Can COVID-19 cause mental illness?This is what we currently know

Key points

  • Doctors report that a small number of COVID-19 patients are experiencing severe mental illness.
  • Mental illness appears to be extremely rare among COVID-19 patients, and more investigations are needed to determine the cause.
  • Understanding the relationship between COVID-19 and psychosis may unlock clues to other neurological symptoms of long-distance transporters.

Dry cough, fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath are not the only symptoms of coronavirus that require attention. After doctors around the world report mental illness in COVID-19 patients, people are now increasingly worried about how the disease will affect their mental health.

So far, reports of people losing touch with reality after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 seem to be extremely rare. Doctors are not sure if it is caused by the virus or other reasons, but figuring out whether there is a connection can deepen our understanding of the many ways COVID-19 affects our health in the short and long term.

The following is what we know about mental illness and COVID-19 so far.

Psychiatric cases of COVID-19 patients

December 28, 2020, New York era Some patients without a history of mental illness have reported episodes of psychotic episodes within a few weeks after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

A person has a delusional disorder and thinks that her child is in imminent danger of being kidnapped. Another person had the illusion of a monkey and a lion, and another person sobbed for several days because of fear of “evil spirits invading her home.” The doctor told the newspaper that mental illness has also made some patients extremely violent.

In addition to the news media, medical literature and journals also describe the mental illness of patients with the new coronavirus. June 2020, Lancet Psychiatry A study on the neurological and psychiatric complications of 153 people hospitalized in the UK due to COVID-19 was published and found that 39 people have changed their mental status, and 10 of them have new onset psychosis. Other journals also describe new cases of psychosis in COVID-19 patients in Spain And Italy.

An article in January Neuroscience LettersFocusing on “quickly publishing high-quality short papers” for neuroscientists, he studied dozens of people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and suffer from mental illness. Some people in the case series have auditory hallucinations, mania, delusions, and acute delirium, as well as other psychiatric symptoms.

It should be noted that although the risk of mental illness after contracting COVID-19 is worrying, current research shows that this condition is extremely rare.

Florian P. Thomas, MD

This does not mean that it does not need to be taken seriously or investigated, but it is important to convey to the world that this is not a rampant issue.

— Florian P. Thomas, MD

“This does not mean that it does not need to be taken seriously or investigated, but it is important to convey to the world that this is not a rampant problem,” said Florian P. Thomas, MD, head of the Department of Neurology. Neuroscience Institute of Hackensack University Medical Center. He also works closely with Hackensack Meridian Health’s COVID Recovery Center.

Investigate the cause of mental illness

So far, no large-scale research on the relationship between COVID-19 and mental illness has been published, so it is difficult to determine what caused this condition. Sheneen Lalani, a physician who worked on the front lines of COVID-19 wards in New York City and Texas hospitals, said some experts believe this may be the result of increased inflammation associated with the virus.

“As far as COVID is concerned, experts believe that it may be related to severe inflammation and vascular changes. Neurotoxins released during this inflammatory response may also play a role,” she explained. “Viruses attacking nerves (as seen in some viruses that cause meningitis) is also possible.”

However, this psychological phenomenon is not unique to COVID-19. As we all know, psychosis is also a rare symptom of other types of infections, Dr. Lallani added.

Sheneen Lalani

Any time a severe inflammation or infection process occurs in the patient’s body, there is always a risk of confusion or some mental symptoms.

—Sheneen Lalani (Sheneen Lalani), doing

“As long as there is a serious inflammation or infection process in the patient’s body, there is always a risk of confusion or some mental symptoms. We often see the confusion of patients with severe sepsis,” she said.

People may experience psychological symptoms due to illness and treatment of the surrounding environment, whether it is COVID-19 or other diseases.

“Due to all factors such as fever, blood chemistry changes, reaction to the drugs you receive, environmental changes, lack of sleep, etc., you may experience delirium or acute confusion,” said Laurie Jacobs, MD, chairman and Hackensack Meridian Medicine Professor of Medicine at the Hospital and Hackensack Meridian Health, and director of the Hackensack Meridian Health Covid-19 Rehabilitation Center. “Acute mental illness may come from the COVID-19 infection itself, or it may come from everything related to illness.”

Another possibility? coincide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3% of people will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. Some people who develop mental symptoms after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 may already be mentally ill, and these two conditions happen to happen at the same time.

“Just because someone has COVID does not mean that COVID has caused mental illness,” Dr. Thomas said. Further investigation is needed to understand whether there is a physical link between COVID-19 and mental illness, and if so, how it works.

The good news is that people with mental illness often respond well to treatment and eventually recover. “Currently, any serious neuropsychiatric symptoms are being treated with antipsychotics. Some patients who had taken antipsychotics before admission have also restarted regular medications,” said Dr. Lallani.

COVID-19 and other neurological symptoms

Although mental illness is very rare in COVID-19 patients, other neurological problems seem to be more common in “travelers” or people who develop symptoms months after infection.

“One year after the pandemic, we are still at the stage of reporting psychiatric cases, but we have many large series of COVID neurological manifestations,” said Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Jacobs said that brain fog is a common concern for people with long-term symptoms.

Laurie Jacobs, MD

Many people suffer from constant confusion and insensitivity. They have difficulty concentrating, thinking, and performing ordinary cognitive tasks in work and family life.

— Laurie Jacobs, MD

Others also often have headaches, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.

“If you listen to long-distance drivers, many of them sound like chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis. Those who maintain normal energy levels throughout their lives, productive careers and family lives, will Seeing everything come to a standstill. It can destroy a person’s existence and outlook on life,” said Dr. Thomas.

The doctor said that it is important to continue to study the relationship between COVID-19 and mental illness and other neurological symptoms. A better understanding of these conditions allows doctors to predict the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and ultimately find ways to help people feel better.

What this means to you

Doctors around the world report that some COVID-19 patients suffer from severe mental illness. Although this condition seems extremely rare, if you or your loved one is infected with the virus, be sure to pay attention to the symptoms. Psychosis can cause hallucinations, delusions, confusion, doubts, and difficulty concentrating.

If you or someone you know is mentally ill, please contact a medical professional immediately. Antipsychotic drugs and mental health support can help people recover from mental illness.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.