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What makes brain fog so unforgiving (theatlantic.com)
78 points by occamschainsaw on Sept 12, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

This article leaves a bitter aftertaste.

The people the author chose to represent this issue all seem to come from high-powered high-earning careers. These same people tend to extoll the virtues of individual responsibility, of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. At the same time they say that their success is completely self-made and earned, that anyone who failed what they succeeded at just wasn't trying hard enough. Depression to them is just an excuse, or faked, or slightly worse sadness.

Yet here they are, commanding everyone else to immediately focus on this issue, because it affects them for a change.

The current mental illness problem, due to which countless potentially smart and loving people get ground away by their own minds? Who cares? Poverty, lack of financial security, and the resulting lower cognitive performance due to chronic anxiety? What a bunch of wusses!

All that stuff isn't really important. All that's important is that these people get their brain fog addressed, right now!

These people don't seem to realize that the clear mind and fast wit they've been benefiting from their entire life has been a luxury that very few other people can enjoy. To use the analogy mentioned in the article: just because you once drove a sportscar doesn't mean you are entitled to get a new one before people who had one in the first place.

It's coming from the Atlantic, so it makes sense that they'd pick people that the reader is more likely to identify with (people with higher education and incomes).

I didn't get the same vibe as you did from the article. It seemed a bit more about explaining what brain fog is and that it can be caused by COVID-19 as well as other reasons.

After reading the article, if I knew someone who had brain fog in my life, I'd be able to better understand what they're going through and be able to be more empathetic to their situation, instead of saying something trite like "maybe you need more sun/vegetables/exercise."

All of the things that you mention (poverty, lack of financial security, mental illnesses, etc.) are important, but I doubt it's possible to write an article that addresses all of those things.

Did we read the same article? They were disputing the denialism around this condition which had previously been suggested as depressive episodes or other things they list. They’re talking about brain fog being a symptom in its own right and needing to be addressed directly.

The physicist they spoke to was able to illustrate how it affected them with a before/after comparison. This is amongst many other examples. It’s not elitist for a physicist to simply talk about their work and inner processes. It’s also not a particularly high paying position for most graduates.

I genuinely think you might be searching for something that’s not there to be upset about.

I am coeliac (en-US: celiac), a condition that I (along with a number of other things) contracted after contracting an infection in 2019. One of the symptoms that many of those that suffer from coeliac disease suffer from is getting brain fog after having ingested gluten (colloquially "getting glutened"). My specialist predicted that there would be a significant uptick of many other post-infectious conditions following the COVID pandemic and I'm sorry to hear that, going by articles like this, that prediction seems to be coming true.

It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of not being able to think in this way. I'm a senior software engineer at a large company, I spent much of my time diving into different code bases, and in meetings where I am often unfamiliar with the specifics of a situation and need to quickly reload context. When I am in a state that I have brain fog, I absolutely cannot do these things - I need to sit and prepare for a meeting, and even then I can't think quickly enough in it to be able to comment on anything in a meaningful way. Creativity is not possible, I can't think around a problem at all. Understanding unfamiliar code becomes extremely taxing (if not impossible). Whilst I'm not as bad as some of these folks that are described in the article, coherently forming sentences how I would normally (I'm someone that "thinks out-loud" often) is just not possible. It's debilitating.

For folks that don't have it, it can be hard to explain. Like someone in this article, I tend to just cancel things when I'm in this state (which can be for days, or weeks -- luckily I get to emerge as my body deals with being able to eat again). I just need to sleep - partially because of the emotional toil of the frustration of being cognitively impaired overnight, but also from the physical toll having a flare-up causes my body. I'm not really making this post (and sharing things that I probably usually wouldn't) for any reason other than to just say to folks, hey - be understanding to your coworkers, these conditions are poorly understood, and difficult to deal with. We all tend to feel guilty for not pulling our weight during the time that we're sick, so sometimes just knowing that our coworkers are cutting us some slack really helps :-) Thanks!

100% agreed. And maybe keep this in mind when people are taking more precautions than you think are necessary.

It kind of reminds me of “having the winds leave my sails.” Like I know I could do this thing previously but today there just isn’t a way to get going.

I remember when I had it, I was trying to get an old car running to bring it to a workshop. I was sitting in it, trying to disable the immobiliser as I’ve done about 100 times before, and just could not do it for the life of me. My troubleshooting skills were gone. All I could do was repeat the same actions and get more frustrated as I couldn’t start the engine.

As someone who already has ADHD, I live in constant fucking terror of getting COVID and having something like this basically just knock me back to what my life was like before I was able to access medication.

I have had brain fog symptoms just as described in the article for about two years. I don’t want to increase your alarm, but it’s been every bit as terrifying as I imagined. I was diagnosed ADHD in 2018, the diagnosis and accessing treatment literally saved my life, and I quietly hope every day I’ll get back to the level of cognitive function I used to have so all of that doesn’t slip away. I have no idea if I had COVID, it’s entirely possible I’m only suffering long term burnout. But the cognitive difficulties I’ve had the last couple years are really not something I want anyone to experience.

TBH I'm in a similar boat. Got diagnosed with ADHD in 2019, got medication, literally life changed.

Then COVID comes along. I live in Melbourne Australia which was literally the most locked-down city on earth. I don't THINK I got COVID over the last 2 years, but I know my cognitive abilities are f..ked.

I'd say that access to medication honestly improved my cognitive capabilities something like 100% from a "functional" perspective. I'm no more/less intelligent, but I could use that intelligence SO MUCH more effectively.

After the last two years, I feel like that's dropped to maybe 15-20% improvement and I'm convinced it's primarily due to just insane levels of burn-out.

The main glimmer of hope I've got is that I changed jobs around 9 months ago and am now at a much better company (Atlassian), and I have noticed that I'm starting to get some of that "clarity" back that I had pre-COVID. Only like 5-10%, but it gives me hope that it is recoverable.

My heart goes out to the people affected by this crippling condition. I hope we find a solution soon so that no more lifetimes may be lost in despair.

It took me 14 months to feel better and even then I still have regular headaches/migraines that are manageable so long as I focus on something.

The good news is that after a year, I feel better, if not better than I was previously. It was very challenging to live with though. Makes you depressed and question whether your life will ever be the same. I found optimism at the long tail of it all. The body is a modern miracle.

I wrote on this here https://jondouglas.dev/long-covid/

This sounds similar to ADHD, at least at a superficial level. I have ADHD but when I caught covid I didn't experience a further executive function decline either during or after infection. Is there anyone here who has ADHD and also experienced brain fog? How do the two compare?

ADHD encompasses a lot more than just brain fog. ADHD being an overall "executive functioning" disorder, one very common symptom that doesn't match brain fog is having 80-100% knowledge of what you need to do, but being unable to choose to start doing the thing you need to do.

That kind of symptom makes ADHD people look lazy and selfish. Brain fog makes them look stupid and unable to learn or figure things out.

Generally I've found that amphetamine helps a LOT with ADHD, but not as much with brain fog.

Lisdexamphetamine has "fixed" my ADHD, a very low carb diet has "fixed" my brain fog. Those things together have radically changed my life.

I know someone whose Elo rating dropped after they got covid, so they started taking some ‘nootropic’ supplement (Lion’s Mane or something) and they recovered and actually ended up with a higher score than before.

There is some logic to this. One of the things lions mane has been identified as potentially effective at is promoting regeneration of the myelin sheath on neurons.

Degradation of that sheath is one of the theorised causes of the brain fog affect people with long COVID experience.

I'd been studying for a career certification when I got covid for the first time. Overnight it was like I hit a wall and work stopped for months. I've since started back, but the infection was in June.

This thing's serious, still, and after all the vaccines.

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