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Doctors Start to See Psychosis in COVID Patients | Newser

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(Newser)

There’s evidence of more harm done by COVID-19: new-onset psychosis. Patients who have had the virus but have no history of mental illness are suffering from serious psychotic symptoms, including frightening and potentionally dangerous delusions. The number of affected patients is not high, the New York Times reports, but the problem is being reported around the world. “My guess is any place that is seeing COVID is probably seeing this,” said a doctor at Duke University Medical Center. Scattered cases of psychosis and mania have been linked to other viruses before, including SARS and MERS, as well as the flu of 1918. “We think that it’s not unique to COVID,” said a psychiatrist who suggested studying those cases might shed light on current ones. A study published on a National Institutes of Health site in September said the new coronavirus, like previous ones, can increase risk of suicidal behavior, and research has found COVID-19 patients more likely to develop mental illness.


A 42-year-old patient had visions of her children being murdered, and she said she’d thought up a plan to kill them herself. A 36-year-old tried to pass her children through the pick-up window at a fast-food restaurant to prevent their kidnapping. A 30-year-old man thought his cousin was going to kill him, so he tried to strangle the relative first. The cause of the episodes isn’t known, but it could be linked to the body’s immune response or surges of inflammation after infection. Most of the patients with such episodes didn’t become severely ill with the virus, per the Times. Among the unusual factors is the age of the patients; most are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, while schizophrenia usually begins with younger people and dementia with older. Also, some of the patients realized that something was wrong with them mentally. “People with psychosis don’t have an insight that they’ve lost touch with reality,” a doctor said, adding, “there are just so many unanswered questions.” (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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