African Journal of Psychiatry

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Psychiatric disorders and general medical conditions: implications for the clinician

P Oosthuizen, P Carey, R A Emsley


Patients with severe mental illness have higher than expected prevalence rates of co-morbid general medical conditions, particularly metabolic and cardiovascular disease. They are also at increased risk of contracting HIV. Conversely, these and other
medical disorders also increase the risk of developing mental disorders. Mental illness and general medical conditions have mutually adverse effects on long-term outcome. This interaction of diseases contributes significantly to the excess morbidity in and
higher than expected standard mortality ratios for patients with mental illness. As medical practice becomes more specialized and arguably compartmentalized it may increasingly fail to integrate health care for patients with severe mental illness. In this paper
we discuss the high co-morbidity of mental illness with other medical disorders as well some of the potential mechanisms involved. We furthermore argue that the bidirectional relationship between mental and medical disorders should be considered in the
planning of treatment for either group of disorders. The central role of the psychiatrist in co-ordinating and integrating the health care of patients with severe mental illness is emphasized.

African Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 11 (1) 2008: pp. 18-22
AJOL African Journals Online