This article titled, One in 5 COVID-19 Patients Develop Mental Illness Within 90 Days-Study from Reuters UK is accurate. At least, I think you’ve all witnessed my journey and transparency as I’ve journaled about the PTSD that comes with having survived a severe case of COVID-19.
According to this study, at least 90% of all covid survivors develop extreme anxiety, depression and insomnia. I’ve heard similar numbers quoted by my doctors at Stanford when we’ve approached the topic. Some of the anxiety, depression and insomnia is from the PTSD of almost dying—imagine feeling like you’re experiencing prolonged drowning for days. That’s what it was like not being able to breathe with COVID-19.
But here’s the shocker us non neurologist’s need to brace for: having Covid, or a virus like it, literally can rewrite the brain. The development of psychological issues after a virus like COVID-19 is because covid literally rewrites the chemistry in your body and brain.
During COVID-19, patients experience a surge of fight of flight hormones. After recovering, this surge doesn’t go away. Fight or flight remains rewired in the body and in the brain. In functional scans of the brain, neurologists can actually seen that the parts of the brain that control fight or flight have actually increased in size. How is that for evolutionary response to surviving a pandemic? Because of these literal changes–physically, chemically and functionally–insomnia, hypertension, anxiety and extreme depression are side effects begin to set in.
The surviving patient unfortunately has no idea that their brain has literally changed, they way that they think has changed and they are left in a state of confusion which only compounds their depression and anxiety. This is another reason why we need healthcare to include unlimited mental healthcare. Think of the sheer number of people that were affected by COVID-19 that will need both neurological and psychological health care because of LITERAL physical and chemical changes this virus has done to their brains that effects their mental health and the way they have thought and processed information for their whole lives? Pardon my French, but that is going to f*ck people up. We need better healthcare, and we need it now.