By now you have seen that behavioral health needs have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve already talked about how substance use and mental health issues like anxiety and depression are on the rise.
These issues occur whether or not individuals were exposed to the novel coronavirus or developed COVID-19. Newer research, however, suggests a possible link between COVID-19 and later development of mental health symptoms.
A New York Times article has described cases of individuals who developed psychiatric symptoms for the first time after being diagnosed with COVID-19. One patient developed paranoia that her children would be kidnapped. Another began to experience visual hallucinations.
There are a relatively few number of these cases, but they highlight the complicated connection between COVID-19 and behavioral health. Here are some recent findings by researchers around the world.
The Lancet Examines Links Between COVID and Mental Healthcare
An editorial in an upcoming issue of The Lancet notes the ongoing need for high-quality information about the effects of both the virus and the measures used to fight it.
This article points out that one study of U.S. electronic health records found an increased incidence of a first-time psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis. However, the cause-and-effect connection was uncertain.
Another study, however, found that being recently diagnosed with a mental disorder was associated with an increased risk for COVID-19 infection. This association was exacerbated among African Americans and women. There was also a higher frequency of some adverse infection outcomes.
Possible Causes of Mental Health Issues After COVID-19
A group of authors from Spain have described in Psychiatry Research their observations of psychotic symptoms in COVID-19 patients. They noted that:
Psychotic symptoms in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were more frequent in patients who had been admitted to intensive-care units.
Some psychiatric symptoms may be linked to the medications used to treat COVID-19.
Many psychotic episodes were resolved with low doses of antipsychotics.
Brain Inflammation in COVID
Inflammation in the central nervous system has been proposed as one cause of psychiatric symptoms in COVID-19 patients. However, one study in Germany indicates that this has little effect.
This study looked at neuropathological features in the brains of 43 COVID-19 patients who died between March 13 and April 24, 2020, in Hamburg, Germany. The researchers found generally mild neuropathological changes in patients with COVID-19. The most common finding was pronounced neuroinflammatory changes in the brainstem. However, the presence of the novel coronavirus in the central nervous system was not associated with the severity of neuropathological changes.
As additional research and other information emerges, we can hope to learn more about the mental-health effects of COVID-19. In the meantime, behavioral health providers should be aware of this risk among the people they serve.
As many populations and individuals struggle with mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, behavioral health services remain critical. If you’re a behavioral health provider who has not yet launched telehealth services, or you are struggling with your current telehealth system, it’s not too late. BestNotes EHR solutions offer secure, HIPAA-compliant, integrated tools to make your telehealth program a success. Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn more!