Tuesday, October 26, 2021

We’ve All Heard of Quarantine Making People Crazy, But Can Covid Really Cause the Onset of Psychiatric Effects?

Many patients who have been infected by Covid-19 reported having prolonged side effects even after fully recovering from the virus. There have been many cases of people experiencing a loss of smell or intractable headaches long after their recovery. However, in recent studies it is thought that the extended side effects go beyond neurological impacts and can actually influence the patient on a psychiatric level. 

According to research done by UCSF, there was a five-month period where eighteen children and teenagers were hospitalized due to Covid-19. Three of the patients experienced a sudden onset of paranoia, delusions and “foggy brain”, all symptoms that they have never experienced prior to being diagnosed with the virus. Although it may seem like a coincidence, doctors and scientists working alongside the patients disagree. Researchers at UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the UCSF Department of Pediatrics have theorized that the antibodies that these patients developed in response to the virus is actually attacking their brain tissue rather than antigens from the virus. 


Doctors took samples of the cerebrospinal fluid from the patients and discovered that two of them contained antibodies indicating that SARS-CoV-2 may have invaded the central nervous system. The samples surprisingly contained anti-neural antibodies, which is indicative of a disfunction in the immune system. In response to the psychiatric symptoms and the discovery of anti-neural antibodies, the two patients were each treated with intravenous immunoglobulin. This is an immunomodulatory therapy that curbs inflammation in autoimmune disorders. The patients reported having more organized thoughts, decreased paranoia, and improved insight five days following the treatment. The third patient with psychiatric symptoms who did not test positive for antibodies and anti-neural antibodies in their cerebrospinal fluid were speculated to be caused from recreational drug use and they made a recovery with only psychiatric drugs.


Michael R Wilson, MD of the UCSF Department of Neurology stated that it cannot be ruled out whether or not immunotherapy played a role in the patients’ recovery. The passage of time as well as conjunction with other psychiatric medications could have influenced the recovery of the patient independently of the immunotherapy treatment. Samuel Pleasure, fellow MD of the same department also stated that it is completely unknown whether or not these patients were predisposed to neuropsychiatric illness or if COVID acted as an independent trigger for these neurological effects. All of the doctors involved agree that more research must be done to come to an affirmative correlation. However, studying this correlation in future patients seems unlikely due to the fact that it is rare that children with Covid are sick enough to warrant a lumbar puncture (the method used for extracting and examining cerebrospinal fluid). Because of this, the correlation between a Covid diagnosis and lasting psychiatric effects are likely to remain unknown.

Source: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/10/421666/3-teens-covid-19-developed-sudden-severe-psychiatric-symptoms-why


“Angela Baily” (4)


  1. Hi Angela,
    This is really interesting and kind of scary. Covid-19 is already something we are wary of and knowing that there is more side effects and consequences of getting COVID-19 is scary. I wonder if there is more data that correlates it.

  2. Hey Angela,
    Mental health came up a lot during the pandemic and it was great that we got people talking about it. This however, is really concerning especially since the patients are all around our age. I wonder if this is just a coincidence or if there is actually something at play here.

    - Hannah K

  3. This was a very interesting blog to read. I believe this kind of topic needs to be talked about more as I had not known that this was happening. Hopefully more studies go into this.

  4. I found this blog very interesting because I didn't know that COVID-19 would have these negative effects on mental health. I always assumed that the isolation is what caused the majority of mental health problems so it was really interesting to learn this new information

  5. Very interesting post! That's so scary! I'm glad to hear that they were able to find some sort of a cure for it though. I wonder what a person with "foggy brain" would act like? How would it impact their daily life?