Psychosis may be a new symptom of coronavirus, say researchers
The study conducted by researchers at Oregon and La Trobe University in Melbourne said that COVID-19 patients may develop psychosis -- hallucinations and hearing voices -- as a side-effect of their infection.
Researchers in Australia have revealed that some patients infected with the novel coronavirus may experience psychotic episodes.
COVID-19 symptoms usually differ in severity from person to person. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most infected people will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, but in others, the virus can prove severe and even deadly.
Several studies have also revealed not all symptoms -- such as “COVID toes”, pink eye, and certain skin conditions -- are respiratory.
The study conducted by researchers at Oregon and La Trobe University in Melbourne said that COVID-19 patients may develop psychosis as a side-effect of their infection.
As part of the study, the researchers looked at research on viruses such as MERS and SARS to examine if there was a connection on how these viruses might impact people with psychosis.
The findings suggested some coronavirus patients may experience psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices.
Dr Ellie Brown, co-lead author of the study, said: “COVID-19 is a very stressful experience for everyone, particularly those with complex mental health needs. We know that psychosis, and first episodes of psychosis, are commonly triggered by substantial psychosocial stresses.
“In the context of COVID-19, this could include stress relating to isolation and having to potentially remain within challenging family situations.”
According to Professor Richard Gray of La Trobe University, maintaining infection control procedures when people are psychotic is “challenging”.
“In order for them not to become potential transmitters of the virus, clinicians and service providers may benefit from specific infection control advice to mitigate any transmission risk.”
Brown says that psychotic symptoms need to be picked up quickly and effectively treated. “There is evidence that a low dose of antipsychotic medication is effective.”
“Clinicians also need to have good communication skills to talk to people experiencing psychosis who will – inevitably – be distressed and agitated. Clinicians may also benefit for taking advice from mental health specialists (psychiatrists, psychologists).”
WHAT IS PSYCHOSIS?
Psychosis is described by experts as losing contact with reality.
The NHS says: “This might involve seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear (hallucinations) and believing things that are not actually true (delusions).”
The two main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations -- where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that do not exist outside their mind, and delusions, where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others.
The researchers hope the findings of the study will spark further research into more severe mental health conditions like psychosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that COVID-19 symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.