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Personality changes join growing list of ‘COVID long hauler’ symptoms

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Researchers at the University of Oxford say 37% of people previously infected with the coronavirus have at least one remaining COVID-19 symptom three to six months post-recovery.

But, the symptoms aren’t just physical. They are mental as well. 

These patients suffer from what’s known as “Long COVID” and are referred to by doctors as “COVID long haulers.” Now, they say, personality changes have emerged as another symptom of the condition.

Specifically, the outer layer of a person’s brain called the gray matter is being attacked. These cells are responsible for memory, emotions, decision making, and impulse control, and how the symptoms present themselves indicate very serious brain trauma. 

“We do see impulse control issues, more agitation, more anger and more irritability,” Dr. Sachin Mehta, physical medicine and rehabilitation expert at Franciscan Health, told News 8. “These are among the things we are seeing in the long haulers’ population. We hear a lot of family members say that their fuses are shorter and they get angrier more quickly., and we’re attributing that to mental fatigue. We lose that ability to filter our responses to family and friends and strangers.”

The good news, Mehta says, is that with an active rehabilitation approach recovery is possible. New neural pathways can be developed to make up for the cells that were damaged. 

He goes on to say nearly 800 COVID long-haulers have been referred to Franciscan Health’s rehabilitation center to date.