12 New COVID-19 Symptoms That Have Top Doctors Alarmed
You're six months into the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and doctors and researchers are discovering more about the novel coronavirus all the time. Among their biggest discoveries: What once seemed to be a primarily respiratory virus can affect a range of body systems, from (literally) toe to head. Many COVID-19 patients are reporting psychological and nervous-system effects, some that linger for weeks or even months. These are the top coronavirus symptoms that can mess with your mind.
You Could Have "Brain Fogs"
A recent article in The Atlantic reported that some coronavirus patients feel like the disease put them in a foggy state. "It plays with your head, man," said one. That could be due to COVID-19's neurological effects, compounded by the anxiety and isolation that accompanies recovery.
You Might Face Concentration Challenges
This is another symptom The Atlantic found is common among people who've been sick with COVID for a longer time. But even if you haven't been infected, you might be having trouble concentrating these days—internet searches for "how to focus" are up exponentially. "All over the world, people are trying to overcome one of the few universal problems this pandemic has brought on: that it feels near-impossible to stay focused on anything," wrote Sarah Manavis in The New Statesman. That's because when faced with an immediate physical threat, our brain's more sophisticated prefrontal cortex shuts down to allow the more primitive parts to focus on mere survival.
You Could Have Hallucinations
A study published in JAMA Neurology found that neurological symptoms like hallucinations were present in 40 percent of COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China.
You Could Experience Delirium
Patients placed on ventilators to assist with breathing are given powerful sedatives as part of that process; the combination can lead to a phenomenon called "ICU delirium," which some researchers believe is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and a buildup of carbon dioxide in the body.
You Could Suffer Short-Term Memory Loss
"My memory is really bad," one 28-year-old COVID sufferer told Medium recently. "For a while, I couldn't think of really basic words or definitions. I went weeks without talking to anybody because it was too much work."
You Might Feel Strange Vibrating Sensations
A tingling or vibrating sensation when touching surfaces has been reported by some long-term COVID sufferers, the Atlantic reports. That can be due to the disease's effect on the brain and nervous system.
You May Have Sympathetic Nervous System Problems
The disease's effect on the nervous system can be more severe: Some patients have experienced issues with their sympathetic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes like heartbeats and breathing. Shortness of breath is a common symptom, but COVID-19 can also cause heart issues like arrhythmias or heartbeat that's too slow or too rapid.
You Could Feel Out of Breath
Some COVID-19 patients feel out of breath even when their oxygen level is normal, or experience what feel like heart attacks even though EKG readings and chest X-rays are clear, the Atlantic reports. The symptoms could be psychosomatic, or an immune response to the virus—scientists aren't sure yet.
You Might Have Trouble Getting Over It
Symptoms can seem to abate, then come roaring back, or evolve as they hang around for weeks. "Every day you wake up and you might have a different symptom," one patient told the Atlantic.
Watch for Unusually Vivid Dreams
COVID-19 is causing a pandemic of unusually vivid and intense dreams—even people who aren't sick have been reporting them. It may have to do with the fact that the brain processes intense emotions during REM sleep, which is when we dream, a neuroscientist recently told National Geographic. If you've been dreaming a lot about your past or childhood during lockdown, it could be that the dissolution of your regular routine is nudging the brain to reach back to find old memories to process.
Many Have Insomnia
People with COVID-19 may fear losing consciousness, so they're too anxious to fall asleep. "I was too afraid because I thought I wasn't going to wake up," the 28-year-old COVID sufferer told Medium. "I was fully convinced I would die in my sleep." Some patients may have insomnia for other reasons, like pain. It's unfortunately counterproductive, as good sleep is essential for a healthy immune system.
You Could Experience Anxiety and Depression
The experience of recovering from a potentially deadly illness like COVID-19 can cause emotional problems like anxiety, depression and PTSD—all of which may need treatment long after the illness has subsided.
As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.