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New Article: COVID-19 and Catatonia: A Case Series and Systematic Review of Existing Literature

Dr. Nathan Scheiner, MD, MA - alum of the Center's MA program - recently published a paper on COVID-19 and Catatonia in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Scheiner, MD, MA, is in residency at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.

Background: Current observational literature on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on anxiety, depression, and sleep-disturbance among the public, healthcare workers, and COVID-19 patients. Case reports suggest catatonia and psychosis may be presenting symptoms of COVID-19 disease with a mechanism postulated to involve central nervous system changes in response to inflammation. There is a lack of robust evidence examining catatonia in this context. We sought to systematically review available case data and contextualize our findings.

Discussion: We present a brief review of six case reports detailing co-occurring catatonia and SARS-CoV-2 infection and one case report of catatonia attributed to the psychological stress of the COVID-19 pandemic in a patient without SARS-CoV-2 infection. We note one additional case of co-occurring catatonia and SARS-CoV-2 infection for which details are not available. COVID-19-associated catatonia may develop secondary to psychological and physical factors. Cases often report anxiety preceding catatonic symptoms. Developing evidence also suggests SARS-CoV-2 may act directly on the central nervous system or via a systemic inflammatory response. One of our cases featured significant anxiety preceding symptoms, and two had co-occurring elevated serum inflammatory markers. We suggest that clinicians should keep a high index of suspicion for both clinically significant anxiety disorders and catatonia.