Coronavirus Affecting Stabilized Psychotic Patients
Many psychotic patients who were previously stabilized on their medications are beginning to decompensate from the coronavirus. It’s not necessarily that they are becoming exposed to it. It has more to do with them watching the news at home which is causing them to become worried and paranoid that they will get it. Some actually develop symptoms of COVID-19 and stop taking their medications, wrongfully concluding that their medications are causing the symptoms. This is schizophrenia gone wild.
Psychotic patients have a very fragile line of stability that they often walk on. Things such as stopping medications, environmental stressors, changes in their lifestyle or relationship disputes can be enough to put them over the edge and cause them to decompensate. When they do decompensate, it’s very obvious to family members; this is not a small and irrelevant change in behavior.
They will start to display odd or unusual behavior such as:
- Believing that their deceased parents are calling them from the window
- Shouting and arguing with loved ones
- Making verbal and even physical threats
- Calling random people at 2 am
- Becoming catatonic and remaining mute for long periods of time
. . . and the list goes on. These are not behaviors that all patients experience; it was just a list provided for you to get an idea. When a schizophrenic patient decompensates, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily start to hear voices in their head or see things that aren’t there. It can simply mean that their behavior and thought process are disorganized. They may continuously shift positions in bed, flop their hands, ask if the apple juice on the table is alright in that position and even claim that it’s hot outside at the beginning of April in New York City.
It’s really sad to observe and talk to decompensated schizophrenics because you get a glimpse into their world and how much different their behavior is compared to people who don’t have a mental illness. Perhaps in their eyes they are not suffering but in ours they clearly are; they cannot function in society when they are decompensated. That’s why they’re in the hospital in the first place!
But keep in mind that even though a schizophrenic may not be currently at their baseline, does not mean that they cannot hold a conversation with you. Many can hold fairly normal conversations but they may make odd remarks. They’ll usually be able to answer all of your questions and many remain calm and pleasant during an interview. Just because a person has the diagnosis of “schizophrenia” does not mean that they cannot hold a normal conversation with you.
Schizophrenics are actually pretty cool!
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