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Long COVID Patients at Greater Risk for Anxiety and PTSD New Study Finds

One in Three Suffered Clinically Significant Anxiety and 29 Percent Met the Criteria for PTSD

November 08, 2023
Stephen Ferrando, M.D., photo of man with glasses in brown blazer with blue shirt and tie
Stephen Ferrando, M.D. was lead author on the study

“We found substantial psychiatric impact after acute COVID-19, with one in three suffering clinically significant anxiety months later and 29 percent meeting the criteria for PTSD,”  said Stephen Ferrando, M.D., the Har Esh Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and lead author of the study. 

For the study, the researchers conducted in-person, detailed neuropsychiatric assessments, comparing individuals with anxiety and PTSD across sociodemographic, medical, psychiatric and neurocognitive domains. Nervousness and excessive worry were the most prominent anxiety symptoms, while changes in mood, cognition and avoidance were most frequent in PTSD.

“Anxiety was significantly more prevalent in women in the study and a prior history of psychiatric treatment was a strong predictor of anxiety and/or PTSD post-COVID-19,” said Dr. Ferrando.

The study underscores the need for further mental health screening and support. “Based on our findings, screening patients at the time of acute illness, including validated assessments and careful attention to prior psychiatric history, is essential to identifying patients at risk for the continuation or development of anxiety and PTSD after COVID-19 illness.”

Additional researchers on the study included Sean Lynch, M.D. ’21; Rhea Dornbush, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurology; Sivan Shahar, M.D. ’22; and Lidia Klepacz, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.