Mental disorders affect more than half of COVID-19 survivors: study

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TORONTO – An alarming new study suggests that the majority of people who recover from COVID-19 suffer from at least one mental disorder one month after treatment, raising serious concerns about the lingering psychological effects of the virus. The research, published online last week in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, screened 402 adult COVID-19 survivors and found 55% had a clinical score for at least one mental disorder.

Anxiety was the most common affliction, affecting 42% of affected patients, followed by insomnia (40%), depression (31%), post-traumatic stress disorder (28%) and symptoms obsessive-compulsive (20%). ).

One patient described how, three weeks after their treatment, they suffered terrible panic attacks in the middle of the night which made them feel “like I must die”.

“I stood there on the balcony for hours trying to get some fresh air in my lungs. It was terrible. The panic made me suffer more than the COVID, ”the patient wrote in a follow-up report.

The researchers interviewed 265 men and 137 women during follow-up appointments one month after hospitalization. Women were more likely than men to experience anxiety and depression, the researchers found, and patients with a history of psychiatric diagnosis had a higher rate of mental disorders.

Researchers call their findings “alarming” and recommend that survivors undergo a mental health assessment as part of their recovery. Additionally, they say more research on inflammatory biomarkers is needed to treat emerging psychiatric illnesses.

The high prevalence of mental health disorders in COVID-19 survivors may be due to inflammation, say the researchers, pointing to an earlier study suggesting that inflammation has a direct impact on several neurotransmitter systems in the brain responsible for the motivation, anxiety and excitement. Other factors may include traumatic memories of severe illness and social isolation during treatment, the researchers wrote.

Other research published earlier this month suggests that a significant proportion of patients with COVID-19 may experience delirium in the acute stage of the disease and that doctors should be aware of the possibility of long-term problems such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, post – traumatic stress disorder and rarer neuropsychiatric syndromes. However, the same research suggests that if COVID-19 follows a similar trajectory to SARS and MERS, then “most patients should recover without suffering from mental illness.”

Exposure to other coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS, has been linked to neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder in some patients. These conditions have been reported between one and 50 months after treatment.

Persistent physical symptoms that last for months have also been reported in some COVID-19 survivors. These self-describing “long-haulers” say they continue to suffer from a variety of chronic conditions including fatigue, chest pain, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, sinus problems, loss of blood. taste, shortness of breath and a dry cough.

Mental disorders are not currently on Health Canada’s list of 11 symptoms of COVID-19. However, numerous studies suggest that levels of anxiety and depression have increased among Canadians since the start of the pandemic.

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