Briton suffers ‘Brexit psychosis’

Man who voted Remain identified as first victim of Brexit-related mental health condition

Pro and anti-Brexit supporters hold signs and flags while demonstrating outside the Parliament in London, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Lawmakers in Britain are returning to the House of Commons on Wednesday, following a Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had acted illegally by suspending Parliament. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

A man aged in his 40s has become the first person in the United Kingdom diagnosed with acute psychosis triggered by Brexit.

The Remain voter was taken to hospital by paramedics three weeks after the UK decided in a referendum by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union.

The health of the man, who was not named, deteriorated rapidly after the June 2016 vote and he became paranoid that people were spying on him and was increasingly worried about racially motivated events.

He was confused, agitated and was not making sense. At the hospital, he tried to burrow through the floor to “get the hell out of this place”.

“Political events can be a source of significant psychological stress,” wrote Dr Mohammad Zia Ul Haq Katshu, of the University of Nottingham, in the British Medical Journal.

The man’s condition highlighted wider concerns over stress related to political events. After Brexit, prescriptions of antidepressant medicines continued to increase compared with other forms of drugs which went down, the report said.

Doctors have reported a similar case triggered by the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. Surveys in the United States following his 2016 election revealed that two-thirds of Americans identified the future the country as a significant source of stress.

The man cited in the BMJ article had spent three weeks following the 2016 referendum expressing his concerns on social media.

The man, who described his family as from a multicultural background, was taken to hospital after he started to throw things around. “During his stay on the psychiatric ward, he reported that he felt ashamed to be British,” the BMJ reported.

The man found it difficult to reconcile with political events swirling around him. He believed that presenters on radio talk shows knew what he was thinking.

“He said: ‘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’,” according to the report of the case.

The patient told researchers that while waiting in a hospital interview room, he believed that he was inside a tower block that was about to be destroyed in an attack similar to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The patient was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia-like psychotic disorder, a category of acute and transient psychotic disorder (ATPD) - the first case believed to have been triggered by Brexit. The illness is characterised by an acute onset of symptoms and a full recovery within three months.

He recovered completely after treatment with anti-psychotic drugs and was discharged from hospital after two weeks. He had experienced a similar, but less severe episode 13 years before linked to work-related stress.