As the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments scramble to flatten the curve of COVID-19, a one-size-fits-all approach has been taken with the general populace. For those in certain marginalized groups such as individuals with schizophrenia and other related disorders, these strategies may be less effective. Schizophrenia can be unpredictable in the best of times, but COVID-19 comes with a whole new set of risks.
Increased Risk and Poor Outcome
Schizophrenia and related disorders have symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized behavior, cognitive impairment, and poor insight. Furthermore, many diagnosed live in congregate housing or experience homelessness. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are less likely to adhere to protective measures due to the features of these conditions. Each of these factors make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Smoking is prevalent in 60% of those with schizophrenia, increasing the risk of complications should they develop COVID-19. Antipsychotic medications commonly prescribed, like clozapine, also appear to be linked to death from pneumonia in coronaviruses. Disparities in access to health care and co-existing chronic medical conditions also raise the risk of a poor outcome if infected.
Impacts from COVID-19 on Mental Heath
Experiencing a pandemic firsthand can negatively impact anyone’s mental health. Those with schizophrenia and other related disorders face much more extreme effects. The COVID-19 virus and treatment may exacerbate the features of these conditions. Being isolated and treatments for COVID, like steroids, have been associated with increased symptom severity and psychosis.
These populations also tend to have smaller social groups. While they may have an easier time social distancing, casual encounters at the pharmacy, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. are disrupted. Isolation and inability to access community resources carry the possibility of increased risk of aggression, and suicide.
Where we Go from Here
There is much still to be learned about the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health in general, but also specifically these vulnerable populations. Although it may be challenging to take an approach to amend protective measures for each exception, the real help will come from those that provide care to these patients. Keeping up with regular appointments (whether virtual or in-person), and augmenting care in between are some recommendations for ensuring continuity of care and that treatment remains intact.
Clinical research helps us learn more about schizophrenia and other related conditions. This knowledge is then used to improve the options for those diagnosed through research studies. Clinical research studies may be an option if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. To learn more about our upcoming schizophrenia studies, call (937) 424-1050, or visit us here.