People who have had COVID-19 are more likely to develop mental illness within 3 months

NOW: People who have had COVID-19 are more likely to develop mental illness within 3 months

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As Wisconsin continues to see record case numbers, there’s a study out that reveals one in five people who have recovered from COVID-19 were diagnosed with a mental illness within a three-month time frame.

Experts say the results of the study by The Lancet Psychiatry Journal are reliable given the size and sophistication. They say researchers looked at 69 million electronic health records and studied 62-thousand cases of people who have recovered from COVID-19.

“They looked at their medical records for two weeks all the way to three months after the diagnosis,” said Stephen Saunders, Ph.D., who serves as chair and a professor for Marquette University’s Department of Psychology.

Saunders says the results show people who recovered from COVID-19 were more likely to develop mental illness when compared to people recovering from other injuries, like a broken bone or a skin infection.

“It’s double the risk, twice the rate of new mental illnesses in those who’d had a diagnosis of COVID-19,” he added.

“It confirms some of the things that my psychiatrists and psychologists at the Medical College of Wisconsin have been experiencing with patients,” said Dr. Jon Lehrmann who practices psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Anxiety and depression were among the top mental health problems 20-percent of people who had COVID-19 developed.

“If they recover, they could experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, which is a serious anxiety disorder,” he added.

Experts also attribute mental illness development stemming from stress and losses.

“Those two factors by themselves can be triggers for development of mental illness,” said Dr. Lehrmann.

“Stress is having to go into isolation for most people,” Saunders said.

Dr. Lehrmann says scientists are still studying the long-term effects of the virus, and there may also be biological reasons as to why this is happening to people who have recovered.

“It also could have neurologic and psychiatric sequelae from the infection on the brain, too, that we don’t fully understand,” said Dr. Lehrmann.

Experts advise to stop absorbing negative information and try to focus on the positive, they say talking and socializing with others virtually or over the phone also works wonders.

“Physical distancing and not social distancing. We still need social support and so we need to support each other,” added Dr. Lehrmann.

“This is the best mental health care that you have, which is companionship of each other,” said Saunders.

Saunders says the study also found that people with pre-existing mental illness were nearly 70-percent more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without.

Share this article: