According to the CDC, between 50% – 85% of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) report memory and concentration difficulties that contribute considerably to social and occupational dysfunction. The cognitive dysfunction in CFS includes problems with concentration and short-term memory, word-finding difficulties, inability to comprehend/retain what is read, inability to calculate numbers and impairment of speech and/or reasoning.
Usually the cognitive dysfunction is worse during the times when the physical symptoms of CFS are worse, although concentration and short-term memory seem to be an ongoing symptom.
Examples I can personally give of cognitive dysfunction include:
– Getting lost while driving in areas where I have driven for years
– Not remembering names of people I knew my entire life
– Making huge adding and subtracting mistakes in my checkbook, even while using a calculator
– Forgetting phone numbers, even my parents’ number, when I have known them all of my life
– Very poor concentration when listening to someone talk, not being able to read more than a page at a time because my mind cannot focus that long
– Then having to read the same page again later because I didn’t retain what I had previously read
– Not being able to put a complete sentence together, incoherent rambling, not being able to find simple words to complete a sentence
– Slurred speech where I sound as though I am high on drugs
– Not being able to prioritize or complete simple tasks on the job where I previously had many responsibilities to handle daily
Again we have another symptom from this disease that has emotional affects. Here I was a busy, working woman who was proud of my job and the fact that I could multi-task better than anyone else in the office and take on more of a workload than anyone else. My last job I was responsible for helping with the administrative workload of four bosses in the company. All of a sudden, I couldn’t even add simple numbers together or talk on the phone to a customer because I couldn’t either comprehend what they were saying to me, or I couldn’t form a sentence. It’s another big ego blow and I would feel worthless many times because I couldn’t do something so simple. It’s hard to explain what the cognitive dysfunction feels like. It is as though there is this cloudy haze over the brain and no one or nothing makes sense.
Naturally cognitive dysfunction affects PWCs socially. Getting lost while driving, not remembering phone numbers, people’s names, and not being able to complete a sentence pretty much rules out socializing! There isn’t a whole lot to talk about when your brain can’t come up with two words that go together.
Please share from your own CFS story how the cognitive dysfunction has affected you.
Tomorrow I will discuss the hormonal imbalances associated with CFS.