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I am overcoming schizophrenia, and I believe others can too. Here is how I am managing my condition...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Schizophrenia Patients and Physical Intimacy: The Mental, Emotional and Physical Benefits

The following article was written by Kristin Davis.

As our culture learns more about schizophrenia, the emphasis while addressing patients no longer resides with the disease, but instead with the individual and their needs. With many groups and organizations now devoted to recognizing the individual requirements of these sufferers, treatment now places an emphasis on their complete wellbeing. Although traditional schizophrenia treatments did little to address social and emotional aspects of patients, the combination of new medications, awareness of the disease and support groups have all spurred on these new treatment goals. While antipsychotic medications often led to many severe side effects, newer atypical antipsychotic drugs show fewer negative consequences, including reduced sexual dysfunction.

Because modern medicine identifies numerous benefits, both mental and physical, of healthy sexual activity, schizophrenic patients should consider developing bonds that allow them to have a physical relationship. Isolation and depression are among the most common ailments of individuals coping with this disease, which are greatly improved through healthy sexual contact. In the past, doctors encouraged schizophrenic patients not to engage in sexual activity. These medical professionals might have provided this discriminatory medical advice out of the desire to prevent the spread of this genetically-linked disease or a general disdain for these patients. Nevertheless, whatever the motivations of the medical community, the general lack of concern regarding schizophrenia patients took a heavy toll on those who might otherwise have benefited from the normalcy and companionship of an intimate relationship.

About 40% of patients with schizophrenia experience a major depressive episode. Furthermore, a large number of those patients attempt suicide while in the midst of this severe depression. Because healthy sex has a strong correlation to heightened levels of contentment, these patients, in particular, can benefit from the emotional release physical intimacy provides. Biological research also links sexual intercourse to stress relief and lower levels of blood pressure. Coping with a condition like schizophrenia unquestionably leads to elevated levels of stress in sufferers, which makes this ancillary benefit valuable. Emotional difficulty and agitation are two common symptoms of the disease that healthy sex could prevent.

Furthermore, sex naturally boosts self esteem, which remains a further concern for patients. Schizophrenia impacts virtually all facets of an individual’s life, which can seriously damage one’s sense of self-worth. Fortunately, regular sexual activity can help a patient recover lost self esteem or even continue to improve it. Because significant social dysfunction also commonly accompanies schizophrenic patients, intimacy remains a huge barrier to individuals suffering from this disease. However, healthy sex can improve and promote intimacy in a couple, even as this disease naturally inhibits that connection.

Physical benefits of sexual health include the maintenance of healthy weight through caloric burn. Because schizophrenic patients can experience severe weight gain as a result of their medications, this physical benefit remains especially important. In addition, sex can boost immunity, cardiovascular health and reduce pain. With the numerous health benefits that directly address common concerns of schizophrenia patients, a healthy level of sexual activity remains the safest, most convenient way for patients to improve their quality of life.

Nevertheless, schizophrenia patients should be careful to ensure they engage in responsible sex. Because of a history of social isolation, many individuals might not possess familiarity with physical intimacy or safe sex. Recent trends show a rise in sexually transmitted disease, especially among young adults, which makes proper contraceptive use especially important. Individuals need to learn about which contraceptives most effectively prevent pregnancy and disease before beginning these physical relationships.

Oral contraceptives, an outwardly suitable option, present a particularly great risk to female patients because they might hastily choose this option without proper research due to a comfort with oral medications. In addition, free family planning clinics regularly provide these drugs to individuals seeking contraception. However, these drugs have also caused severe health consequence, including an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. Some oral contraceptives have shown particularly damaging results, leaving numerous patients with serious physical harm. One lawsuit involves Ann Marie Eakins, who is suing the manufacturer for blood clots she developed in her lungs. Promoted as total quality-of-life aids, drug advertisements also risk leaving schizophrenia patients with misconceptions, including the mistaken belief that these pills protect against sexually transmitted disease.

With the acknowledged dangers that accompany sexual activity, it remains important for patients to gather all the required information on how to safely begin a physical relationship before taking this step. However, with the numerous benefits associated with healthy sexuality, it remains a great option for schizophrenia patients seeking improvement in their quality of life. While many of the social stigmas regarding schizophrenia have been removed from society, the widespread belief that a physical intimacy cannot exist for a sufferer of schizophrenia remains one of the final hurdles to the full social acceptance of these individuals.

About me: My name is Kristin Davis. I am an aspiring free lance writer with a passion for women's health. My email is daviskristin795@gmail.com.

3 comments:

Ashley Smith said...

Hi Kristin Davis,

Thank you for writing about this topic! You mentioned some very good points including a need to embrace physical intimacy, review side effects of medications, and to engage in safe sex. Although people living with schizophrenia have overcome some stigma there is still a need to bring about more awareness.

I appreciate your work and encourage you to keep writing. Thank you!

Warm regards,
Ashley Smith

K.C. Jones said...

As someone who was not in a romantic relationship for six years, because of my illness I appreciate this article. I'm in a great relationship now and must attest that (safe) sex is a wonderful thing. I've been wanting to post on the benefits of a healthy sexual lifestyle-including masterbation- for a long time on my blog. Maybe this is the push I need.

Donna said...

I could tell an awful personal-experience story along these lines. Maybe most of us could, MI or no. I chose a virgin male of middle-age with whom to be intimate. He also had sz. Well, it was a comedy of errors. And maybe the best thing (for us) happened -- we ended up lying in my bed naked just caressing each other. It was actually caring rather than just sex. We realized neither of us was ready for that.