Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Living with schizophrenia during a pandemic

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Living with schizophrenia during a pandemic

Living with the global pandemic is traumatic for everyone, and for those living with mental health challenges such as schizophrenia, it is even more difficult. With daily routines disrupted, many people are feeling overwhelmed by the overconsumption of bad news as they keep abreast of health developments. Add to that, many are isolated from family and support systems, which can impact their schizophrenia symptoms even more. 

Schizophrenia and its symptoms

Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating chronic mental illness.1 People living with this disorder are affected in the way they feel, act and think, often exhibiting symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, confused behaviour, withdrawal, and struggling with their daily, professional and personal life.1,2

Schizophrenia symptoms can be heightened during periods of isolation, like time spent during lockdown, away from colleagues, family, friends and support systems.

Although schizophrenia affects the brain, it can also have physical, financial and psychological challenges.

  1. Physical challenges3
    At the height of the South African lockdown, gyms and parks closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, forcing people to find creative ways to exercise at home. But this isn’t always easy, especially for those living with mental health challenges. As the realisation of the pandemic’s effects became more evident, moods and attitudes changed, which has reduced the motivation to keep active. Especially as there’s no longer a structure or routine.3

    Some schizophrenia treatments are linked to weight gain,4 which can put those living with schizophrenia at risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.5 And, additional stress, like living through a pandemic, can also place a person at risk of elevated blood pressure.4

  2. Financial strain
    A survey by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) indicates that 46% of respondents experienced financial stress during lockdown in April 2020.6 This can be attributed to the increase in job losses during lockdown.

    For people living with schizophrenia this can be even more devastating as they need access to financial resources to purchase their treatment, to manage their symptoms.

  3. Psychological
    The same SADAG survey indicates that 55% of respondents grappled with anxiety and panic during the lockdown, while 6% abused substances.6 Abuse of substances directly impacts the effectiveness of schizophrenia treatment, which can lead to worsening symptoms.1

Hope for people living with schizophrenia

Although people living with schizophrenia are facing challenges, they can find comfort with digital support groups, reconnecting with loved ones in social distancing settings and through treatment.

Early diagnosis and treatment prescribed by a healthcare professional can help people living with schizophrenia live a healthy and fulfilled life.

Healthcare professionals can advise on several treatment options including,7

  • Therapy
  • Daily oral medication
  • A monthly injectable, which is administered by a healthcare professional.

A monthly injectable increases treatment adherence, as healthcare professionals can track a patient’s treatment during monthly visits,7 ensuring they don’t relapse by not taking their medication.

If you think you or a loved one are showing symptoms of schizophrenia, it’s important to see a doctor. You can also access valuable resources on schizophrenia, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options on schizophrenia24x7or the Our Mental Health Facebook page which offers a supportive and safe space for people living with schizophrenia.

References

  1. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Schizophrenia Facts and Statistics. http://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1442:schizophrenia-facts-and-statistics&catid=38&Itemid=181. Accessed on 12 August 2020.
  2. WebMD. Schizophrenia Symptoms. https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-symptoms#1. Accessed on 12 August 2020.
  3. Rethink. Rethink Mental Illness COVID-19 Briefings. https://www.rethink.org/media/3813/physical-health-during-covid-19-outbreak.pdf. Accessed on 12 August 2020.
  4. The Conversation. Schizophrenia affects your body, not just your brain – new study. https://theconversation.com/schizophrenia-affects-your-body-not-just-your-brain-new-study-95452. Accessed on 12 August 2020.
  5. WebMD. Antipsychotics and Weight Gain. https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/weight-gain-antipsychotics. Accessed on 18 August 2020.
  6. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG's Online Survey Findings on COVID-19 And Mental Health. http://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3091&Itemid=483. Accessed on 12 August 2020.
  7. WebMD. Pros and Cons of Long-Acting Schizophrenia Drugs. https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-long-lasting-drugs#1. Accessed on 12 August 2020.

CP Number:  174178

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ISSUED ON BEHALF OF SCHIZOPRHENIA24X7 BY G&G DIGITAL.

Schizophrenia24x7 is a practical website featuring professional advice and treatment options for people living with schizophrenia,

their care-givers andthose who support them.

For more information or press related queries, please contact Annie Hodes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or call +27 11 887 6591.

Published in Health and Medicine