The case of a man with no history of mental illness who tries to take his own life after the development of COVID-19 raises questions about the possible psychiatric effects of the disease, according to doctors.
The unnamed 37-year-old mental health nurse in the UK was taken to hospital after attempting to end his life and suffering from psychosis. According to the case study published in BMJ Case Reports, the man had no significant history of physical or mental illness. The patient, who belonged to the black ethnic group, was married, had two small children and had lived in the United Kingdom for several years.
Before the incident, he had frequent coronavirus symptoms over a period of five days, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and body aches. He also suffered from severe insomnia.
The facility where the man worked was severely affected by coronavirus and a number of patients had died of COVID-19. The patient later told his doctors that he was studying Bible passages at the time, thinking that they were related to events in his life.
After his shortness of breath worsened, an ambulance was called to his home, but the doctors concluded that he did not need hospital treatment and advised him to isolate himself further at home.
Later that night, his family noticed that he was beginning to act confused and that he was behaving “bizarrely. He said he had seen and heard the devil and was reacting to hallucinations.
Overnight he became more and more anxious and consumed with fear that he might infect his family. Around 4 a.m. he started to clear out the shed in his garden so that he could be separated from his children.
Still concerned about his breathing, the man visited an emergency room at his local hospital in the morning, but tests showed that he did not need to be hospitalized. His family said they were concerned about his mental health, but his psychiatric health was not assessed.
After he went home, he went to the toilet and said he would wash to prevent his family members from becoming infected. About 20 minutes later, his wife heard loud noises coming from the toilet and realized that he had hurt himself in a way that indicated he was trying to end his life.
When the first responders arrived at the man’s apartment, he told them, “That’s not me. He was taken to a local trauma center.
Chest scans at the hospital showed that he had symptoms that were observed in people with moderate COVID-19.
The team concluded that a number of factors contributed to the deterioration of the man’s mental health: he was infected with the corona virus and suffered from severe insomnia as well as stress and worry.
At the hospital, the patient said he was surprised that he had tried to hurt himself, denied that he was suicidal and said he was desperate to recover and see his family.
The man struggled to remember what happened before he was hospitalized, but said he remembered feeling extremely worried about the coronavirus, suffering from insomnia and studying religion.
According to the team, he was able to recover physically and mentally.
The co-author of the case study, Dr. George Gillett of Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School in the United Kingdom, told Washington Newsday that the man’s story was important because it contributed to a series of reports of COVID-19 patients with “profound” psychiatric disorders.
“It is important not to jump to any hasty conclusions about what caused the deterioration in his mental health, but the case underscores that the possible psychiatric consequences of the biological and social factors associated with COVID-19 deserve further research,” Gillett said.
Gillett said that anyone who has troubling thoughts or symptoms should seek medical attention, either through their family doctor by calling 911 (or 999 in the UK) or in an emergency by going to the emergency room.
“It should be emphasized that even if psychiatric experiences of this kind were to turn out to be related to COVID-19, they would be incredibly rare,” Gillett said. “Of the millions of COVID-19 cases worldwide, there are only a handful of case reports in the medical literature from patients who have experienced psychotic-like symptoms associated with COVID-19,” Gillett said.
If you have suicidal thoughts, confidential help is available free of charge from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please call 1-800-273-8255. The number is available 24 hours a day.