Is it Time to Add Schizophrenia to the List of Unusual “Long COVID” Symptoms?
While many cases of COVID-19 — especially among vaccinated — are mild, the virus’s potential to incapacitate or damage its victims cannot be underestimated. For one thing, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, can start literally brain damage. In addition to all other organs that can be affected by COVID, such as lungs, the heart and kidneys, the virus has found a way to worm its way into the skull. And the more we learn about this relationship, the more concerned we become.
A new study published in the journal Psychiatric research suggests that severe cases of COVID are associated with an 11 percent increased risk of schizophrenia, and the authors suggest that schizophrenia should probably be added to the growing constellation of symptoms known as long covid.
The good news is that this trend only applies to people who have had severe cases, so the infection itself doesn’t increase this risk, only hospitalization does. It’s also not clear if COVID is directly causing this increase. But it adds to a growing body of research linking COVID infection to serious mental disorders.
To find this link, an international trio of researchers analyzed two public genetic databases, one for mere COVID infections (122,000 cases) and another with infections requiring hospitalization (32,000 cases) and a combined 4.5 million controls. In order to better understand the cause-and-effect relationship, they applied the so-called method Mendelian randomizationa study design used since the early 90s that relies on principles pioneered by Gregor Mendel, known as the father of modern genetics.
The researchers used several different models to make sure their results were accurate.
Since the start of the pandemic, patients with schizophrenia have been reported to be more likely to die from COVID, and one study of New Yorkers in 2021 found that patients with schizophrenia were nearly three times more likely to die.
“Although viral infection may not increase the risk of schizophrenia, hospitalization for COVID-19 was associated with an 11 percent increased risk of schizophrenia,” they reported.
While an 11 percent increase may not seem like much, it’s a big deal when you consider how debilitating schizophrenia can be. This mental disorder is often misunderstood and stigmatizedeven by mental health professionals, no thanks misrepresentations in film and TV.
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The National Institute of Mental Health defines schizophrenia as experiencing a “distorted” reality punctuated by disturbed thoughts, hallucinations, and delusions. But that doesn’t make people more violent or prone to breaking the law. In fact, “people with schizophrenia are more likely to be hurt by others than those without the illness,” according to the NIMH.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has been reported that patients with schizophrenia are more likely to die from COVID, one study from 2021 New Yorkers who found that patients with schizophrenia were nearly three times more likely to die, second only to age as a risk factor for mortality. This data tracks available since the 80s and shows that people with schizophrenia are more prone to premature death.
Mental health disorders experienced a steep climb since the pandemic began, with an increase in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and more. Finding a link between COVID hospitalization and schizophrenia adds to the evidence of how serious this illness can be.
However, the researchers note several limitations to their research, including the use of genetic datasets from people of European descent only. They were also unable to account for environmental variables, “which are critical for both schizophrenia and COVID-19,” the authors report. But, as mentioned, they tried to control for it by using different models.
They conclude that schizophrenia should be investigated as a possible symptom long covid, a condition characterized by long-term health problems that last for months or even years. Many people with a long report of COVID”brain fog“or cognitive dysfunction, as well as extreme fatigue, headaches, palpitations, joint pain, and blood disorders. a recent study from Scotland compared 33,000 people who contracted COVID with 62,000 people who had never been infected and found that 1 in 20 people still had not recovered between six and 18 months after infection. Another 42 percent only partially recovered.
It may seem that COVID is associated with so many diseases that the question arises: Which health problem I can not do you have a link to the virus? But the reason COVID-10 seems so strong and widespread is because SARS-2 is so good at infecting so many different parts of the body. That’s because the receptor that SARS-2 uses to enter cells – called the ACE2 receptor – is found everywhere in our body, giving the virus many different ways to attack. This manifests itself as several types of disease.
Schizophrenia is still an undertreated condition that increases the risk of death and serious illness. A recent study in Molecular Psychiatry reviewed hospitalizations in France unrelated to COVID and found that “Patients with schizophrenia were less likely to be admitted for several somatic diseases (especially cancer, circulatory and digestive diseases, and stroke).”
It seems that COVID is no exception and more attention should be paid to this relationship.
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