How COVID Brain Fog Affects Communication and How to Stop It
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought on changes to many aspects of daily life, including how we communicate with one another. From mask-wearing to Zoom calls and social distancing, the way we communicate has changed. For those who are COVID long-haulers – people who experience symptoms long after the typical duration of the disease – these changes in communication could also be affected by a diagnosis of post-COVID “brain fog.”
Brain fog can be considered a collection of cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, slower thinking, general fatigue, loss of memory or reduced accuracy and sharpness. Each of these symptoms can affect a person’s language processing and speech, causing difficulty completing basic daily tasks as well as hindering strategic thinking and problem-solving.
Because COVID-19 is rapidly changing, scientists are still unclear on exactly how much the virus affects neurological function. What we do know is that even though COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disorder, it is known to affect many other bodily systems and organs. Scientists are still researching how COVID impacts the nervous system and the brain, helping us to better understand the causes and impacts of brain fog.
Our team of speech-language pathologists have seen brain fog manifest in COVID patients in several ways, including:
- A feeling of remembering -- then forgetting -- a word before getting it out of your mouth.
- Difficulty finding the right words to express oneself clearly.
- A feeling of knowing the right word, but not being able to think of it.
- Trouble carrying on conversations.
Attention and Focus
- Inability to focus either at work or at home, or sometimes both.
- Difficulty returning to work or completing tasks that were doable before COVID-19 infection.
- Inability to tune out the “background noise” of daily life.
- Suffering with shifts of attention, or a feeling of “zoning out.”
- Trouble remembering conversations with family and friends.
- Losing track of or forgetting what you’re in the middle of doing.
- Consistently losing personal items, such as keys or a cell phone.
Problem-Solving and Future Planning
- Forgetting plans or trouble following up on priorities.
- A feeling of not being able to “keep things straight” in the mind.
- Issues managing problems as they arise or feeling overwhelmed.
Many people begin to notice these changes around the time of diagnosis or onset of symptoms, but for some, these affects can appear several months after other COVID symptoms have cleared up.
What can you do?
Changes in language, wordfinding and metal processing affect all aspects of a person’s home and work life. Clearing your mind and getting rid of brain fog can seem overwhelming to tackle alone. That’s where our team of certified speech-language pathologists come in: Ochsner’s speech therapists have been working with patients affected by post-COVID brain fog throughout the pandemic and have forged a pathway for rehabilitation.
To develop a personal plan of care, a speech-language pathologist will meet with you to better understand the impact of brain fog on your daily life and to administer a cognitive assessment that helps identify issues with attention, memory, problem solving and language.
If you think you may be experiencing brain fog as a result of COVID-19, talk to your provider and learn more about post-COVID therapy here.
Therapeutic treatment will address your individual challenges and focus on both rehabilitating your former mental clarity and compensating for changes due to brain fog. Your speech therapist will work with you on fatigue management and lead you through exercises to improve your language processing and speech. In sessions, you will also learn how to make small modification to your routine or your environment to help improve day-to-day functioning.
Finally, our speech therapists focus on “metacognition” skills, which means learning to think about your thinking. Metacognition helps patients to monitor their thoughts and be more aware of brain processing, allowing them to take charge of banishing their brain fog and stepping back into life with a clear mind.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Oct. 4, 2021 and has since been updated.