COVID-19 and psychosis risk: Real or delusional concern?

Cameron J. Watson*, Rhys H. Thomas, Tom Solomon, Benedict Daniel Michael, Timothy R. Nicholson, Thomas A. Pollak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Historical epidemiological perspectives from past pandemics and recent neurobiological evidence link infections and psychoses, leading to concerns that COVID-19 will present a significant risk for the development of psychosis. But are these concerns justified, or mere sensationalism? In this article we review the historical associations between viral infection and the immune system more broadly in the development of psychosis, before critically evaluating the current evidence pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 and risk of psychosis as an acute or post-infectious manifestation of COVID-19. We review the 42 cases of psychosis reported in infected patients to date, and discuss the potential implications of in utero infection on subsequent neurodevelopment and psychiatric risk. Finally, in the context of the wider neurological and psychiatric manifestations of COVID-19 and our current understanding of the aetiology of psychotic disorders, we evaluate possible neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms as well as the numerous challenges in ascribing a causal pathogenic role to the infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135491
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Volume741
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Encephalitis
  • Neurology
  • Neuropsychiatry
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychosis
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Schizophrenia

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