Teen Got Psychosis After COVID, Thought Government 'Coming for Him'

Teen Got Psychosis After COVID, Thought Government ‘Coming for Him’

  • A teen who thought the government was “coming for him” was hospitalized with COVID psychosis.
  • Family members noticed sudden changes in his behavior days after he was treated for COVID-19.
  • The teen was treated with antipsychotic drugs, and fully recovered.

A teen who was hospitalized for over 28 days because he developed psychosis after catching COVID-19 hallucinated and believed the government was “coming for him,” the doctors who treated him have said. 

Psychosis is when thoughts are so disturbed that people lose touch with reality. COVID-19 psychosis can occur in adults, most often after a severe infection, but there are fewer reports of it affecting children and teenagers, the doctors said in a case report published in the journal Pediatrics on June 28. We don’t know why COVID-19 causes psychosis in any age group. 

Before he had psychosis, the unnamed 16-year-old spent five days in hospital with COVID-19, and was discharged with antibiotics, the doctors from the UK said. 

According to the case report, the unvaccinated teen didn’t need oxygen therapy when he was admitted to hospital with COVID-19, which suggests his case wasn’t severe.

The teenager’s family noticed his behavior changed after he had COVID-19

Three days later, the teenager — who didn’t have a history of mental illness — was readmitted to hospital after family members noticed his behavior suddenly changed.

He more anxious, stopped making sense when he spoke, used “unusual gestures,” swore at his parents — which was out of character —  and stripped down to his underwear. He also stared at the ceiling, saying he could see messages, and said that he had “special powers.”

The doctors said the teen — who believed the government was “coming for him,” and that medical tests would kill him — was paranoid and hallucinating. He heard voices that told him: “Everyone around the world is saying not to let the doctors do the test.”

The boy also described a character from the computer game Fortnite, typed in the air, and mouthed inaudible words.

He told doctors he could see 8 to 12 people in the room they were in, and believed that he could read their minds. The doctors said he also thought about suicide. 

The doctors diagnosed him with acute psychosis caused by COVID-19 and detained him under a mental health law that means a patient can be involuntarily hospitalized for up to 28 days. He stayed past the 28 days voluntarily, and took antipsychotic medication during this time. 

The teen fully recovered after he started taking antipsychotics

When the teen was initially admitted to hospital, he thought staff on the ward were poisoning him, and, on one occasion, smashed the glass in a ward door in an attempt to leave, the doctors said.

However, after over 28 days on antipsychotics in hospital, his symptoms improved, and he was discharged home, where he continued taking the medications. Four months later, he had fully recovered and no longer required treatment, they said.

Dr. Jonathan Komisar, an internist and psychiatrist at Duke University Hospital who regularly treats patients with COVID psychosis, told BuzzFeed News that COVID-19 psychosis was a “very rare occurrence.” 

“You’re looking at a sliver of a slice of patients infected with COVID. But should everyone be worried that they’re gonna develop COVID psychosis following an infection? No,” he said, adding: “It’s certainly not so rare that you shouldn’t be keeping an open mind to the fact that stuff like this does happen.”

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