okasha &

Lotaief, 1979). A study in 1981–1982Lotaief, 1979). A study in 1981–1982

showed that the majority of suicide attemp-showed that the majority of suicide attemp-

ters were young women belonging to large,ters were young women belonging to large,

overcrowded families. They showed aovercrowded families. They showed a

higher tendency to be single, literate andhigher tendency to be single, literate and

unemployed than the corresponding ageunemployed than the corresponding age

group in the general population. Druggroup in the general population. Drug

overdose was the method most commonlyoverdose was the method most commonly

used. The majority made their attemptused. The majority made their attempt

at home when there was somebodyat home when there was somebody

nearby, and 31% had made previous non-nearby, and 31% had made previous non-

serious attempts. Dysthymic disorders andserious attempts. Dysthymic disorders and

adjustment, affective and personality dis-adjustment, affective and personality dis-

orders were the most common diagnosesorders were the most common diagnoses

encountered (Okashaencountered (Okasha et alet al, 1986)., 1986).

Acute psychosisAcute psychosis

The symptomatological and diagnosticThe symptomatological and diagnostic

differentiation and outcome of acute psy-differentiation and outcome of acute psy-

chosis were studied in 50 Egyptian patientschosis were studied in 50 Egyptian patients

using the Schedule of Clinical Assessmentusing the Schedule of Clinical Assessment

of Acute Psychotic States (Wig & Parhee,of Acute Psychotic States (Wig & Parhee,

1984). The prevailing symptoms were delu-1984). The prevailing symptoms were delu-

sions, worry, irritability, mood changes andsions, worry, irritability, mood changes and

disturbed behaviour. Almost two-thirdsdisturbed behaviour. Almost two-thirds

(64%) of the patients were symptom-free(64%) of the patients were symptom-free

when assessed 1 year later. The categorywhen assessed 1 year later. The category

of acute and transient polymorphicof acute and transient polymorphic

psychotic disorder with or without stresspsychotic disorder with or without stress

in ICD–10 encompasses these clinical syn-in ICD–10 encompasses these clinical syn-

dromes in different cultures (Okashadromes in different cultures (Okasha et alet al,,

19931993aa).).

SchizophreniaSchizophrenia

Schizophrenia is the most common chronicSchizophrenia is the most common chronic

psychosis in Egypt and accounts for thepsychosis in Egypt and accounts for the

majority of in-patients in our mental hos-majority of in-patients in our mental hos-

pitals. The nature of their delusions reflectspitals. The nature of their delusions reflects

the individual characteristics of the patientsthe individual characteristics of the patients

in relation to Egyptian culture. Whatin relation to Egyptian culture. What

strikes one first and foremost in schizo-strikes one first and foremost in schizo-

phrenia occurring among natives of thephrenia occurring among natives of the

countryside is the belief in the interventioncountryside is the belief in the intervention

of supernatural beings, occult forces or ofof supernatural beings, occult forces or of

magic. Persecutory delusions with ideas ofmagic. Persecutory delusions with ideas of

reference are the rule; religious, political,reference are the rule; religious, political,

scientific and sexual delusions are frequent;scientific and sexual delusions are frequent;

financial, social, health-related, emotionalfinancial, social, health-related, emotional

and autistic delusions are less common,and autistic delusions are less common,

and delusions of grandeur are uncommon.and delusions of grandeur are uncommon.

Religious delusions are frequent, owing toReligious delusions are frequent, owing to

the highly religious nature of Egyptianthe highly religious nature of Egyptian

society. Political delusions are positivelysociety. Political delusions are positively

correlated with the level of political sanc-correlated with the level of political sanc-

tions and pressure. Sexual delusions aretions and pressure. Sexual delusions are

more common in groups in whom sexualmore common in groups in whom sexual

behaviour is severely suppressed, forbehaviour is severely suppressed, for

example single and rural patients.example single and rural patients.

Our observations revealed that cata-Our observations revealed that cata-

tonic forms of the disorder are relativelytonic forms of the disorder are relatively

common compared with other varieties.common compared with other varieties.

The main symptoms are retardation, with-The main symptoms are retardation, with-

drawal, mutism and stupor, which may bedrawal, mutism and stupor, which may be

interrupted by outbursts of excitement.interrupted by outbursts of excitement.

Many patients present with an undifferen-Many patients present with an undifferen-

tiated type of schizophrenia, exhibiting atiated type of schizophrenia, exhibiting a

wide variety of symptoms such as confusedwide variety of symptoms such as confused

thinking and a turmoil of emotionthinking and a turmoil of emotion

manifested by perplexity, ideas of refer-manifested by perplexity, ideas of refer-

ence, fear, dream states and dissociativeence, fear, dream states and dissociative

phenomena (Okasha, 1993phenomena (Okasha, 1993bb).).

Child and adolescent psychiatryChild and adolescent psychiatry

Egyptian children under 5 years old (9.5Egyptian children under 5 years old (9.5

million) and those aged 5–16 years (14.5million) and those aged 5–16 years (14.5

million) constitute 14.8% and 24.7% ofmillion) constitute 14.8% and 24.7% of

the total population, respectively. Thus,the total population, respectively. Thus,

almost 40% of the Egyptian population ofalmost 40% of the Egyptian population of

67 million are under 16 years old. The67 million are under 16 years old. The

number of working children under 12 yearsnumber of working children under 12 years

of age is more than 1 million. Egyptian chil-of age is more than 1 million. Egyptian chil-

dren constitute 7% of the country’s labourdren constitute 7% of the country’s labour

force (Central Agency for Public Mobiliza-force (Central Agency for Public Mobiliza-

tion and Statistics, 1992). The generaltion and Statistics, 1992). The general

public does not favour the inclusion of dis-public does not favour the inclusion of dis-

orders of children and adolescents withinorders of children and adolescents within

the province of psychiatrists, althoughthe province of psychiatrists, although

prevalence rates indicate that suchprevalence rates indicate that such

disorders constitute a considerable percen-disorders constitute a considerable percen-

tage of the profile of psychiatric illness intage of the profile of psychiatric illness in

Egypt.Egypt.

Emotional disordersEmotional disorders

In the 1999 national survey of EgyptianIn the 1999 national survey of Egyptian

children and adolescents (children and adolescents (nn¼14 271, aged14 271, aged
10–18 years), 59% of the sample reported10–18 years), 59% of the sample reported

experiencing feelings of fear or anxiety.experiencing feelings of fear or anxiety.

Girls reported this more than boys, urbanGirls reported this more than boys, urban

dwellers substantially more than ruraldwellers substantially more than rural

dwellers (63.2%dwellers (63.2% v.v. 55.7%), adolescents of55.7%), adolescents of

higher socio-economic status more thanhigher socio-economic status more than

those of middle to lower status, and work-those of middle to lower status, and work-

ing adolescents less than non-working ones.ing adolescents less than non-working ones.

Fear was more reported by adolescents whoFear was more reported by adolescents who

were in school compared with those whowere in school compared with those who

were not (Ibrahimwere not (Ibrahim et alet al, 1999). More than, 1999). More than

35% of high school students showed35% of high school students showed

moderate anxiety on the Taylor anxietymoderate anxiety on the Taylor anxiety

scale and the majority of them had a historyscale and the majority of them had a history

of exposure to chronic stress. The preva-of exposure to chronic stress. The preva-

lence was higher among secondary schoollence was higher among secondary school

students (40.8%) than among preparatorystudents (40.8%) than among preparatory

school students (32.8%), showing signifi-school students (32.8%), showing signifi-

cant correlation with older age, neuroticcant correlation with older age, neurotic

traits in childhood, larger family size, lowertraits in childhood, larger family size, lower

family income, a disturbed parentalfamily income, a disturbed parental

relationship and parental separation byrelationship and parental separation by

divorce rather than death (Seif El Din,divorce rather than death (Seif El Din,

2000). Psychiatric comorbidity revealed a2000). Psychiatric comorbidity revealed a

prevalence of 58.4%, with neurotic stress-prevalence of 58.4%, with neurotic stress-

related disorders and somatoform disordersrelated disorders and somatoform disorders

being the most common diagnoses (Okashabeing the most common diagnoses (Okasha

et alet al, 1999, 1999aa). Anxiety disorders were diag-). Anxiety disorders were diag-

nosed in 7.9% and hyperkinetic disordernosed in 7.9% and hyperkinetic disorder

in 2.2% of a sample of 8459 schoolchildrenin 2.2% of a sample of 8459 schoolchildren

aged 6–12 years. Nocturnal enuresis wasaged 6–12 years. Nocturnal enuresis was

present in 1.9% of children in Egyptianpresent in 1.9% of children in Egyptian

surveys. Bedwetting is tolerated in a childsurveys. Bedwetting is tolerated in a child

up to the age of 5–6 years; the age at whichup to the age of 5–6 years; the age at which

parents decide to do something about it isparents decide to do something about it is

usually 7–10 years. The greatest prevalenceusually 7–10 years. The greatest prevalence

of stammering was found in two ageof stammering was found in two age

groups: 6–7 years and 11–12 years. At allgroups: 6–7 years and 11–12 years. At all

ages stammering was more prevalent inages stammering was more prevalent in

males than in females, with a gender ratiomales than in females, with a gender ratio

of 3.2:1 (Okashaof 3.2:1 (Okasha et alet al, 1999, 1999bb).).

Another study revealed a 7.9% preva-Another study revealed a 7.9% preva-

lence rate of anxiety among Egyptianlence rate of anxiety among Egyptian

primary-school children. Psychiatric co-primary-school children. Psychiatric co-

morbidity was found in 89% of themorbidity was found in 89% of the

anxiety-positive sample, including mainlyanxiety-positive sample, including mainly

‘behavioural and emotional disorders with‘behavioural and emotional disorders with

onset usually occurring in childhood’ andonset usually occurring in childhood’ and

‘neurotic, stress-related and somatoform‘neurotic, stress-related and somatoform

disorders’. Forty per cent of childrendisorders’. Forty per cent of children

with anxiety disorders had a comorbidwith anxiety disorders had a comorbid

depressive disorder (Okashadepressive disorder (Okasha et alet al, 1999, 1999bb).).

In a governorate-wide study involving aIn a governorate-wide study involving a

representative sample of primary and pre-representative sample of primary and pre-

paratory schools in the city of Alexandriaparatory schools in the city of Alexandria

10.3% of pupils demonstrated depressive10.3% of pupils demonstrated depressive

scores, which were highest among thescores, which were highest among the

oldest age group (20.3%). Girls were highlyoldest age group (20.3%). Girls were highly

represented among depression scores com-represented among depression scores com-

pared with boys. Lack of communicationpared with boys. Lack of communication

and presence of child–parent conflictand presence of child–parent conflict

ranked highest among predisposing factorsranked highest among predisposing factors

(23.4%), followed by parental conflicts(23.4%), followed by parental conflicts

(20.7%) and scholastic problems (29.8%).(20.7%) and scholastic problems (29.8%).

In 90.1% of the depressed sample thereIn 90.1% of the depressed sample there

were frequent complaints of physical symp-were frequent complaints of physical symp-

toms for more than 6 months prior to thetoms for more than 6 months prior to the

study (Abou Nazel, 1989). Adolescentsstudy (Abou Nazel, 1989). Adolescents

who had a positive history of suicidewho had a positive history of suicide

attempts had significantly higher depres-attempts had significantly higher depres-

sion scores (93.7%) (Abou Nazelsion scores (93.7%) (Abou Nazel et alet al,,

1991). Egyptian children suffering from1991). Egyptian children suffering from

depressive episodes present to the clinicdepressive episodes present to the clinic

with other symptoms, such as nocturnalwith other symptoms, such as nocturnal

enuresis and headache. Ten per cent ofenuresis and headache. Ten per cent of

them met conduct disorder criteria andthem met conduct disorder criteria and

15% had mixed anxiety and depressive dis-15% had mixed anxiety and depressive dis-

order according to ICD–10 criteria (Seif Elorder according to ICD–10 criteria (Seif El

Din, 1990). Frequently they receive symp-Din, 1990). Frequently they receive symp-

tomatic treatment without identificationtomatic treatment without identification

2 6 82 6 8

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FOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPTFOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPT

of the underlying psychiatric disorder (Attiaof the underlying psychiatric disorder (Attia

et alet al, 1991)., 1991).

Behavioural disordersBehavioural disorders

Behavioural problems in childhood areBehavioural problems in childhood are

frequently interpreted as misbehaviour thatfrequently interpreted as misbehaviour that

can be managed by punishment or rewardcan be managed by punishment or reward

within the family. Within the overcrowdedwithin the family. Within the overcrowded

schools, teachers are less likely to differenti-schools, teachers are less likely to differenti-

ate between children with a developmentalate between children with a developmental

disorder, adjustment disorder or milddisorder, adjustment disorder or mild

learning diability. Behaviour disorderslearning diability. Behaviour disorders

represented 5% (in 1967) and 8.2% (inrepresented 5% (in 1967) and 8.2% (in

1990) of diagnoses in all children attending1990) of diagnoses in all children attending

the out-patient psychiatric facilities of thethe out-patient psychiatric facilities of the

Ain Shams University hospitals (OkashaAin Shams University hospitals (Okasha etet

alal, 1993, 1993aa). The presenting symptoms were). The presenting symptoms were

mainly hyperactivity, aggression, stealingmainly hyperactivity, aggression, stealing

and wandering. This problem was moreand wandering. This problem was more

common in patients from the cities; incommon in patients from the cities; in

Egyptian villages, conditions are conduciveEgyptian villages, conditions are conducive

to the development of happy and sociallyto the development of happy and socially

secure children. Such children learn craftssecure children. Such children learn crafts

and appropriate conduct smoothly fromand appropriate conduct smoothly from

their everyday coexistence with parentstheir everyday coexistence with parents

and elders, and are gradually initiated intoand elders, and are gradually initiated into

the fuller social responsibilities of thethe fuller social responsibilities of the

extended family community. Whenextended family community. When

villagers move to the cities, their workvillagers move to the cities, their work

becomes mechanised, and mothers as wellbecomes mechanised, and mothers as well

as fathers work away from home. Theyas fathers work away from home. They

pass on to their children little knowledgepass on to their children little knowledge

and fewer skills which could earn themand fewer skills which could earn them

the children’s respect. In such circum-the children’s respect. In such circum-

stances, it is difficult for parents to trainstances, it is difficult for parents to train

their children in social responsibilities, sotheir children in social responsibilities, so

different from those with which the parentsdifferent from those with which the parents

themselves grew up; hence, delinquencythemselves grew up; hence, delinquency

and behaviour disorders tend to developand behaviour disorders tend to develop

out of lack of modelling and identity crises.out of lack of modelling and identity crises.

Since compulsory schooling is more en-Since compulsory schooling is more en-

forced in the cities, there is also a tendencyforced in the cities, there is also a tendency

to see more cases of educational problemsto see more cases of educational problems

there.there.

Temper tantrums are a commonTemper tantrums are a common

complaint in families with 3-year-oldcomplaint in families with 3-year-old

children. Most of the time parents respondchildren. Most of the time parents respond

to the tantrum by giving their children whatto the tantrum by giving their children what

they want, thus aggravating this develop-they want, thus aggravating this develop-

mental problem, which constitutes 23%mental problem, which constitutes 23%

of behavioural problems in pre-schoolof behavioural problems in pre-school

nurseries (Seif El Dinnurseries (Seif El Din et alet al, 1989). Nocturnal, 1989). Nocturnal

enuresis, particularly secondary nocturnalenuresis, particularly secondary nocturnal

enuresis, is the most common type ofenuresis, is the most common type of

behaviour disorder presenting to urbanbehaviour disorder presenting to urban

primary health care facilities, ranging be-primary health care facilities, ranging be-

tween 63.9% and 82.5% of all behaviouraltween 63.9% and 82.5% of all behavioural

disorders (Kouradisorders (Koura et alet al, 1993). Hyperactivity, 1993). Hyperactivity

and attention-deficit symptoms areand attention-deficit symptoms are

encountered significantly more oftenencountered significantly more often

among children who are underachievers.among children who are underachievers.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder isAttention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is

six times more common among boys thansix times more common among boys than

girls (Hassan, 1999). This disorder putsgirls (Hassan, 1999). This disorder puts

children under great pressure since theychildren under great pressure since they

are usually treated as misbehaving both atare usually treated as misbehaving both at

home and at school, and most of them arehome and at school, and most of them are

exposed to corporal punishment (Youssefexposed to corporal punishment (Youssef

et alet al, 1998, 1998aa,,bb). Violent behaviour was). Violent behaviour was

nearly 2.5 times higher among childrennearly 2.5 times higher among children

and adolescents subjected to corporal pun-and adolescents subjected to corporal pun-

ishment at school, and even higher amongishment at school, and even higher among

those who were subjected to this form ofthose who were subjected to this form of

punishment by their caregivers. The condi-punishment by their caregivers. The condi-

tion is frequently associated with poor com-tion is frequently associated with poor com-

munication between adult carers and themunication between adult carers and the

child, leading to the use of verbal and phy-child, leading to the use of verbal and phy-

sical punishment as a tool to control andsical punishment as a tool to control and

shape the proper behaviour of the childrenshape the proper behaviour of the children

(Youssef(Youssef et alet al, 1998, 1998bb).).

Smoking and drug misuse were foundSmoking and drug misuse were found

to be prevalent among 6% of a largeto be prevalent among 6% of a large

national sample. An additional 2% of chil-national sample. An additional 2% of chil-

dren reported having tried smoking onlydren reported having tried smoking only

once. Boys report smoking at considerablyonce. Boys report smoking at considerably

higher levels than girls (11.2%higher levels than girls (11.2% v.v. 0.3%)0.3%)

and more boys than girls have tried smok-and more boys than girls have tried smok-

ing once. Working boys smoke at levelsing once. Working boys smoke at levels

about twice as high as those of non-work-about twice as high as those of non-work-

ing boys. Peer influence was reported bying boys. Peer influence was reported by

41.1% of the sample as the reason for41.1% of the sample as the reason for

starting smoking (Ibrahimstarting smoking (Ibrahim et alet al, 1999)., 1999).

Learning difficultiesLearning difficulties

The prevalence of scholastic underachieve-The prevalence of scholastic underachieve-

ment in a sample of pupils at elementaryment in a sample of pupils at elementary

schools was 42.8%. Diagnoses made in thisschools was 42.8%. Diagnoses made in this

group included attention-deficit hyper-group included attention-deficit hyper-

activity disorder, depression, anxiety,activity disorder, depression, anxiety,

speech difficulties and elimination prob-speech difficulties and elimination prob-

lems, none of which had been detected bylems, none of which had been detected by

their teachers. Underachievers also had sig-their teachers. Underachievers also had sig-

nificantly more physical disabilities leadingnificantly more physical disabilities leading

to school backwardness, such as visual andto school backwardness, such as visual and

hearing deficits (Hassan, 1999).hearing deficits (Hassan, 1999).

Parents are often overdemanding inParents are often overdemanding in

relation to the academic achievement ofrelation to the academic achievement of

their children, even in the earliest years,their children, even in the earliest years,

and this leads to an increase in the schooland this leads to an increase in the school

drop-out rate. In an Egyptian nationaldrop-out rate. In an Egyptian national

survey a quarter of boys aged 10–19 yearssurvey a quarter of boys aged 10–19 years

and a third of girls are not at school, withand a third of girls are not at school, with

the highest proportion coming fromthe highest proportion coming from

families of lower socio-economic statusfamilies of lower socio-economic status

(Ibrahim(Ibrahim et alet al, 1999). The awareness of, 1999). The awareness of

parents and school staff of children’sparents and school staff of children’s

needs at different phases of developmentneeds at different phases of development

is often inis often inadequate. A child who is anadequate. A child who is an

underachiever at school is usually labelledunderachiever at school is usually labelled

as ‘mentally retarded’ by the teachers andas ‘mentally retarded’ by the teachers and

is referred to the student psychiatric clinicis referred to the student psychiatric clinic

for psychological assessment. During thefor psychological assessment. During the

academic year 1998–1999 the number ofacademic year 1998–1999 the number of

children referred for this reason constitutedchildren referred for this reason constituted

31.8% of the total number of referred chil-31.8% of the total number of referred chil-

dren; after complete assessment, the percen-dren; after complete assessment, the percen-

tage of children with this diagnosis droppedtage of children with this diagnosis dropped

to 18.9% (Seif El Din, 2000).to 18.9% (Seif El Din, 2000).

Childhood disorders that have priorityChildhood disorders that have priority

in Egyptian health planning are life-in Egyptian health planning are life-

threatening conditions such as diarrhoeathreatening conditions such as diarrhoea

and acute respiratory infections. Theand acute respiratory infections. The

country has few psychiatrists specialisingcountry has few psychiatrists specialising

in childhood problems. Figures from thein childhood problems. Figures from the

Central Agency for Public MobilizationCentral Agency for Public Mobilization

and Statistics indicate that mother andand Statistics indicate that mother and

child care units are gradually being re-child care units are gradually being re-

placed by urban health centres, and theplaced by urban health centres, and the

same is happening to the 305 school healthsame is happening to the 305 school health

units, which had incorporated 17 psychi-units, which had incorporated 17 psychi-

atric units across the country. The problematric units across the country. The problem

is not only the lack of resources for provid-is not only the lack of resources for provid-

ing mental health care facilities to children,ing mental health care facilities to children,

but also the attitude of the community tobut also the attitude of the community to

child mental health problems. A smallchild mental health problems. A small

percentage of general psychiatrists have anpercentage of general psychiatrists have an

interest in child psychiatry, but theirinterest in child psychiatry, but their

knowledge and skill are based on expertiseknowledge and skill are based on expertise

and education acquired abroad. Egyptianand education acquired abroad. Egyptian

universities do not offer a degree in childuniversities do not offer a degree in child

psychiatry in spite of the magnitude andpsychiatry in spite of the magnitude and

severity of mental health problems inseverity of mental health problems in

childhood.childhood.

Drug misuseDrug misuse

The 1980s witnessed a sharp rise inThe 1980s witnessed a sharp rise in

morbidity due to drug misuse. Since then,morbidity due to drug misuse. Since then,

Egyptian community leaders at all levelsEgyptian community leaders at all levels

have demonstrated intense concern overhave demonstrated intense concern over

this problem. Estimates of the magnitudethis problem. Estimates of the magnitude

of substance addiction and the changingof substance addiction and the changing

pattern of drug availability showed thatpattern of drug availability showed that

the most commonly used drugs in thethe most commonly used drugs in the

1980s were cannabis, opium, solid and1980s were cannabis, opium, solid and

liquid hypnosedatives, heroin and finallyliquid hypnosedatives, heroin and finally

cocaine, in descending order of frequencycocaine, in descending order of frequency

(Okasha, 1996). Although epidemiological(Okasha, 1996). Although epidemiological

data on drug misuse in Egypt are scarce,data on drug misuse in Egypt are scarce,

health professionals report a multitude ofhealth professionals report a multitude of

reasons for such concern, including anreasons for such concern, including an

increase in the rate of addicts seeking psy-increase in the rate of addicts seeking psy-

chiatric treatment (Al Azayem & Ez Eldin,chiatric treatment (Al Azayem & Ez Eldin,

1996), increases in drug-related health1996), increases in drug-related health

problems (mainly overdose toxicity; Salem,problems (mainly overdose toxicity; Salem,

1998) and an alarming drop in age at initia-1998) and an alarming drop in age at initia-

tion of drug use, with a consequent rise intion of drug use, with a consequent rise in

adolescent addicts (Ameradolescent addicts (Amer et alet al, 1986). The, 1986). The

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OKASHAOKASHA

average amount of heroin seized annually isaverage amount of heroin seized annually is

about 50 kg; this represents about 10% ofabout 50 kg; this represents about 10% of

total consumption. Therefore, it is safe tototal consumption. Therefore, it is safe to

assume that 500 kg are consumed annually.assume that 500 kg are consumed annually.

If we calculate that the average daily intakeIf we calculate that the average daily intake

is 0.25–0.5 g peris 0.25–0.5 g per addict, we arrive at an es-addict, we arrive at an es-

timate of abouttimate of about 7000–10 000 heroin users7000–10 000 heroin users

in Egypt (Okasha, 1996in Egypt (Okasha, 1996bb).).
During the 1990s synthetic psycho-During the 1990s synthetic psycho-

active drug use increased exponentially toactive drug use increased exponentially to

become the third most commonly availablebecome the third most commonly available

drug following cannabis and alcoholicdrug following cannabis and alcoholic

beverages. Towards the second half of thebeverages. Towards the second half of the

1990s cannabis became prevalent in the1990s cannabis became prevalent in the

form ofform of bangobango, which is prepared from, which is prepared from
leaves ofleaves of Cannabis sativaCannabis sativa. The plant is. The plant is
increasingly widely cultivated in Egypt,increasingly widely cultivated in Egypt,

especially in the Sinai peninsula.especially in the Sinai peninsula.

Epidemiological research and clinicalEpidemiological research and clinical

studies of known addicts show that thosestudies of known addicts show that those

who use more than one drug are doublewho use more than one drug are double

in number compared with those who usein number compared with those who use

one drug exclusively. Thus, experts areone drug exclusively. Thus, experts are

rightly inclined to consider the estimaterightly inclined to consider the estimate

that drug seizures represent a fifth of drugthat drug seizures represent a fifth of drug

use in society as more plausible. Using thisuse in society as more plausible. Using this

formula, one can safely estimate the rateformula, one can safely estimate the rate

of ‘experimentation’ with drugs in thisof ‘experimentation’ with drugs in this

group to be about 10–12% in the age groupgroup to be about 10–12% in the age group

15–25 years; the rate for drug ‘misuse’15–25 years; the rate for drug ‘misuse’

would be 2.5–3%, whereas those identifiedwould be 2.5–3%, whereas those identified

as drug ‘addicts’ would constitute lessas drug ‘addicts’ would constitute less

than 1% of the population (65 million inthan 1% of the population (65 million in

1998). Such estimates are alarming, and1998). Such estimates are alarming, and

are a warning to policymakers and serviceare a warning to policymakers and service

providers.providers.

The present scene in Egypt is charac-The present scene in Egypt is charac-

terised by an unprecedented shift towardsterised by an unprecedented shift towards

‘demand reduction’ at the primary pre-‘demand reduction’ at the primary pre-

vention level, hand in hand with effortsvention level, hand in hand with efforts

toto provide services at both secondary andprovide services at both secondary and

tertiary health care levels. Supply controltertiary health care levels. Supply control

mechanisms are duly and seriouslymechanisms are duly and seriously

implemented (Al Akabawi, 2001).implemented (Al Akabawi, 2001).

Soueif (1994) reports different reasonsSoueif (1994) reports different reasons

for the different user categories. For sec-for the different user categories. For sec-

ondary school students the main reasonondary school students the main reason

for drug use was as entertainment on happyfor drug use was as entertainment on happy

social occasions, and the substance mostlysocial occasions, and the substance mostly

used was hashish. Sedatives and hypnoticsused was hashish. Sedatives and hypnotics

were the next most frequently used sub-were the next most frequently used sub-

stances; these substances were used in situa-stances; these substances were used in situa-

tions of physical exhaustion and fatigue,tions of physical exhaustion and fatigue,

and to cope with psychosocial problemsand to cope with psychosocial problems

or difficult working conditions, as well asor difficult working conditions, as well as

at times of studying and examinations.at times of studying and examinations.

Egyptian surveys have found a gradualEgyptian surveys have found a gradual

increase in the consumption of alcohol,increase in the consumption of alcohol,

leading to the prediction that this will beleading to the prediction that this will be

the most common form of substance misusethe most common form of substance misuse

in the coming years. It is interesting to notein the coming years. It is interesting to note

that despite the relative availability of alcoholthat despite the relative availability of alcohol

in Egypt compared with the Gulf states, thein Egypt compared with the Gulf states, the

incidence of alcohol misuse is much higherincidence of alcohol misuse is much higher

in the latter countries, where the sale ofin the latter countries, where the sale of

alcohol is strictly prohibited on religiousalcohol is strictly prohibited on religious

grounds (Okasha, 1996grounds (Okasha, 1996bb).).

Geriatric psychiatryGeriatric psychiatry

Health care systems in Egypt have largelyHealth care systems in Egypt have largely

ignored the needs of the elderly. There areignored the needs of the elderly. There are

only sporadic programmes to care for theonly sporadic programmes to care for the

elderly, mainly initiated by the communityelderly, mainly initiated by the community

or within the private sector. Those aboveor within the private sector. Those above

65 years old represent 4.4% of Egypt’s65 years old represent 4.4% of Egypt’s

population. The country has 34 old peo-population. The country has 34 old peo-

ple’s homes for over a million elderly peo-ple’s homes for over a million elderly peo-

ple, and some homes have waiting lists ofple, and some homes have waiting lists of

over 1000 persons (Abyadover 1000 persons (Abyad et alet al, 2001)., 2001).
An increasing number of elderly peopleAn increasing number of elderly people

live alone, or with elderly spouses and/orlive alone, or with elderly spouses and/or

with only one or two other familywith only one or two other family

members. The ‘Care With Love’ pro-members. The ‘Care With Love’ pro-

gramme was established to create a sustain-gramme was established to create a sustain-

able, well-trained cadre of home health careable, well-trained cadre of home health care

providers in Egypt in order to staff unitsproviders in Egypt in order to staff units

delivering such services. It was developeddelivering such services. It was developed

at the Centre for Geriatric Services inat the Centre for Geriatric Services in

partnership with the Coptic Evangelicalpartnership with the Coptic Evangelical

Organization for Social Services and As’salamOrganization for Social Services and As’salam

Hospital in Cairo. The first training courseHospital in Cairo. The first training course

was run in 1996, and about 500 traineeswas run in 1996, and about 500 trainees

have joined the programme, taking varioushave joined the programme, taking various

courses between 1996 and 2003. Aincourses between 1996 and 2003. Ain

Shams University in Cairo has started aShams University in Cairo has started a

series of courses on old age psychiatry; inseries of courses on old age psychiatry; in

addition, the Malta Institute on Ageingaddition, the Malta Institute on Ageing

runs a course (in Egypt), and medicalruns a course (in Egypt), and medical

schools have started slowly to introduceschools have started slowly to introduce

lectures on ageing for undergraduateslectures on ageing for undergraduates

(Iskandar, 1999). Egyptian universities(Iskandar, 1999). Egyptian universities

offer a master’s degree and doctorates inoffer a master’s degree and doctorates in

geriatrics, focusing on psychogeriatrics,geriatrics, focusing on psychogeriatrics,

which is addressed as a multidisciplinarywhich is addressed as a multidisciplinary

issue.issue.

THERAPIESTHERAPIES

PsychotherapyPsychotherapy

Psychotherapy is an important element ofPsychotherapy is an important element of

psychiatric management in Egypt, with apsychiatric management in Egypt, with a

strong religious (Muslim or Coptic) empha-strong religious (Muslim or Coptic) empha-

sis.sis. The behaviour of individuals in ArabThe behaviour of individuals in Arab

culture is determined more by group needsculture is determined more by group needs

and thinking rather than by those of theand thinking rather than by those of the

individual, so that the source of control ofindividual, so that the source of control of

behaviour is external rather than internal.behaviour is external rather than internal.

Sources of distress and suffering on theSources of distress and suffering on the

one hand, and happiness on the other, areone hand, and happiness on the other, are

related to personal failure or success torelated to personal failure or success to

achieve the expectations of significantachieve the expectations of significant

others or of society at large. The emphasis isothers or of society at large. The emphasis is

on conformity rather than self-actualisation.on conformity rather than self-actualisation.

One of the objectives of psychotherapyOne of the objectives of psychotherapy

with Arab patients is to improve adaptationwith Arab patients is to improve adaptation

by whatever means available and to focusby whatever means available and to focus

the therapy on the manifest stress or dis-the therapy on the manifest stress or dis-

ability. The strategy is to deal primarilyability. The strategy is to deal primarily

with conscious problems, symptoms,with conscious problems, symptoms,

thoughts, feelings and memories. Contrarythoughts, feelings and memories. Contrary

to Western cultures, Arab culture is basedto Western cultures, Arab culture is based

on shame rather than guilt, so that anon shame rather than guilt, so that an

important motivation in social interactionsimportant motivation in social interactions

is to save face and avoid being shamed.is to save face and avoid being shamed.

Inner desires, wishes and conflicts that areInner desires, wishes and conflicts that are

socially unacceptable must be kept secret.socially unacceptable must be kept secret.

Inner exploration may threaten the integrityInner exploration may threaten the integrity

of the psyche. At the same time, gainingof the psyche. At the same time, gaining

insight and self-realisation is socially isolat-insight and self-realisation is socially isolat-

ing. Affects already consciously experi-ing. Affects already consciously experi-

enced by the patient should be expressedenced by the patient should be expressed

and dealt with. The therapeutic relationshipand dealt with. The therapeutic relationship

should be maintained at a positive level ofshould be maintained at a positive level of

rapport, with deeper transference responsesrapport, with deeper transference responses

remaining unconscious and out of theremaining unconscious and out of the

patient’s awareness. Negative transferencepatient’s awareness. Negative transference

is discussed early so that it can be dissipatedis discussed early so that it can be dissipated

as promptly as possible, allowing theas promptly as possible, allowing the

patient to experience the therapist aspatient to experience the therapist as

accepting, permissive and comfortable withaccepting, permissive and comfortable with

hostile feelings. If the patient’s defences arehostile feelings. If the patient’s defences are

useful and acceptable, they can be strength-useful and acceptable, they can be strength-

ened and acknowledged; if the defences areened and acknowledged; if the defences are

maladaptive, new ones are suggested. Themaladaptive, new ones are suggested. The

therapist also tries to improve the patient’stherapist also tries to improve the patient’s

self-image by minimising the discrepancyself-image by minimising the discrepancy

between the patient’s expectations of him-between the patient’s expectations of him-

self or herself (derived from the expecta-self or herself (derived from the expecta-

tions of significant others) and his or hertions of significant others) and his or her

ability to realise these expectations (Elability to realise these expectations (El

Leithy, 2000).Leithy, 2000).

Alternative therapiesAlternative therapies

In spite of rapid social change in Egypt, theIn spite of rapid social change in Egypt, the

majority of people – especially in ruralmajority of people – especially in rural

areas – belong to an extended family hier-areas – belong to an extended family hier-

archy. It is considered shameful to carearchy. It is considered shameful to care

for an elderly person with dementia awayfor an elderly person with dementia away

from family surroundings. The parents offrom family surroundings. The parents of

children with learning disabilities or hyper-children with learning disabilities or hyper-

kinetic disorders accept primary responsi-kinetic disorders accept primary responsi-

bility for them, rather than having thembility for them, rather than having them

looked after in an institution. Traditionallooked after in an institution. Traditional

and religious healers have a major role inand religious healers have a major role in

primary psychiatric care in Egypt. Theyprimary psychiatric care in Egypt. They

deal with minor neurotic, psychosomaticdeal with minor neurotic, psychosomatic

and transitory psychotic states usingand transitory psychotic states using

religious and group psychotherapies,religious and group psychotherapies,

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FOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPTFOCUS ON PSYCHIATRY IN EGYPT

suggestion and devices such as amulets andsuggestion and devices such as amulets and

incantations (Okasha, 1966). About 60%incantations (Okasha, 1966). About 60%

of out-patients at the university clinic inof out-patients at the university clinic in

Cairo serving a population of low socio-Cairo serving a population of low socio-

economic status had consulted a traditionaleconomic status had consulted a traditional

healer before coming to the psychiatristhealer before coming to the psychiatrist

(Okasha(Okasha et alet al, 1968). In rural areas of, 1968). In rural areas of

Egypt, community care is implementedEgypt, community care is implemented

without the need for health care workers.without the need for health care workers.

Those living in the countryside have aThose living in the countryside have a

special tolerance of people with mental dis-special tolerance of people with mental dis-

orders and an ability to assimilate themorders and an ability to assimilate them

into their community. These people, andinto their community. These people, and

those with mild or moderate learning dis-those with mild or moderate learning dis-

abilities, are rehabilitated daily by cultivat-abilities, are rehabilitated daily by cultivat-

ing and planting the countryside alonging and planting the countryside along

with, and under the supervision of, familywith, and under the supervision of, family

members.members.

The need to add mental health care toThe need to add mental health care to

the traditional priorities for public healththe traditional priorities for public health

care services, of bilharziasis (schistosomia-care services, of bilharziasis (schistosomia-

sis), birth control, infectious diseases ofsis), birth control, infectious diseases of

children, smoking and illicit drug usechildren, smoking and illicit drug use

has been gradually attracting the attentionhas been gradually attracting the attention

of decision-makers. Programmes for com-of decision-makers. Programmes for com-

munity care in big cities have beenmunity care in big cities have been

introduced in the form of out-patient psy-introduced in the form of out-patient psy-

chiatric clinics, hostels for the elderly, insti-chiatric clinics, hostels for the elderly, insti-

tutions for people with learning disabilities,tutions for people with learning disabilities,

centres for the treatment of drug misuse,centres for the treatment of drug misuse,

and school and university mental healthand school and university mental health

services.services.

The National Mental Health Pro-The National Mental Health Pro-

gramme for Egypt emphasises the role ofgramme for Egypt emphasises the role of

primary health care looking after 80% ofprimary health care looking after 80% of

psychiatric patients. Its focus is on de-psychiatric patients. Its focus is on de-

centralisation of mental health care andcentralisation of mental health care and

community care in different governorates.community care in different governorates.

Emphasis is on recruiting mental healthEmphasis is on recruiting mental health

teams, especially psychiatric nurses,teams, especially psychiatric nurses,

psychiatric social workers, occupationalpsychiatric social workers, occupational

therapists and clinical psychologists.therapists and clinical psychologists.

THE FUTURETHE FUTURE

Egypt has made substantial progress sinceEgypt has made substantial progress since

the 1950s in reducing infant and child mor-the 1950s in reducing infant and child mor-

tality, improving life expectancy andtality, improving life expectancy and

increasing access to health care. Majorincreasing access to health care. Major

problems, however, remain. Public healthproblems, however, remain. Public health

challenges include high rates of maternalchallenges include high rates of maternal

mortality, malnutrition, wide disparitiesmortality, malnutrition, wide disparities

between rural and urban areas, emphasisbetween rural and urban areas, emphasis

on curative rather than preventive care,on curative rather than preventive care,

the relative weakness of public health insti-the relative weakness of public health insti-

tutions, the variable quality of health care,tutions, the variable quality of health care,

lack of capacity in policy-making, and un-lack of capacity in policy-making, and un-

responsive and inequitable health systems.responsive and inequitable health systems.

The Arab Human Development reportThe Arab Human Development report

(2002) links current development status(2002) links current development status

with external and internal conditions. Thewith external and internal conditions. The

main external factor is military spendingmain external factor is military spending

as a direct impediment to development,as a direct impediment to development,

channelling resources away from develop-channelling resources away from develop-

ment priorities such as health (includingment priorities such as health (including

mental health). Alternative strategies con-mental health). Alternative strategies con-

ducive to development would be greaterducive to development would be greater

spending on technological development,spending on technological development,

empowerment of vulnerable groups, suchempowerment of vulnerable groups, such

as women and children, and promotion ofas women and children, and promotion of

democracy and human rights.democracy and human rights.

In view of the lack of human resources,In view of the lack of human resources,

mental health policies and legislation in themental health policies and legislation in the

majority of the countries of the world,majority of the countries of the world,

developing countries such as Egypt shoulddeveloping countries such as Egypt should

develop partnerships with other agentsdevelop partnerships with other agents

(such as non-governmental organisations,(such as non-governmental organisations,

consumer groups etc.) to provideconsumer groups etc.) to provide

psychiatric patients with the best carepsychiatric patients with the best care

possible.possible.

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