Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, many case reports and case series dealt with new-onset psychotic disorders in patients either infected with SARS-CoV-2 or thematically linked to the pandemic, but without an infection. Our aim was to provide a comprehensive collection of these reports to illustrate the nature of these psychoses.
We conducted a literature search in MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, using search terms regarding first-episode psychotic disorders in the context of corona.
96 case reports or case series covering 146 patients (62 without and 84 with SARS-CoV-2 infection) were found. Compared to patients without infection, patients with infection showed significantly more often visual hallucinations (28.6% vs 8.1%), confusion (36.9% vs 11.3%), an acute onset of illness (88.5% vs 59.6%) and less often depression (13.1% vs 35.5%) and a delusional content related to the pandemic (29.5% vs 78.3%). Both groups had an equally favourable outcome with a duration of psychosis ≤2 weeks in half and full remission in two-thirds of patients. In patients with infection, signs of inflammation were reported in 78.3% and increased CRP in 58.6%. While reports on patients with infection are continuously published, no report about patients without infection was found after July 2020.
Cases without infection were considered reactive and originated all from the first wave of the corona pandemic. In cases with infection, inflammation was considered as the main pathogenetic factor but was not found in all patients. Diagnosis was impeded by the overlap of psychosis with delirium.