Learn About the Cognitive Symptoms of Long COVID and How To Repair Your Brain
What is Long COVID?
COVID-19 has proven to be more than just a respiratory disease. As the disease spread rapidly across the globe, evidence began to show that the infection can impact multiple systems in the human body. It also became clear that the disease’s impact can last far beyond the initial time of infection. Currently, estimates suggest that up to 25% of individuals who have been infected by COVID-19 will have some persistent symptoms for at least 6 months, cognitive problems being one of the most commonly reported symptoms. This emerging chronic illness is most often referred to as Long COVID.
Unfortunately, awareness about Long COVID has not yet spread as rapidly as the disease itself. As a result, many individuals have encountered difficulty when seeking help for Long COVID. With such limited knowledge and resources available, not to mention the strain put on healthcare workers and systems everywhere during the pandemic, many healthcare providers have been unable to provide effective treatment options for this new, largely unstudied condition.
If you, or a loved one, think that you may be experiencing Long COVID, the following definition from the World Health Organization may help:
“Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.”
The difficulty in diagnosing Long COVID lies with the newness of the disease as well as the variability. Some people who have mild cases of COVID-19 or are asymptomatic don’t realize they are sick at the time of initial infection. Additionally, symptoms of Long COVID are very wide-ranging and will look different depending on the individual.
Long COVID and Cognitive Dysfunction
A growing number of individuals, around 70% of Long COVID patients, are experiencing one or more long-lasting neurological symptoms of Long COVID or “Long COVID brain fog.” It has become a serious health concern, affecting people’s ability to perform their usual responsibilities at work, carry out their regular daily tasks, and participate in the activities they care about. In one research study, “86% of participants indicated that cognitive dysfunction and/or memory impairment was impacting their ability to work, with nearly 30% reporting being “severely unable to work” and only 27% working as many hours as they had pre-COVID-19.”
Cognitive symptoms of Long COVID can include:
Inability to concentrate
Lack of mental clarity
Slower information processing
Long COVID Recovery and BEARS
As the evidence surrounding Long COVID emerged, it became apparent that the neurological symptoms of Long COVID overlap significantly with what is experienced by many brain injury survivors. With effective treatment options being practically non-existent, Shaun Porter, MSc spearheaded an initiative at ABI Wellness to investigate the effectiveness of applying our cognitive recovery program, the Brain Enhance and Recovery System (BEARS), to Long COVID brain fog and begin offering treatment to the many individuals seeking help.
Licensed healthcare providers trained specifically in treating cognitive impairment now offer the BEARS program as an option to individuals with Long COVID. The assessment and treatment program focuses on addressing specific cognitive challenges experienced by each individual. Neuroplasticity-based cognitive exercises, combined with mindfulness practice, rebuild the brain’s capacity to perform necessary functions. The goal is to help clients regain the abilities they’ve lost rather than learn to live within their newly limited capabilities.
So far, the results speak for themselves.
Past and current BEARS clients have reported:
“My cognition has improved. I’m more present in my daily life… Basically, I’ve returned to my pre-COVID lifestyle.”
“My first session, I felt like my brain was doing curls. My brain actually felt like it got tired, and it was great. For me, it’s the only thing that got deep into the brain. I actually feel like my processing has improved.”
“I’ve found it’s made a difference! My headaches are nowhere near as bad [and] my thinking is not as muddled now.”
It’s safe to say that almost everyone has been exposed to or infected by COVID-19 at some point throughout the pandemic. If you guess that you may be experiencing symptoms of Long COVID, we encourage you to reach out for help. Self-advocacy may be essential in receiving the care you need at this stage of Long COVID awareness. Talk to your current healthcare provider about the symptoms you’re experiencing, learn more about Long COVID, or contact us to discuss how a BEARS can be your solution. BEARS virtual treatment options are available to help you no matter where you live. Learn more about our center’s BEARS program.