COVID-19 News: German Study Shows That COVID-19 Is Also Triggering The New Onset Of Psychiatric Disorders In Many!
: The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on our world, not only in terms of public health but also in the realm of mental health. While much attention has been focused on the physical toll of the virus, a German study conducted during the second wave of the pandemic has unveiled a startling revelation: SARS-CoV-2 infections may be a trigger for the new onset of psychiatric disorders. This retrospective cross-sectional study, conducted at the Psychiatric University Clinic of Charité at St. Hedwig Hospital in Berlin, Germany, has important implications for our understanding of the pandemic's impact on mental health.
The Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health
The pandemic's impact on mental health has been widely studied and well-documented. Online questionnaires and surveys, case studies and COVID-19 News
reports have consistently shown a significant deterioration in the mental health of the general population since the onset of the pandemic. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and acute stress have become all too common.
Interestingly, there was a notable decline in psychiatric Emergency Department (pED) presentations during the early stages of the pandemic. Fear of contracting the virus, concerns about overwhelming the healthcare system, and government pleas to stay at home contributed to this decrease. However, it is important to note that when patients did seek help, their conditions often appeared to be more severe. This raises the possibility that the burden of psychiatric disorders was shifting from outpatient care to crisis intervention.
The Importance of Investigating New-Onset Psychiatric Disorders
Mental disorders have been recognized as a leading cause of disability in recent years, with a substantial impact on individuals, healthcare systems, and economies. Therefore, investigating the occurrence of new-onset psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic is of utmost importance, as it could potentially lead to a sustained increase in the burden of these disorders.
Most studies have primarily focused on post-COVID-19 psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis that often follow a COVID-19 infection. These conditions can result from the body's immune response to the virus or even direct viral infections of the central nervous system. However, the study in question delves into the indirect effects of the pandemic on new-onset psychiatric disorders. These indirect effects could be attributed to factors like the fear of COVID-19 infection, social isolation during lockdowns, disruptions in daily routines, and financial insecurity. Additionally, changes in medical care, such as reduced access to outpatient psychiatric and psychotherapeutic services during the pandemic, could have played a significant role in increasing new-onset psychiatric disorders.
Studies on new-onset psychiatric disorders resulting from the indirect effects of the pandemic are relatively scarce. A study conducted in Italy found that a substantial percentage of participants met the criteria for at least one new-onset psychiatric disorder during the first and second waves of the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic times. A study from Hannover, Germany, noted an increase in treatment-naive patients with neurotic, stress-related, and somatoform disorders during the early stages of the pandemic. A longitudinal comparative study from Israel rev
ealed a significant increase in new-onset psychosis or mania in pED presentations during the first wave of the pandemic.
The Study: Investigating New-Onset Psychiatric Disorders
The study in question sought to investigate the incidence of new-onset psychiatric diagnoses and contributing factors among patients presenting at a major psychiatric Emergency Department in Berlin during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study adopted a retrospective cross-sectional approach to examine the data.
This comprehensive study revealed several crucial findings:
-Consistent Number of Cases
: Unlike many previous studies that observed a decrease in psychiatric presentations during the early stages of the pandemic, this study reported a consistent number of cases in both the pandemic period and the control period. The reason for this deviation might be attributed to local variations and the later observation period in this study.
-Increase in New-Onset Diagnoses
: The study found that more patients were presenting with new-onset psychiatric diagnoses during the COVID-19 period compared to the control period. There was a significant increase in the new-onset of substance use disorders, depressive disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders, and anxiety disorders.
: Factors such as substance use disorders, depressive disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders, and being referred by the police predicted pED presentations with new-onset diagnoses during the COVID-19 period.
Detailed Analysis of Diagnostic Subgroups
The study provides a detailed analysis of various diagnostic subgroups, shedding light on how each of these disorders was impacted by the pandemic:
-Substance Use Disorders
: New-onset substance use disorders increased by a staggering 192.5% during the COVID-19 period. The study reported an overall decrease in patients with substance use disorders during the early stages of the pandemic, but new-onset cases increased. This increase was partly attributed to a rise in acute alcohol intoxication, in line with global trends of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
: Depressive disorders increased by 115.8% during the COVID-19 period. Patients diagnosed with depression were three times more likely to experience a new-onset of the disorder. Job loss, living alone, and financial insecurity, which all increased during the pandemic, may have contributed to the rise in new-onset depression cases.
-Schizophrenia Spectrum and Psychotic Disorders
: There was a significant increase in new-onset schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders, with a rise of 113.3% during the COVID-19 period. In this diagnostic subgroup, the study also found more cases with signs of delusion during the pandemic.
: While fewer patients with anxiety disorders presented to the pED in general, patients with anxiety disorders showed an increase of 63.6% in new-onset cases during the COVID-19 period. This could be attributed to the general fear of the pandemic, which includes both the fear of COVID-19 infection and heightened social anxiety due to social distancing measures.
Increased Police Custody Attendance
Another significant finding of the study was the relative increase in patients attending police custody. High acuity cases were often linked to new-onset diagnoses during the COVID-19 period. This suggests that people may have delayed seeking help until their conditions became severe, potentially due to fears of contracting COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
No Clear Correlation with COVID-19 Incidence
Surprisingly, the study found no clear correlation between the number of new-onset psychiatric diagnoses and the 7-day incidence of COVID-19 cases in Berlin. This contradicts a study from Israel that reported a correlation between lockdown measures and an increase in new-onset psychosis and mania. The discrepancies may be due to differences in local lockdown measures and populations, highlighting the complex interplay of factors influencing mental health during the pandemic.
Indirect Effects of the Pandemic
While some studies have suggested a direct link between COVID-19 infections and new-onset psychiatric disorders, the current study emphasizes that the majority of new-onset cases are likely a result of the indirect effects of the pandemic. Factors like job loss, social isolation, and a decrease in familial relationships played a pivotal role in the increase of new-onset psychiatric disorders.
The German study conducted during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Berlin highlights a disturbing trend: the new onset of psychiatric disorders triggered by the indirect effects of the pandemic. Substance use disorders, depressive disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders, and anxiety disorders all saw significant increases in new-onset cases.
This research underscores the importance of addressing not only the physical consequences of the pandemic but also the hidden impact on mental health. Future pandemic control policies should take into account the unintended consequences of strict lockdown measures, job loss, social isolation, and changes in healthcare access. While the battle against COVID-19 continues, it is essential to recognize and address the mental health challenges that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, ensuring comprehensive care and support for those who are suffering.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Frontiers in Psychiatry.
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