I’ve had COVID twice now and in both cases, I felt like my old self again within a few weeks. That’s how it is for most people.
But for some, symptoms persist much longer – months or even years after the initial illness has passed. In addition to overwhelming fatigue and other physical issues, these long-lasting symptoms typically include problems with concentration and recall, often accompanied by anxiety and depressed mood.
How can someone be affected this way by an illness they had six months ago? The flu is caused by a similar virus, and although it leaves us feeling weak, symptoms quickly diminish over time.
What makes COVID different?
By 2021 – less than a year after being declared a global pandemic – it was already clear that the impact of COVID-19 was going far beyond the effects of the illness itself.
Social distancing, quarantines, and other restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the virus were leading to unprecedented levels of social isolation, which in turn contributed to a dramatic increase in reports of anxiety and depression.
There’s no question that the disruption of familiar routines can cause these kinds of symptoms. But for some, the lifting of social restrictions and a return to normal life had no effect on the severity of their symptoms. Their thinking still felt sluggish. They couldn’t stay focused on tasks. Some returned to their former jobs and found they could no longer do them; others noticed their work required much greater effort.
This collection of symptoms was named Long COVID and is believed to result from inflammation during the illness's early phases.
Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects, known as Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions (PCC). Long COVID is broadly defined as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 infection.
Long COVID is currently the focus of extensive research worldwide. Because it involves both mental and physical elements, effective treatment will likely include a holistic approach by specialists from multiple disciplines working in collaboration.
But while researchers search for a cure, there are still many things that can be done to improve the quality of life for persons with Long COVID.
Friends and family members have frequently told these individuals that there is nothing wrong with them. As they try to overcome what they strongly believe is a significant impairment, they're being told it's just their imagination or that they're being paranoid. This leads to even greater emotional distress and fears they might have a progressive disease such as Alzheimer's.
It can be a great relief for people in this situation simply to have their condition acknowledged and to be assured they aren’t going crazy.
This opens the door to meaningful discussions, which can include assurances that most COVID symptoms do seem to improve over time and that there are ways of compensating for many cognitive deficits.
When I do therapy with Long COVID clients, the overarching goal is usually self-acceptance.
Once someone accepts their condition as the new normal, they stop criticizing themselves and comparing their pre- and post-COVID abilities. Instead, they begin developing realistic goals based on their limitations and can take pride in an ongoing string of small successes as they learn to master their condition.
If you or a family member have received a positive COVID test result, our team of healthcare professionals is available to help regardless of where you got tested.
With Rume, we can help evaluate your Long COVID symptoms during a virtual appointment. We conduct disability evaluations, virtually proctor an at-home COVID-19 test, and write certificates of clearance.
More about the author
Rume Health is the Management Service Organization for
Rume Medical Group, Inc, a network of healthcare providers.