First Known Case of Brexit-Triggered Psychosis Confirmed in Remain Voter

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 29: Anti Brexit demonstrators continue their protest outside the Houses of Parliament on March 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May is touring Britain to mark the one-year countdown of Britain's EU departure. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A 40-year-old Remain voter was confirmed as the first person medically recognised to have suffered from mental illness brought on by Brexit.

The man was admitted to an accident and emergency ward three weeks after the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union in “an acute psychotic state” and was detained under the Mental Health Act. He was reported to have been suffering from insomnia and paranoia and was hearing voices, according to an article written in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Dr Mohammad Zia Ul Haq Katshu, who treated the man, wrote“His mental health had deteriorated rapidly following the announcement of the results, with significant concerns about Brexit.

“He presented as agitated, confused and thought disordered. He had auditory hallucinations, and paranoid, referential, misidentification and bizarre delusions.”

Doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia-like Acute and Transient Psychotic Disorder (ATPD) and prescribed him the antipsychotic drug olanzapine. After two weeks in hospital, he “recovered completely”.

The patient had experienced a similar but milder incident 13 years earlier following significant work-related stress. He also said that during the recent episode he was experiencing “family pressures”. However, the doctor said that “Brexit appears to be the primary stressor”.

“Here, I report the first case of ATPD precipitated by Brexit,” Dr Katshu, clinical associate progressor at Nottingham University’s Institute for Mental Health, confirmed.

Further details in the report reveal that the patient “found it difficult to reconcile with the political events happening around him”. He also spent more time on social media sharing his thoughts.

He was then said to have become “increasingly worried about racial incidents”, lost sleep, demonstrated paranoia, and “became increasingly agitated at home and started throwing items around, leading to the attendance at the accident and emergency department”.

During his stay in the psychiatric unit, the man, who “described his family as ‘multicultural’”, said that he “reported that he felt ashamed to be British”.

“I was looking at the electoral map of voting for the EU. I am in a constituency that reflects an opinion that is not for me,” he had said.

At another point in his treatment, “he was agitated, perplexed and confused, attempting to dig the floor with his hands to ‘burrow’ through the floor to ‘get the hell out of this place’”.

The Times reports that two in five 18- to 30-year-olds polled by the Young Women’s Trust in 2017 had blamed Brexit for making them feel anxious. Research also showed that prescriptions for antidepressants had risen after the referendum.

Dr Katshu noted that while this had been the first case of Brexit-related psychosis, “a case of brief psychotic disorder precipitated by stress” associated with the election victory of President Donald J. Trump had been reported in the U.S. that same year.

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