Post-traumatic stress, depression: half of former Covid-19 patients develop psychiatric disorders

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The coronavirus could leave many scars. In an opinion delivered in mid-July last, the National Academy of Medicine (ANM) listed the potential consequences of the disease. The patients most severely affected by Covid-19 could suffer from respiratory, cardiac, kidney, brain damage and other less specific disorders such as general malaise or muscle and joint pain.

But, the consequences are not only physical. People who have been affected by the virus could also suffer from mental health problems. According to the National Academy of Medicine (ANM), the psychological impact of the coronavirus epidemic is therefore not to be taken lightly and requires, in some people, follow-up and psychological support. The academy is not the only one to shed light on the psychological sequelae of Covid-19 in patients with the virus.

More than half of people with Covid-19 suffer from psychiatric disorders

A study carried out by the Italian hospital center San Raffaele, in Milan, shows for the first time the psychiatric repercussions that the disease can leave in recovered patients. According to the results of the study published on July 30 in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 55% of hospitalized patients would develop psychiatric disorders after discharge from hospital.

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To reach this conclusion, scientists followed 402 former Covid-19 patients treated or diagnosed in hospital (265 men and 137 women). They conducted interviews and asked patients to complete self-report questionnaires. The researchers then looked at the psychiatric symptoms present in the people studied. They found that 28% of recovered patients suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 31% depression, 42% anxiety, 20% obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 40% insomnia.

Women would be more affected by psychiatric disorders linked to Covid-19

According to the results of the study, women who contracted Covid-19 are less likely to die from the infection. However, they are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders, especially anxiety and depression. “This confirms what we already knew, namely the greater predisposition of women to develop anxiety-depressive disorders, and leads us to hypothesize that this greater vulnerability could also be due to the different functioning of the immune system in its innate and adaptive components “said Professor Francesco Benedetti, group leader of the Psychiatry and Psychobiology Research Unit at San Raffaele Hospital.

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Covid-19: the different factors that could be at the origin of psychiatric disorders

“It is clear that the inflammation caused by the disease could have psychiatric repercussions. Inflammatory reactions (which are also the consequence of viral infections) can be risk factors for various pathologies, in particular depression”, explained Professor Benedetti. But inflammation would not be the only one responsible for the development of psychiatric disorders in former patients. Psychiatric sequelae could also be caused by stressors, such as social isolation, fear of passing the virus on to others, or patient stigma, scientists say.

Scientists recommend evaluating and studying the mental health of former patients and further research on the potential link between coronavirus and psychiatric disorders, in order to diagnose and treat these pathologies as early as possible.

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