COVID-19’s potential impact on neurological function and mental health

Key points

  • Due to the long-term effects of pandemic anxiety, isolation, social distancing, unemployment and other related issues, mental health is at its lowest level in history.
  • However, will infection with COVID-19 itself have residual effects on mental or neurological health? More and more evidence shows that even after recovery, it will affect cognitive function.

The continuing pressure and uncertainty of the pandemic has brought collective pressure to many people, leading to a sharp decline in mental health in the United States and around the world. Many factors, including changes in job responsibilities, sick friends or family members, fear of illness, and general uncertainty about the future, have contributed to this decline.

From lack of control to chronic zoom fatigue, the causes of these mental health changes have been documented. But what about the mental and neurological health of those who actually contract the disease? This is where the broader psychological impact of COVID becomes a bit tricky.

Shaheen E. Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN, a neurologist and senior vice president of Click Therapeutics R&D, explained: “COVID-19 has caused severe damage to our body, including our brain. The conclusion is whether the brain directly infects or affects the whole body. Inflammation responds.

“The infection of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients is related to changes in mental status, seizures and strokes. Even after the infection is stabilized and cleared, the residual symptoms still exist in the form of persistent brain fog, dizziness and headaches, the so-called COVID long-distance transporters, “Lakhan said.

Cognitive impact

It is well known that COVID-19 can damage the respiratory system, but studies have shown that the nervous system can also be affected, which may have long-lasting neurological consequences. A study showed that 42% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had neurological symptoms at the time of onset, and 82% of patients had neurological symptoms overall. Nearly 32% of people have cognitive impairment (encephalopathy).

Although the causes of dysfunction vary, there is always the possibility of long-term complications because the brain damage observed in COVID-19 survivors has led to cognitive, behavioral, and psychological changes. Hypoxia and encephalitis or brain swelling seem to be the two main causes of this damage, and may eventually lead to stroke.

Stroke can cause serious daily complications. Those who have a stroke have a higher risk of dementia later in life.

Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN

Inpatients infected with COVID-19 are associated with changes in mental status, seizures and strokes. In addition, even after the infection has stabilized and cleared, in the so-called COVID long-distance transport vehicle, the residual symptoms will still exist in the form of persistent brain fog, dizziness and headache.

— Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN

The insidious side of these potential complications is that they are not always related to the severity of the disease. For example, Chinese researchers evaluated patients who appeared to have recovered from the virus and found that cognitive problems such as long-term difficulty concentrating are common.

Mental health impact

Another long-term consideration is mental health. Patients in the intensive care unit often face high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Some experts worry that the same will happen to survivors of COVID-19. Some studies have shown that these problems have a high prevalence among COVID-19 survivors and may have long-term effects.

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, PhD in education, comprehensive and pediatric mental health expert and author Remote treatment kit, Said: “Almost every member of our international community feels pressure, at a loss, and uncertainty. People are taxed, and as individuals work hard to cope with the pressure, courtesy and courtesy are generally lost.”

The mental health of those driving the pandemic has received most attention, and researchers are committed to learning more about the physical effects of people infected with COVID-19. However, it is important to consider how infection and survival of a new type of virus affect a person’s mental health, especially considering the possible link between the two.

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Doctor of Education

Infection with COVID will not only affect our body, but also us [also] Affect our mental health in many ways. The pressure of being infected with COVID and the ensuing isolation can itself be very harmful.

— Roseann Capanna-Hodge, EdD

“Infection with COVID will not only affect our bodies, but it will also affect us [also] Affect our mental health in many ways. The loss caused by stress and the subsequent isolation of COVID infection itself may be very harmful, but due to inflammation of the brain and body, COVID will also have a lingering effect, which will have a detrimental effect on cognitive and psychological functions. Influence,” Capana said-Hodge.

We still know a lot about this disease, but the severity of the sequelae depends on the individual’s COVID-19 case. Dealing with serious diseases, especially for a long period of time, will have a devastating impact on the individual afterwards.

Capanna-Hodge said: “Of course, the greater the severity of the COVID, the greater the psychological and physical impact. COVID not only causes harm to the body, but we also see that some people are in contact with each other for weeks or even months after their physical recovery. Emotions, anxiety, and cognitive function struggle. Any infectious disease can affect the brain and interfere with word retrieval, the way you cope with stress, and even affect a person’s personality.”

The importance of support systems

Similar to other difficult and potentially traumatic situations, different reactions are normal. Experiencing potentially fatal diseases, especially when they are severely ill or require hospitalization, can make some people regain their sense of life, while others may find it difficult to cope.

Capanna-Hodge said: “Some COVID survivors are grateful after going through the storm; others may be overwhelmed by different feelings and have difficulty returning to daily life. Some survivors will be avoided by fearful people.”

Experts recommend a safety plan and intentionally integrate yourself with the community during this time, even if you have to do it in a virtual way. This advice applies to those who have survived this time and those who are directly dealing with the virus. Due to the collective fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the possibility of isolation increases.

Isolation is directly related to depression, It is important to fight these potential results before they cause more damage. Capanna-Hodge said: “Anxiety, depression, and isolation are issues that all of us face, but those who have survived COVID may experience these issues at a higher rate, especially when they are avoided by the community.”

Once you are clinically cleared, make a plan to breathe fresh air and come into contact with others in a safe way. This may seem like an outdoor gathering to keep social distance, or it may be a Zoom happy hour repeated with a group of close friends. Illness can provide a simple reason for self-isolation, but your health will benefit from conscious socialization.

What this means to you

Everyone needs to realize that for various reasons, for most people, this period of time is unprecedented and extremely stressful. COVID-19 can cause devastating physical symptoms, but handling and surviving the virus can also negatively affect mental health.

No matter what your situation is, you can get support. Remote treatment is widely available, and this, together with the support system that contacts you, can help you through this time.

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.