(ORDO NEWS) — Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many experts have stated that there is a risk of an impending wave of mental disorders: they can be caused by stress due to being in isolation or the global economic crisis, or by a paranoid fear of infection. Also, do not forget about possible mental health damage among patients with severe Covid-19. Although scientists note that it is too early to draw conclusions about the possible long-term consequences of an outbreak of coronavirus, humanity can turn to the experience of “related” epidemics: SARS-2002-2003 caused by SARS-CoV coronavirus and the Middle East respiratory syndrome that arose in 2012 due to MERS-CoV.
And a systematic review of scholars from University and Royal Colleges of London, published in The Lancet, offers a first of its kind compilation of data on the psychiatric consequences of coronavirus infections, covering both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the current pandemic. The review was conducted on the basis of 72 studies in which a total of about 3.5 thousand patients aged 12 to 68 years from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, Saudi Arabia, France, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States participated. Studies that limited themselves to neurological complications without specific neuropsychiatric manifestations, and also studied the indirect effect of coronaviruses on the mental health of people who were not infected but maintained self-isolation or quarantine, were excluded from meta-analysis.
The results showed that a quarter of people hospitalized with any of the three types of coronavirus diseases, including Covid-19, were subject to confusion (a pathological condition caused by a violation of mental processes is expressed in disorientation of personality) and delirium. Most likely, scientists say, this was due to a lack of oxygen entering the brain or to a fever, but in some cases it could reflect a direct attack of the virus on the central nervous system.
Almost a third of the participants in the studies examined had depression or anxiety attacks, which tended to become easier after the patient underwent the acute phase of the disease. In general, while in hospitals with SARS or MERS, 42 of 129 patients (within one study) had a depressed state, 44 had memory impairment, and 52 had insomnia. Psychosis was registered in 13 of 1744 patients in the acute stage. After recovery and discharge from medical facilities, 35 out of 280 people were depressed, in another of the studies studied, insomnia – 34, irritability – 28, memory problems – 44, increased fatigue – 61 out of 316. In another study, post-traumatic memories were observed in 55 out of 181 patients with coronavirus infection.
A meta-analysis showed that after recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which later could not go away for three years, a total of 121 people out of 402 participants in four studies were exposed to depression – 77 out of 517 (out of five other works), anxiety – 42 out of 284 cases have been described in three studies). 446 of the 580 patients whose history was reviewed in six articles returned to work after 35.3 months. A year after recovery, approximately 15% of people complained of fatigue, mood swings and sleep disturbances.
As for the data on patients with Covid-19, scientists discovered delirium (a mental disorder characterized by dizziness, impaired attention, perception, thinking and emotions) in 26 of 40 patients who were in intensive care units, over 40 in 58 of them , altered state of consciousness – in 17 of 82 patients who subsequently died. At discharge, 15 (33%) of the 45 people studied in one work who had had Covid-19 had a dysregulation syndrome.
“If SARS-CoV-2 infection occurs similarly to SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, most patients should still recover without serious mental illness. However, SARS-CoV-2 can cause delusions in a significant proportion of patients in the acute stage. In addition, clinicians should be aware of the risk of depression, anxiety, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder and more rare neuropsychiatric syndromes in the long term, ”conclude the review.
Do not forget that another consequence of epidemics can be suicides. So, during the time of “SARS” in Hong Kong, there was a small wave of suicides among older people: presumably, this was a reflection of local cultural factors, such as the stigma and shame that some patients experienced, who believed that they were responsible for transmitting the infection to their loved ones. In addition, self-isolation and the uncertainty of the future will undoubtedly plunge the desperation of vulnerable people, so charitable and social organizations should focus on monitoring and mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
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