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Coronavirus has befuddled the scientific community since it first appeared because it does not behave in the way a typical respiratory disease does – it attacks unpredictable areas of the body. Early on in the pandemic reports emerged that drew a link to blood clotting, for example. Increasingly the focus has been on another surprising area of attack – the brain.
New research has drawn a strong association between COVID-19 and receiving a psychiatric diagnosis.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found that 20 percent of COVID-19 patients receive a psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days.
In addition to increasing the risk of psychiatric symptoms, having a psychiatric disorder increases the chance of getting COVID-19, the research suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, represents the first large-scale evidence that COVID-19 survivors are at an increased risk of psychiatric disorders.
In the three months following testing positive for COVID-19, one in five survivors were found to get a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or insomnia, for the first time.
This is about twice as likely as for other groups of patients over the same period. A diagnosis of dementia may also be more likely.
COVID-19 was also associated with more new psychiatric diagnoses in people who already had a history of psychiatric problems.
Overall, almost 20 percent of people received a psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days of getting COVID-19.
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Paul Harrison, Professor of Psychiatry, University Oxford, who led the study, commented: “People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings in a large and detailed study show this to be likely.
“Services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases. We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.”
The researchers also found that people with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis were 65 percent more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without, even when the known risk factors for COVID-19 were taken into account.
Dr Max Taquet, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow, who conducted the analysis, added: “This finding was unexpected and needs investigation. In the meantime, having a psychiatric disorder should be added to the list of risk factors for COVID-19.”
What are the main symptoms associated with COVID-19?
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
“Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms,” explains the health body.
How should I respond?
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), UK health advice says get a test as soon as possible.
You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result. Only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.
According to the NHS, how long you need to self-isolate depends on if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) or you’ve been in close contact with someone who does.
Self-isolate for at least 10 days if:
- You have symptoms of coronavirus and you tested positive or did not have a test
- You tested positive but have not had symptoms.
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