COVID-19 impact on brain could cause mental health problems

COVID-19 impact on brain could cause mental health problems
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A new review has found that a large portion of COVID-19 survivors will be affected by neuropsychiatric and cognitive complications, which could have major implications for the NHS.

The research review, led by Oxford Brookes University and a psychiatrist from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, evaluated published research to understand more about the possible impact of COVID-19 on the brain, and the extent to which people experience short and long-term mental health issues.

The review found a wide range of short-term neuropsychiatric problems. In one study, for example, 95% of clinically stable COVID-19 patients had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other studies found that between 17-42% of patients experienced affective disorders, such as depression.

Neuropsychiatric problems

The main short-term cognitive problems identified in the review were impaired attention and impaired memory, and the main long-term problems were found to be affective disorders, fatigue, impaired attention, and memory problems.

Dr Sanjay Kumar, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University said: “Understanding the neuropsychiatric and cognitive consequences of COVID-19 is important as millions of people have been affected by the virus, and many cases go undetected. These conditions affect people’s capacity to work effectively, drive, manage finances, make informed decisions, and participate in daily family activities.

“If even just a fraction of patients experience neuropsychiatric complications, the impact on public health services could be significant. Detailed cognitive evaluation and robust monitoring of patients should be considered to detect new neurological cases.

“This will also enable health care providers to plan adequate health care and resources and improve the quality of life for many COVID-19 survivors. These are emerging findings though, and we will learn much more as the research in the field progresses.”

Co-author Dr Tina Malhotra, Consultant Psychiatrist working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are already seeing an impact of COVID -19 on mental health. Patients are presenting with Long-COVID syndrome which includes fatigue, cognitive problems, and a range of psychiatric problems.

“It is estimated that these problems are experienced by one in five people who have had COVID. Management of such patients in long-COVID clinics should involve a multidisciplinary team including psychiatrists. NHS England has set out a recovery plan which includes setting up long-COVID clinics.”

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