Some COVID-19 patients around the globe have developed psychotic symptoms that range from delusions to vivid hallucinations – weeks after their illness broke out. In one case reported by the New York Times, a New York woman with no history of mental illness heard a voice telling her to kill herself first and then to murder her children. She had developed mild Covid-19 months earlier, and after seeing a number of similar occurrences, her doctor thought the psychosis could be a rare side effect of the virus.
To date, at least 42 cases of psychosis related to Covid-19 have been reported worldwide, according to a preprint of an article in the January 2021 issue of “Neuroscience Letters”, a scientific journal.
Experts hypothesized that these cases, as well as other neurological symptoms seen in Covid-19 patients, were related to the widespread inflammation in the body associated with the syndrome or to the by-products of the body’s immune response to the virus could.
“The massive inflammation caused by Covid-19 in individuals often leads to organ dysfunction from head to toe,” Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist and intensive care specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, told NewsABC.net. “The symptoms of the brain are usually rooted in delirium.”
“Delirium” is a collective medical term for neurological symptoms that range from severe psychosis to milder cognitive impairments. Galiatsatos added that these symptoms can appear long after the physical symptoms have subsided – even after the inflammation has subsided, the brain continues to recover from the injury.
Several cases confirmed worldwide
In a study by the KUNO Klinik St. Hedwig in Regensburg, researchers were able to prove that the coronavirus can also cause so-called neuroaxonal damage, as reported by the German Medical Journal. “That is why it is so important to carefully observe which neurological long-term consequences can persist after a Covid 19 infection,” said study director Sven Wellmann, chief physician for neonatology at the KUNO Klinik St. Hedwig.
Investigations of case reports by the British Medical Journal show an additional seven cases of psychosis related to Covid-19 since June. A survey of British doctors showed that of 125 reported Covid patients, around 31 percent had psychiatric abnormalities. Ten patients suffered from a new onset of psychosis, six from dementia-like symptoms – and four patients were diagnosed with an affective disorder, i.e. manic or depressive episodes.
In another study, researchers identified ten patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with “emerging psychosis” in the UK – among 153 people with neurological or psychiatric complications – and another study found ten such patients in a hospital in Spain.
Doctors in the United States have also described cases of coronavirus-associated psychosis. Alongside the mother, who heard a murderous voice, the New York Times’ Pam Belluck wrote about the case of a North Carolina woman who tried to push her children through a drive-through window to save them from an imaginary kidnapping . A construction worker from New York City attempted to strangle his cousin after delusional delusion that he was trying to murder him.
A report published in September by the National Library of Medicine describes another case where a middle-aged man became so paranoid that he attempted suicide after contracting the virus. Like the other patients, he had no history of mental illness.
In a publication, the head of forensic medicine at Charité Berlin, Michael Tsokos, describes eight suicides that are directly related to the corona pandemic. However, these were probably triggered by an uncontrollable fear of Covid-19 disease – not by the virus itself.
It is still unclear how Covid-19 causes neurological symptoms
Other documented brain-related symptoms of Covid-19 include stroke, difficulty concentrating, and loss of taste and smell. An analysis published in the Annals of Neurology in October found that more than 80 percent of hospitalized corona patients had neurological symptoms. Covid-19 represents a “global threat to the entire nervous system,” the authors write there.
It’s still unclear whether these symptoms are due to inflammation, as pulmonologist and intensive care specialist Panagis Galiatsatos suspects, or whether the virus infects the brain directly. Although scientists have already found the virus in the brain – usually in the form of smaller infections clustered around blood vessels – this is a rare occurrence. The more likely explanation, however, is an immune system-mediated response.
Anyone who has thoughts of suicide should turn to people they trust. A conversation often helps to dispel the thoughts, at least temporarily. Anyone who is open to other offers of help or is concerned about someone can turn to the telephone counseling: They offer quick help and refer doctors, advice centers or clinics on 0800/111 01 11.
This text has been partially translated from English. You can find the original here.