Possible psychiatric problem link with COVID-19

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 19:32:36-04

Delirium, confusion and agitation may be common in patients hospitalized with severe coronavirus infections, according to a study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry. However, researchers say long-term psychiatric problems after battling COVID-19 may not occur in the majority of patients.

Researchers looked at 72 different studies on two historical coronaviruses, Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), as well as current studies on COVID-19. They found about a third of patients infect with SARS or MERS experienced post traumatic stress disorder within about three years. Around 15 percent of patients were diagnosed with depression within about two years and 15 percent were diagnosed with anxiety at the one-year point.

While there is no evidence common mental health illnesses will persist in patients, researchers say doctors should watch out for signs of these disorders in the weeks and months following recovery from a severe COVID-19 infection. The research team cautioned that many of the studies they reviewed were "low or medium quality" and more data is needed on psychiatric symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Researchers say these psychiatric consequences could be due to several factors and the virus may directly infect the brain. Patients may feel the stigma of having been sick with the virus and social isolation could also hinder mental health.