TORONTO, May 2, 2019 – What special considerations should clinicians keep in mind when treating Muslim patients with mental illness who fast during Ramadan?
Although there are almost two billion Muslims worldwide, this question has rarely been explored in scientific literature.
“We found a lot of data about implications for physical health during Ramadan, but very little on mental health,” said Senior Author Dr. Juveria Zaheer, CAMH Clinician Scientist with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and senior author of “Considerations for clinicians treating Muslim patients with psychiatric disorders during Ramadan, published in Lancet Psychiatry. “We felt there was a real gap in information for clinicians treating patients with mental illness while fasting.”
Ramadan is a spiritually significant period for Muslims worldwide that includes fasting without food or water from dawn to dusk for approximately one month. While exceptions are made for infirmity, age, pregnancy and other factors, fasting is considered obligatory for those who are able.
Depending on the time of year Ramadan occurs, the daily fast can last for up to 17 hours, especially in higher latitude countries like Canada. The authors state that this can have a significant impact on sleep cycles, a reduction in REM sleep and disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms, which has been linked to the onset or a relapse in certain psychiatric disorders.