The unidentified middle-aged man was brought to hospital by paramedics three weeks after the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23, 2016, according to a case report published in the medical journal BMJ.
He was confused, agitated and said that he could hear voices, wrote Dr. Mohammad Zia Ul Haq Katshu, the specialist who treated the man and a clinical associate professor at Nottingham University’s Institute for Mental Health.
The patient was delusional and paranoid, thinking he was being spied on and people planned to kill him, the report said.
His wife told doctors that he had been struggling to deal with political events since the referendum, worrying about racially-motivated incidents and struggling to sleep, according to the release.
“As well as my own anxieties about Brexit, it was also a time when a friend of mine was experiencing immense anxiety about what was happening around him in the US and we were talking together on social media about racial issues,” the patient said, according to the case report.
Katshu believes political events can cause significant psychological stress, and those with a predisposition to mental illness are more likely to be affected in such circumstances.
The patient had suffered a psychotic episode related to work stress 13 years before, but this was much less severe and resolved within days.
He had also suffered work and family pressures which may have contributed to his state, the doctor wrote.
In this case, the patient was prescribed treatment for agitation and insomnia, but later required urgent hospital treatment after his condition worsened.
He was taken to a psychiatric unit and given a tranquilizer and an antipsychotic.
After two weeks he was discharged after making a full recovery. The patient had not had any more psychotic episodes as of June 2019.
While Katshu acknowledged this was only one case, he said that stressful life events are identified in up to 50% of patients diagnosed with an acute bout of psychosis.
He also cited surveys in the UK which show Brexit is a major source of anxiety among young people.
And researchers at King’s College London and Harvard University found that the number of antidepressants prescribed in England rose after the Brexit result.
They said this may be due to uncertainty over the future of the country and say more health services should be made available.
US surveys following the 2016 presidential elections also revealed that 66% were experiencing significant stress over the future of the country and 57% felt stressed by the existing political climate, the report in the BMJ noted.