Expert recommends psychological intervention for sickle cell management

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An Abuja-based Clinical Psychologist, Mrs Maureen Osuji, has recommended psychological intervention programme for the management of patients with Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) to improve their quality of life.

Osuji made the recommendation on Tuesday in Abuja, saying that SCD was a global health problem with psycho-social implications.

She said that in the absence of universal cure for SCD, psychological interventions should be offered as standard for management of the condition to help patients to cope better, fulfil roles and achieve better life.

According to her, sickle cell is a common genetic condition due to hemoglobin disorder inherited from both parents.

She added that “people with SCD seem to have more problems than the general population and with severe diseases; it is likely to deteriorate as patients approach adulthood.

“The quality of life is also dependent on the symptoms and the impact that the illness or condition has on an individual.

“Early intervention is very crucial for sickle cell patients; medical treatment, as well as adequate psychological support could help to improve an individual’s life.”

She said psychological issues were common with SCD, ranging from inappropriate coping strategies, reduced health related quality due to negative mood, limitation to daily activities, among others.

Osuji mentioned that interventions should be age-appropriate and available in both hospital and community-based settings.

She identified some psychological issues as depression and anxiety resulting from living with chronic stigmatising disease which was associated with chronic pain, unpredictable painful crisis and high mortality.

Others include physical deformities, leg ulcers, stroke and substantially reduced life expectancy, among others.

The clinical psychologist said that in Nigeria, studies had shown that SCD had a prevalence rate of depression greater than those with cancer or malaria but less than those with HIV and AIDS.

She added that depression in children with SCD had high rate of fatigue, impaired self-esteem, feeling of hopelessness resulting from frequent hospitalisation, absence from school and inability to experience normal childhood.

She noted that children with SCD were often underweight, shorter than normal and could have delayed puberty, while adolescents with small stature encounter problems with self-esteem, dissatisfaction with body image and social isolation.

She listed symptoms of depression to include loss of energy, appetite and interest in daily activities, anger or irritability, unexplained aches and pains.

According to Osuji, psychological intervention can help SCD patients to cope with their condition.

“People with SCD experience different levels of health, some cope relatively well and are able to attend school, work and are active physically and socially, while others cope inadequately and live more restricted and secluded lives,’’ she said.

She added that patients who felt isolated could benefit from the support and motivation of others through shared experience and identified other interventions

as cognitive behaviour therapy, neuropsychological assessment, reassurance supportive therapy and follow-up psychotherapy session.