Most of these people had no history of mental illness and became psychotic weeks after contracting the virus. Doctors were interviewed by NYT and reveal the strange cases they have treated
The symptoms of the coronavirus are known to millions of people around the world, however they have revealed that there are also psychiatric symptoms that could arise in patients who did not develop serious lung, heart or circulatory problems.
Dr. Hisam Goueli has reported in an interview for The New York Times, that this year in the summer he noticed his first patient who presented this type of symptoms after having contracted Covid-19.
Goueli explains that a 42-year-old patient came to the psychiatric hospital on Long Island. There, the doctor saw her sitting on a table in a room sobbing and describing a terrifying scene of her children, which the doctor describes as “it was as if she was watching a movie, like Kill Bill”, since the patient said that something made her feel like she wanted to kill her children.
The patient did not want to be interviewed, however Dr. Hisam Goueli spoke about her case and pointed out that she had been infected with the coronavirus in the spring, she had only experienced mild physical symptoms from the virus, however months later she heard voices that encouraged her to she would commit suicide and then tell him to murder her children.
After having this consultation, the doctor doubted the link he had with Covid-19, however he said that something strange was happening since he had four such cases and later confirmed that doctors were reporting several similar cases around the world.
A small number of Covid patients who had never experienced mental health problems are developing severe psychotic symptoms weeks after contracting the coronavirus.
In interviews and scientific articles, the doctors described:
A 36-year-old nursing home employee in North Carolina who became so paranoid that she believed her three children would be kidnapped and, to save them, tried to pass them through the window of a fast food restaurant.
A 30-year-old construction worker in New York City who became so delusional that he imagined his cousin was going to murder him and, to protect himself, tried to strangle his cousin in bed.
A 55-year-old woman in Britain had hallucinations of monkeys and a lion and became convinced that a family member had been replaced by an imposter.
Beyond individual reports, a British study of neurological or psychiatric complications in 153 hospitalized Covid-19 patients found that 10 people had “new-onset psychosis.”
Another study identified 10 of these patients in a hospital in Spain. And in social media groups related to Covid, medical professionals discuss how to see patients with similar symptoms in the Midwest, Great Plains and elsewhere.
“I suppose any place you see Covid will probably see this,” said Dr. Colin Smith of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, who helped treat the North Carolina woman.
He and other doctors said their patients were too fragile to be asked if they wanted to be interviewed for this article, but some, including the North Carolina woman, agreed to have their cases described in scientific papers.
Medical experts say they expect such extreme psychiatric dysfunction to affect only a small proportion of patients. But the cases are considered examples of another way that the Covid-19 disease process can affect mental health and brain function.
Experts increasingly believe that brain-related effects may be related to the body’s immune system response to the coronavirus and possibly to vascular problems or sudden swings in inflammation caused by the disease process.
The patients Dr. Goueli treated did not experience respiratory problems, but did experience subtle neurological symptoms such as tingling in the hands, vertigo, headaches, or decreased smell. Then, two weeks to several months later, he said, “they develop this deep psychosis, which is really dangerous and terrifying for everyone around them.”
It is also surprising that most of the patients were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
“It is very rare for you to develop this type of psychosis in this age range,” Dr. Goueli said, as these symptoms often accompany schizophrenia in young people or dementia in older patients. And some patients, like the physiotherapist who was brought to the hospital, understood that something was wrong, while, generally, “people with psychosis do not have the idea that they have lost contact with reality.”
It may depend on which region of the brain affects the immune response, Dr. Yolken said, adding that “some people have neurological symptoms, some people have psychiatric symptoms, and many people have a combination.”
Experts don’t know whether genetic makeup or perhaps an undetected predisposition to psychiatric illness puts some people at higher risk.
“We don’t know what the natural course of this is,” Dr. Goueli said. “Does this eventually go away? Do people improve? How long does that usually take? And so you are more likely to have other psychiatric problems as a result? There are so many unanswered questions.”