Health problems of women with severe mental illness.

Purpose: To provide a review of the health problems of women with severe mental illness (SMI) that are related to their psychiatric disorders and disabilities, prolonged use of psychotropic medications, and high-risk lifestyle practices.

Data Sources: Review of current literature uncovered through MEDLINE, Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health, and Psychological Abstracts as well as the authors’ clinical experiences.

Conclusion: Women with SMI are at increased risk for obesity as well as cardiovascular, endocrine, and infectious disorders. They also experience psychotropic medication-related disorders such as amenorrhea, galactorrhea, sexual dysfunction, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. High-risk lifestyle practices, excessive weight gain, low physical activity, substance abuse and unprotected sexual activity increase risk for health problems. The mental illness, residual disabilities, sequelae of childhood abuse, poverty, limited social support and health knowledge deficits affect their ability to maintain optimum health.

Implications for Practice: Knowledge about women with SMI and their health problems will enable nurse practitioners to better meet the needs of this vulnerable population.