Emma Heming-Willis on Coping with COVID Brain Fog

Emma Heming-Willis

The pandemic may be in our rear-view mirror, but not for everyone. Many people who had COVID—even mild cases—are still struggling with fuzzy thinking, confusion, and trouble concentrating. These neurological issues are called Covid brain fog. It’s one of the most common symptoms in individuals with long COVID, also called COVID long-haulers.

For Emma Heming-Willis—who is the wife of actor Bruce Willis, a model, and founder of CocoBaba skin care products—her struggle with brain fog began after having COVID in the spring of 2022.

“I went through [COVID] fine,” Emma says to Dr. Daniel Amen in an episode of Scan My Brain. “But I came out of it with the worst brain fog that I haven’t been able to shift. It kind of comes in waves, but I have not cleared it at all. I’m constantly in this haze, and it’s scary.”

I went through COVID fine, but I came out of it with the worst brain fog that I haven’t been able to shift. It kind of comes in waves, but I have not cleared it at all. I’m constantly in this haze, and it’s scary. -Emma Heming-Willis Click To Tweet

WHAT IS BRAIN FOG?

Brain fog isn’t classified as a medical condition. Instead, it’s a term that is used to refer to symptoms that impact your ability to think clearly. Brain fog symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Sluggishness
  • Confusion
  • Trouble with focus
  • Lack of mental clarity
  • Mental fatigue
  • Distraction
  • Slowed thinking
  • A sense of overwhelm

These COVID brain fog symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last for weeks, months, or even years. The debilitating signs and symptoms of brain fog after COVID can have a major impact on a person’s life. It can leave you feeling frustrated, unhappy, and unsure if you’ll ever return to who you were before having COVID.

BRAIN FOG CAUSES

Brain fog can be caused by a number of medical conditions and other issues. Some of the risk factors for brain fog include:

  • Long Covid: Brain fog is one of the most common long COVID symptoms, according to a growing number of studies. Estimates on the percentage of COVID long-haulers with brain fog range widely. In a 2022 study in JAMA Open Network, over 45% of people with long COVID reported brain fog or memory issues. Another study published in 2022 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience indicates that close to 70% of long COVID sufferers struggle with brain fog or cognitive dysfunction.
  • ADD/ADHD: Some brain fog symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and lack of focus, are also ADD/ADHD Findings in a 2017 study point to elevated levels of cytokines in people with this common condition. This research suggests that increases in cytokines may interfere with working memory, cause a slowing in reaction times, increase the odds of making careless mistakes, and reduce the ability to focus.
  • Depression or pseudodementia: Many symptoms of depression overlap with symptoms of brain fog. For example, feeling sluggish, having mental fatigue, and being unable to concentrate are symptoms seen in both of these issues. Pseudodementia is a condition in which symptoms of dementia such as confusion and forgetfulness are due to undiagnosed depression. When the depression is treated, the cognitive dysfunction improves. Brain SPECT scans taken at Amen Clinics on people before and after they had COVID show that the infection can lead to overactivity in the emotional centers of the brain. This increases the likelihood of low moods and depression.
  • Stress: Everyday stress can have a negative impact on brain function, resulting in brain fog symptoms. A 2020 study confirms that chronic stress decreases blood flow to the brain, which can lead to impairments in thinking, reasoning, and decision-making.
  • Head trauma: Mental fatigue and brain fog are common post-concussion symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s common to experience difficulties with thinking and remembering after a brain injury.
  • Grief: Experiencing a significant loss can overwhelm the brain and lead to what some experts call “grief brain.” Symptoms of grief brain mirror many of the same symptoms of brain fog, including trouble focusing, memory issues, and confusion.

For Heming Willis, a number of these issues were contributing to her own brain fog symptoms. In addition to dealing with the long-term effects of COVID, she had been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child and was struggling with her moods. Her mood issues may be related to increased activity in the emotional centers of her brain after having COVID.

That’s not all. Her brain SPECT scan also revealed damage to her temporal lobes from past head injuries. On top of all this, she had been under extreme stress and was grieving due to recent events in her life.

When multiple issues stack up, as they had in Heming Willis’ life, it increases the chances of experiencing brain fog symptoms.

6 WAYS TO OVERCOME BRAIN FOG

Fortunately, there is treatment for long COVID brain fog. Treating brain fog from other causes is also possible. Here are 6 strategies to clear persistent brain fog.

1. Reduce inflammation.

Avoid eating pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed deli meats.

2. Manage your stress.

Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation or havening to get control over the stress in your life.

3. Engage in physical activity.

Exercising on a regular basis can brighten moods and improve cognitive function.

4. Try hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

To heal underlying brain injuries, consider HBOT. This therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a chamber to accelerate the healing process. A 2022 study shows that HBOT improves cognitive function in people with long COVID.

5. Process your grief.

If you’re struggling with grief, consider seeking help from a mental health professional for psychotherapy. This can be very beneficial in helping you work through your feelings in a healthy way.

6. Consider taking nutritional supplements.

Nutraceuticals that support focus and attention include rhodiola and ashwagandha. To promote calm and relaxation, try GABA and magnesium. Take the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which help to enhance brain function while reducing inflammation.

Addressing any and all contributing issues is the key to overcoming brain fog and regaining mental clarity, focus, and improved memory.

Brain fog, ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

5 Comments »

  1. I’d love to go to an Amen clinic for the Oxygen…I am in Manhattan or upstate near Woodstock NY

    Comment by Cynthia Adler — June 21, 2023 @ 5:50 PM

  2. Hello Cynthia, thank you for reaching out. For more information about Amen Clinics New York visit: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/new-york-metro-area/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 22, 2023 @ 9:58 AM

  3. Lyme Disease causes Brain Fog, and it has be around for decades. Long Lyme is the same as Long Covid.

    Comment by A. Kaur — June 26, 2023 @ 6:23 AM

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