Brain fog can be an extremely debilitating and distressing symptom for those with ME. It encompasses the cognitive impairments often experienced in the illness, and it can range in its severity. Many people report difficulties with their memory, concentration, and an ability to think and plan, and it can also affect a person’s speech. It can have a profound affect on a person’s ability to carry out a number of daily tasks, let alone converse and socialise.
The symptoms of brain fog can include:
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Unreliable short-term or long-term memory
- Inability to use language properly
- Difficulty recalling known words and structuring sentences
- Difficulty focusing on tasks (easily distracted)
- Slow or sluggish cognition (affecting decision-making)
- Difficulty with numbers or figures
- Disorientation (not recognising familiar surroundings or places, getting lost easily)
- Low mental energy
- Low mood
Brain fog is linked to the profound and predominant symptom of ME – mind and body fatigue – yet also poor quality sleep that often occurs with the illness. Many people have to find ways to cope with it, whether that’s through the support of someone else, or using their own strategies.
A number of things have been reported as helpful in coping with brain fog. If you have ME yourself, you may wish to try these. If you support or provide Counselling to someone with ME, you can encourage the following:
- Set up reminders through the use of post-it notes or mobile phone alarms.
- Receive text or call reminders from a friend, partner or close family member.
- Create lists, and write things down as soon as possible.
- Delegate tasks if this is possible.
- Focus on one task at a time.
- Try not to focus on other peoples’ lack of understanding. This increases the stress of it all.
- Try to have a mini rest break before and after a task (or activity).
- Try to make time for relaxation.
- Try not to judge yourself harshly – its not your fault.
If you support someone with ME, in any context, it’s helpful to communicate patience and understanding. Remember – brain fog is a debilitating symptom, affecting the person’s ability to do things they probably used to do with ease.