Is COVID-19 Associated With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Objective: To assess the prevalence of and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in patients with COVID-19.

Methods: We conducted a cohort study between March and May 2020 at the Lille University Hospital (France), including all patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Psychological distress symptoms were measured 3 weeks after onset of COVID-19 symptoms using the Impact of Event Scale-6 items (IES-6). The evaluation of PTSD symptoms using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) took place 1 month later. Bivariate analyses were performed to analyze the relationship between PCL-5 scores and the demographic and health variables. The significant variables were then introduced into a multivariable linear regression analysis to establish their relative contributions to the severity of PTSD symptoms.

Results: 180 patients were included in this study, and 138 patients completed the 2 evaluations. Among the 180 patients, 70.4% patients required hospitalization, and 30.7% were admitted to the intensive care unit. The prevalence of PTSD was 6.5%, and the predictive factors of PTSD included psychological distress at the onset of the illness and a stay in an intensive care unit.

Conclusions: The prevalence of PTSD in patients with COVID-19 is not as high as that reported among patients during previous epidemics. Initial psychological responses were predictive of a PTSD diagnosis, even though most patients showing acute psychological distress (33.5% of the sample) improved in the following weeks. PTSD symptoms also increased following a stay in an intensive care unit. Future studies should assess the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on patients’ mental health.

J Clin Psychiatry 2021;82(1):20m13641