Cases That Test Your Skills

New-onset psychosis while being treated for coronavirus

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OUTCOME Homeward-bound

By Day 18, Mr. G’s psychotic symptoms have significantly improved. He is able to rationally process information about his COVID-19 diagnosis and the recommended quarantine instructions he needs to follow after discharge. He is cleared by infection control and discharged home to return to living with his girlfriend.

Mr. G attends his follow-up psychiatric appointment remotely 2 weeks after discharge. He reports that since discharge, he has continued taking his prescribed haloperidol, 5 mg twice a day. He demonstrates improved insight into his medical condition, acknowledging his COVID-19–positive status, and confirms that he has been following quarantine instructions. He does not report ongoing auditory or visual hallucinations, and is no longer religiously preoccupied. He says he is looking forward to being medically cleared to return to work.

The authors’ observations

This case highlights the need for prospective, longitudinal screening and monitoring of neuropsychiatric symptoms as part of the public health response to COVID-19. The case also highlights the importance of careful monitoring for adverse events, including neuropsychiatric symptoms, during clinical trials that involve experimental treatments. The long-term prognosis for individuals such as Mr. G who develop neuropsychiatric symptoms during acute COVID-19 infection remains unknown. Similarly, subacute and chronic neuropsychiatric manifestations that may develop after resolution of acute COVID-19 infection are unknown at this time. However, we can learn from past viral pandemics and anticipate that neuropsychiatric sequelae are likely to occur and should be part of the public health response to the pandemic.

Bottom Line

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic provides multiple clinical challenges pertinent to psychiatry. Neuropsychiatric symptoms may manifest from delirium, viral infection, host immune response, or adverse reactions to experimental treatments. These potential neuropsychiatric symptoms may complicate medical treatment. They can also raise important ethical and legal considerations, such as weighing patient autonomy vs third-party responsibility to the public at large.

Related Resources

  • Ferrando SJ, Klepacz L, Lynch S, et al. COVID-19 psychosis: a potential new neuropsychiatric condition triggered by novel coronavirus infection and the inflammatory response? [published online May 19, 2020]. Psychosomatics. 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2020.05.012.
  • Vlessides M. COVID-19 and psychosis: is there a link? Medscape Medical News. Published May 8, 2020.

Drug Brand Names

Azithromycin • Zithromax
Ceftriaxone • Rocephin
Chloroquine • Aralen
Haloperidol • Haldol
Hydroxychloroquine • Plaquenil
Levofloxacin • Levaquin
Oseltamivir • Tamiflu

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