Your mental health has an impact on the way you feel generally and it?s important to stay aware of your physical health. Itís very important that you have the full range of regular screenings and health checks. Physical symptoms may be missed because people may concentrate on issues related to your mental health so if you feel unwell, see your general practitioner.
It has been estimated that between 57% to 92% of people with schizophrenia smoke. In the short-term, nicotine can lift your mood and make you feel less anxious. However, the long term risks to overall health from smoking are far greater than the short term benefits. Smoking has been shown to kill one in two lifelong smokers. The most common diseases caused by smoking are coronary heart disease, cancer of the lung, and diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, so by smoking you are putting yourself at risk. If you want to stop smoking, you should get as much help as you can: you might like to try nicotine replacements (patches or gum), which can be expensive but may make it easier for you to quit. There are also support groups which can help and information which is available for free.
As a side effect of medication, you may crave certain foods. Itís ok to crave but a balance is important as increased intake of food can lead to weight gain. Eating a balanced diet can help you to feel better. Foods like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice are very good for providing energy and five portions of fruit or vegetables each day will supply you with the vitamins you need. Sometimes this is not always possible, so it may be a good idea to take vitamin supplements to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Itís also important to note that some medications can have excessive weight gain as a side effect, within a short time of taking them. If you are concerned about weight gain specifically due to your medication, talk to your doctor about altering it.
Exercise improves fitness and increases your self-esteem and confidence. Physical activity can prevent or control conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, lower back pain and obesity. Itís always a great way to reduce stress and will help to keep weight under control. You donít need to join a gym and workout for hours on end to be physically healthy. Something as simple as taking a fifteen minute walk each day will improve your fitness dramatically.
Anxiety and depression and some medications can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth (known as dry mouth), which can be very uncomfortable and can lead to tooth decay. If you have a dry mouth, your first instinct may be to reach for sweets or canned drinks but these can damage your teeth even more. Try chewing sugar-free gum and eating fruit or cheese, and sipping water frequently. Itís also a good idea to go for regular dental check-ups.
Drinking alcohol in moderation can make you feel relaxed and help you to socialise. Some people use alcohol to dampen alarming feelings or sensations or to relieve other symptoms, such as stress and anxiety. However, drinking alcohol can also make you feel anxious or depressed and you may have problems sleeping. If you drink excessively you may start to feel aggressive or you could black out. Alcohol in excess reacts badly with most medications. It is often recommended to avoid alcohol when taking antipsychotics, antidepressants and other sedatives and this is something you need to discuss with your doctor. The maximum recommended intake of alcohol is 2 units daily for women and 3 units daily for men (a unit is a measure of spirits, a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer or larger). Excessive drinking can seriously damage your health.
Illegal (street) drugs include cannabis (marijuana), LSD (acid), amphetamines (speed), ecstasy, cocaine, crack and heroine (smack). Taking them is a very real risk, as itís impossible to know with illegal drugs exactly what you are taking. Some people use illegal drugs to offset negative symptoms, while others use them to recreate positive feelings and insights experienced through psychosis. In some people, illegal drugs can trigger a psychotic episode or may worsen the condition or even cause a relapse. You simply can never predict your reaction to an illegal drug: it all depends on your physical constitution, on what you take, how much you take, and the mood you are in. Another huge risk is mixing illegal drugs and prescribed drugs, as this can be fatal. If you decide to stop taking your prescribed medication and instead do street drugs, you are much more likely to have a relapse. The simple answer here is to avoid all illegal drugs. They are most definitely not the answer.
Most people are sexually active and a diagnosis of schizophrenia should not mean that you will now be less active. However, some side effects of medication such as weight gain or tremors can affect your sexual confidence. If you are worried and feeling low or are experiencing delusions, you may be particularly vulnerable. If you are having difficulties (experiencing disturbances of sexual function) discuss them with a trusted health professional. Females using contraceptive medication should make their doctors aware of this as it could interact with other treatments.
Many people find herbal remedies to be effective in maintaining physical and mental health. It is important that your doctor is aware of any herbal remedy you avail of as this may interact with other treatments.