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If You Have This "Horrifying" COVID Symptom, Call Your Doctor

Some patients with mild infections end up suffering severe mental complications.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Alek Korab
Woman having panic disorder in city.

Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and loss of sense of taste and smell are just a few of the symptoms most commonly reported by those infected with COVID-19. However, over the last year we have come to understand that the highly infectious virus can manifest itself in unusual ways, presenting itself in some rare and frightening ways. According to a new report, some people with zero history of mental illness who become infected with coronavirus are experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

1

One Woman Who Had COVID Saw "Horrifying" Things

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Dr. Hisam Goueli told the New York Times about a 42-year-old physical therapist and mother of four young children who visited his psychiatric hospital on Long Island over the summer with no history of psychiatric symptoms or any family history of mental illness. Sobbing, she told him that she "kept seeing her children, ages 2 to 10, being gruesomely murdered" adding that she had a plan to kill them. "It was like she was experiencing a movie, like 'Kill Bill,'" Dr. Goueli, a psychiatrist, said. "It's a horrifying thing that here's this well-accomplished woman and she's like 'I love my kids, and I don't know why I feel this way that I want to decapitate them,'" he said.

The only clue to her condition was that she had been infected with COVID-19 in the spring, experiencing only mild symptoms prior to the psychiatric symptoms months later. 

2

…And There Are More Patients With Similar Symptoms

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Dr. Goueli reveals that she was just the first of many patients he saw with similar symptoms. 

"But then we saw a second case, a third case and a fourth case, and we're like, 'There's something happening,'" he said. And, other doctors across the country have reported similar occurrences, including a 36-year-old who "believed her three children would be kidnapped and, to save them, tried to pass them through a fast-food restaurant's drive-through window," a 30-year-old construction worker in New York City "who became so delusional that he imagined his cousin was going to murder him, and, to protect himself, he tried to strangle his cousin in bed," and a 55-year-old woman in Britain had hallucinations of monkeys and a lion "and became convinced a family member had been replaced by an impostor."

There is additional scientific data backing up the link between the two, including a British study of neurological or psychiatric complications in 153 patients hospitalized with the virus, reporting 10 people who had "new-onset psychosis" and another finding 10 patients in one Spanish hospital suffering COVID-induced psychological symptoms.

3

Why Is This Happening?

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Experts believe that these sort of neurological manifestations of the virus could be due to the body's immune response to and subsequent inflammation caused by the virus. 

"Some of the neurotoxins that are reactions to immune activation can go to the brain, through the blood-brain barrier, and can induce this damage," Dr. Vilma Gabbay, a co-director of the Psychiatry Research Institute at Montefiore Einstein in the Bronx told the NYT.

Interestingly, most of these patients didn't suffer a severe initial infection. Dr. Goueli claims that his patients who experienced these types of psychological issues had no respiratory problems. However, they did report subtle neurological symptoms including hand tingling, vertigo, headaches or diminished smell. 

However, two weeks to several months later, he said they "develop this profound psychosis, which is really dangerous and scary to all of the people around them."

Also, they tend to be younger than those who fall into the high risk category, in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. "It's very rare for you to develop this type of psychosis in this age range," he pointed out. 

4

"Does This Eventually Go Away?"

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As for the repercussions, some of the people who develop this COVID-related psychosis require weeks of hospitalization, and many doctors struggle to treat them. While some are discharged in a week, others stay in the hospital for months. 

For example, the physical therapist with plans to murder her children "was getting worse" every day. "We tried probably eight different medicines," including antidepressants, antipsychotics and lithium. "She was so ill that we were considering electroconvulsive therapy for her because nothing was working." After four weeks they found a medication that worked, risperidone, and went home "95 percent perfect."

"We don't know what the natural course of this is," Dr. Goueli said. "Does this eventually go away? Do people get better? How long does that normally take? And are you then more prone to have other psychiatric issues as a result? There are just so many unanswered questions."

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci

5

How to Get Through This Pandemic Without Illness

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As for yourself, follow Dr. Anthony Fauci'sthe nation's leading infectious disease expert—fundamentals and help end this surge, no neither you or anyone else has to experience this torture—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.