Best Tips for Managing Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms can be an especially frustrating aspect of MS.

Multiple Sclerosis is often associated with varying levels of cognitive dysfunction. These symptoms can present in many different ways – difficulty concentrating, problems finding the right words, feelings of “sensory overload” or slower thinking, and memory loss.  Although most people with MS will not experience severe cognitive impairment, several of our community members noted experiencing some of these symptoms.

Our community shares tips for managing a variety of cognitive symptoms.

managing cognitive symptoms



View Comments (19)
  • PetieJ
    1 year ago

    Re DavidA~I so feel for David and what he had to experience at his job–one you’d need an exceptional memory for! But it pisses me off that he was fired, no questions asked apparently. I would want him to contact them, even if he had to bypass the HR dept. to get the information to those who Need to know what was happening to him. It doesn’t seem quite legal, or ethical, to do such a thing either.
    I know what it’s like to fight for a word, worse, to go completely and totally blank in the midst of a sentence, a whole conversation, and have Zero recollection of what it’s about. It’s beyond frustration. I have to do the ‘charades’ thing to get someone to understand what I’m grasping for, something I can see in my mind, and having to describe it in my stumbling, almost incomprehensible way. It’s very scary sometimes. Some days I feel like I should duct tape my mouth, others, I can be reasonably coherent. My husband is the only one who Really Knows what I go thru. He’s the one who lives with me, sees me daily, sees my struggles and does his best to understand and help me thru them. Many times we’ve not even let family visit bcuz I “don’t feel well”. The fatigue, dizziness, stumbling, falling, speaking w/o making sense, unable to hold anything bcuz I have no feeling, etc…Very recently I told my husband, let them come. Maybe it’s going to be the only way they understand. If I’m having a bad or worse day, let them come see. Otherwise, nobody really ‘gets it’.
    Everyone’s diagnosis starts out differently. It’s an utter shame that so many doctors are so….what’s the word? Close minded? Is that what keeps them from pursuing the Real diagnosis vs the easy guess? Anyone that’s ever lost a job based on their health situation has a case as far as I’m concerned.
    I’d certainly like to know what’s going on with DavidA these days.
    We just have to persevere people! Keep fighting !

  • Missievette
    2 years ago

    I don’t currently take a medication for my cognitive issues, my neurologist was concerned that my age was a factor. I do wonder if lack of sleep may be related to the various cognitive issues I currently face.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Missievette, that’s a good question. I thought you might be interested in reading this article from the NIH which shows the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive functioning.

    Thanks for being part of the community. We’re glad you’re here! -All Best, Donna ( team)

  • pearl
    2 years ago

    Im in process of Dr. App. I have so many MS symptoms. But also Fibromyalgia, and lupis.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Pearl, Thanks for being part of the community and for sharing your thoughts. We’ll be thinking of you and sending all good wishes for your doctor’s visit. -Warmly, Donna ( team)

  • Liliana45
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your research.
    I live with MS for 10 years now.
    I shire experience emotional and physical double life now. I can fell, act, express/ hide emotions almost like person with by-polar disorder. I ne’er had it or was diagnosed with it.
    Please MS community, what do you think is it: MS symptoms or Bipolar Disorder?
    Please, help with your response.

  • esme2288
    2 years ago

    If I could do all of those things I wouldn’t have a problem.

    Lists: I can write them wherever I want, but they never get to the store with me, or I forget I wrote one, or I lose it,…

    Calendar: I keep one on my computer, with multiple reminders for anything I have to do, and it syncs (usually) with my cell phone. But sometimes I forget about the calendar and I don’t always have my cell phone, and sometimes it erases things,…

    Labels: I would love it if I could have my whole house labeled like a grocery store and, for a while, I carefully labeled where everything belongs in the kitchen. It worked for me, unless somebody else (my husband) couldn’t be bothered to look at a label before putting something away.

    Keeping things in the same location: only works if you never have to actually use it. Once something leaves its location there is no telling where it will end up. That’s not my family’s fault – I’m just scattered. I might go to get the scissors, notice dishes in the sink, find those pruning shears I’d been looking for,… in the meantime I’m not even aware I put the scissors down.

    I hate the idea of adding more drugs, but I’m going to look into that and that cognitive intervention. My Neuro told me to take Aleve for brain fog, but it didn’t help. Or maybe it did and I just forgot.

  • LuvMyDog
    3 years ago

    After being able to hold intelligent conversations with CEO’s, doctors,lawyers, financial managers, etc…I got to a point where I felt like an idiot trying to hold even the shortest conversation.
    Words that came to me so automatically seem to be caught somewhere in the back of my throat…close, but not close enough. I find myself searching for the right word and end up looking and feeling stupid, with too many “Uumms, ehh, you-know’s” and finally…just giving up and trying to change the subject.

  • pearl
    2 years ago

    Im right there with you.

  • jennyb
    2 years ago

    sounds like me. I have trouble keeping up with a conversation.

  • DavidA
    3 years ago

    Hello, I know exactly what you mean and can empathize with you 100%. I actually lost my dream career because of cognitive impairment and memory issues caused by MS. I worked with CEO’s and all C-Levels everyday, selling Business Intelligence and Data Analytics Software. I worked so hard to get this job and felt so grateful to be working for such an amazing company. 6-figures, stock options, amazing benefits, etc. I was finally able to send my wife back to nursing school which she’s always wanted to do but we could never afford. We were finally living our dream life and then one day I started forgetting technological terms that I’d been using everyday for 15 years and then simple terms and basic math. Within 6 months it got so bad that I started forgetting simple words and peoples names. I would be on the phone with the CEO and the entire Executive Team from a huge Fortune 500 company and my mind would just go blank. Forget about selling data analytics and business intelligence software, I couldn’t even remember the name of the company or what day it was. I tried to explain it to the HR department but I didn’t know how to tell them that I’m only 39 and for some reason, out of nowhere, I lost my cognitive function and memory. So I used up all of my PTO (fun way to spend all your vacation time) and went to every doctor in Utah to figure out what was happening to my brain. Nobody could figure it out. You’re just depressed, or too stressed, or sleep deprived, or severely dehydrated or malnourished, etc, etc. After 2 weeks off I went back to work and just tried my best. The first week back, I was on the phone with the CEO of a huge global corporation and blanked out in the middle of my demo. I panicked and didn’t know how to explain to the client what was happening, and why I didn’t know anything about the product I was selling. Needless to say, I was horrified and completely embarrassed. That’s not the worst part… soon as the call ended, I noticed that I could no longer log into my company email or my SalesForce account. I had been locked out of all company systems. Well it turned out that my call was being recorded and monitored by the company President and my boss!! I was fired on the spot. I went home and told my wife and we just cried together. What’s worse is that I was just fired for not having a memory but I still had no clue what was wrong with me or why it was happening. I thought I was going crazy, so I checked myself into the hospital for 3 weeks and they just thought I was depressed because I lost my job and that was causing my memory loss and cognitive impairment, so they never considered MS. It wasn’t until I finally went to my Neurologist and said something is wrong with my brain, my dad and grandpa both died of brain tumors, please take an MRI of my brain. He did it reluctantly. I got it done and then received a voicemail from his office assistant saying “Hi David, we got your results back and you have 25 lesions on your brain and it looks to be compatible with MS vs ADEM. Have a nice weekend and call us on Monday if you have any questions” I’m dead serious! I found out I have MS on a Friday evening over a voicemail. I saved it because people never believe a doctor would do that. Anyways I’ve seen lots of Neurologists since then and have had every test and image possible. I was finally diagnosed this month with MS but have lost almost everything because of this crazy disease. My old employer still has no idea that I was having my first MS attack when they fired me.

    Does anyone have ANY advise on how I could handle that and clear my reputation? Thanks for letting me vent.

  • spuds
    4 years ago

    Cog Fog. I HATE IT. I reach for a word and something else comes out ie: cast comes out catch. Anyone else do this? I just had some cognitive tests at my neurologist-failed miserably.

  • plushious
    4 years ago

    one of the things that might help with managing memory issues is to get a mini-recorder that you can keep in pocket or purse, or hang around your neck. it can be used when paper/pen isn’t handy, or you lose track of that piece of paper you wrote your reminder on.
    Personally, I use the calendar and alarm functions on my cell phone to keep track of ‘stuff,’ — however a mini-recorder would really be helpful for those times the phone is troublesome at the exact moment.
    Blessings on all of us who are dealing with this mysterious disease.

  • Liliana45
    2 years ago
  • Darrell
    4 years ago

    I make use of the online Yahoo calendar to help with my memory problems.

  • Liliana45
    2 years ago

    Good !
    It brings old joke to my mind: who reminds you to check your calendar?

  • Wishteria Wishbubble
    4 years ago

    Like Penny, my first clue that I was experiencing cognitive symptoms was work related. I would forget to follow up on tasks that I normally did with no second thought. When taking a message, I’d have difficulty with people saying numbers. I had to write three numbers, then the next three. If they spoke too quickly and said the fourth number, I’d loose the first three and my mind would go blank. Having a QEEG test done showed the areas of my brain that were not functioning. Deep inside, I knew my brain wasn’t working like it used to and the ‘official test’ validated my symtoms. Cognitive testing is an important test to do so that you can get the best rehab and medication to assist you with regaining a sense of control again. Play brain games and memory games like cards. It can get better and often does, once you and your doctor know the cause of and extent of your cognitive symptoms.

  • Penny
    5 years ago

    The loss of my short term memory, missed appointments, meetings and missed deadlines were my first clue that I needed to consider leaving my job as a busy ER Manager. The harder I worked, the worse it got. The worse I got, the more stress I felt and I got ever so sick. Started having flares with regularity~at least every 3 months. Once I had the cognitive testing, it became clear there was a definate reason why. Very frustrating, but I am now in the midst of getting cognitive rehab which is helping me find ways to tickle my brain a little.

  • Liliana45
    2 years ago

    Great for helping yourself

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