Symptoms of Brain Fog

Typical symptoms/ Presentation

  • A lack of mental clarity, or a lingering mental fog;
  • Feeling fuzzy, sluggish and ‘out of it’;
  • Poor short term memory;
  • Feeling distracted with reduced attention, concentration and focus;
  • Slow processing of information (written and verbal);
  • Difficulty reading, writing and understanding information;
  • Difficulty making decisions;
  • Difficulty problem solving or multi-tasking;
  • Difficulty making plans;
  • Difficulties with word-finding or finding the correct word to use;
  • Difficulty selecting the right topic and not making sense during conversations; and
  • Feeling overwhelmed by simple tasks and having difficulty with routine situations.

How long will it last?

27%, or around one third, of those reporting Post-Covid ‘Brain Fog’ will experience a period of prolonged cognitive difficulty (Windsor, 2021), however, at present, there is no evidence to suggest that it is permanent.

Brain fog symptoms usually improve with time; particularly following lifestyle management advice; adopting healthy habits for recovery; and returning to a more normal lifestyle.

In a study of patients in Germany there was no evidence to indicate direct brain damage, or permanence, following infection with Covid-19 (Matschke et al, 2021). Any permanent long term effects usually stem from more critical illness – prolonged hospitalisation, multiple organ damage or intubation (1/3 of these patients recover fully) (Jaywant et al, 2021).

The brain can, however, take a long time to heal and the sooner management and rehabilitation begin, the better the outcome is likely to be.

 

Post-Covid related ‘Brain Fog’ symptoms should improve with:

  • Time
  • Rehabilitation
  • Management advice and strategies
  • Adoption of healthy lifestyle habits
  • Return to normal lifestyle and routine

Which cognitive processes can be affected by Brain Fog?

  • Attention – selective concentration;
  • Memory – recall of facts, procedures, and past & future events;
  • Perception – interpretation of sensory information;
  • Insight & judgment – understanding one’s own limitations & what they mean;
  • Organisation – arranging ideas in a useful order;
  • Orientation – knowing where, when, & who you are, as well as why you’re there;
  • Language – words for communication;
  • Processing speed – quick thinking & understanding;
  • Problem-solving – finding solutions to obstacles;
  • Reasoning – logically thinking through situations;
  • Executive functioning – making a plan, acting it out, evaluating success, & adjusting;
    and
  • Metacognition – thinking about how you think.

A problem with one or more cognitive functions can cause difficulty performing activities of daily living safely and efficiently, as well as being able to communicate effectively.