Brain fog can leave you frustrated and confused about why you’re unable to think as clearly or as effectively as usual. Brain fog has many causes and a number of possible solutions.
Don’t underestimate the importance of getting brain fog diagnosed. It can seriously affect your quality of life, and it may also point to underlying issues that you should address.
What is Brain Fog?
One of the reasons that brain fog can be so challenging to diagnose is that it is unclear what it actually is. If you’ve ever experienced brain fog, you probably have a concept of what it felt like to you. However, someone else could have quite a different experience and still describe it as brain fog.
One of the consequences of this confusion is that there are actually many different causes for what you might call brain fog, most of which have nothing to do with one another.
Here are a few of the symptoms most commonly associated with brain fog.
Moments of Forgetfulness
One of the most pervasive symptoms of what might be described as brain fog is that “tip of the tongue” feeling throughout the day. You may often find yourself entering a room only to forget why you needed to go in there in the first place. You might be in the middle of a story and completely forget what you were talking about.
If you are older, you might laughingly call these senior moments. You may also explain away these kinds of symptoms due to high stress.
A Feeling of Sluggishness
This is the marked sensation that you are fuzzy or cannot get your thoughts together. You may be trying to solve a challenging problem that you know you would normally be able to solve, but just not be able to handle the difficulty as you normally would have.
These times may come and go, leaving you with the unsettling sensation of feeling very capable of performing a task in some moments and completely unable to perform the same task in another moment. This sluggish feeling doesn’t just extend to your actions and problem solving. Everyday thinking will feel delayed, and you may find yourself questioning your decision making later when you’re thinking more clearly.
Understanding the potential causes for your brain fog makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to overcome it successfully.
Causes for Brain Fog
If you have a low red blood cell count, you might feel foggy throughout the day, especially if you’ve gone some time without eating. Women may find themselves feeling especially foggy during their menstrual cycle.
Have your doctor perform a blood test to check your iron levels to be certain that your brain fog isn’t being caused by anemia.
Side Effects from Medication
If your feeling of brain fog corresponds with starting a new medication, look into the side effects of that medication to see if it might be causing your brain fog. Various kinds of medication can result in confused thinking or feelings of disorientation.
Anticholinergics can block the neurotransmitter that causes activity and stimulation in your brain, which may result in feelings of confusion. Common medications in this class include Benadryl, which you might take for allergies, and Ditropan, for incontinence.
Any medication that has the deliberate or incidental effect of sleepiness or sedation may cause you to feel like your brain is a bit fuzzy or may cause trouble with concentrating. Chemotherapy drugs are well known for causing a sort of brain fog. It even has its own name: chemo brain.
Not having sufficient vitamins can affect you in a myriad of ways, one of which may be inhibiting brain function. Vitamin B12 is especially important for brain function, so insufficient amounts of vitamin B12 might be more likely than other vitamin deficiencies to bring on brain fog.
It can be harder to absorb vitamin B12 as you get older, which may be part of the reason that older people may be more likely to experience brain fog as they age. Some rare forms of anemia may also result in an inability to absorb B12 properly.
Vegans and vegetarians must be careful to include enough B12 in their diet, as it may not be as readily found in common meat substitutes. Most people get their B12 from meat, dairy, and eggs.
Thyroid hormones are responsible for a range of body functions related to how your body uses energy, including your heart rate, digestive function, and brain functions like attention and focus. Therefore, if your thyroid gland is not producing the hormones that it should be, you may experience a feeling of fogginess and a lack of mental clarity associated with brain fog.
Anxiety or Depression
People often think about anxiety and depression only in regards to how they affect your mood, but in fact, anxiety and depression can also reduce your mental clarity. If you’ve noticed your brain fog developed in conjunction with increased stress in your life or new feelings of sadness, it may be that your mood is having important consequences on your mind and your mental clarity.
It can be very challenging to see mood and mental sharpness as interrelated. We often think of these things separately, but happiness and security have a lot to do with how sharply we think.
Many people don’t even realize that they have depression or anxiety.
There are many different types of anxiety, some of which you may not immediately recognize as anxiety. Getting help from a mental health care professional is essential if you find yourself experiencing stress and brain fog.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia
These conditions can cause the types of cognitive problems associated with brain fog. Brain fog is exacerbated in people with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia when life events that would normally cause brain fog occur, such as when you are multitasking, over-stimulated, sleep-deprived, or stressed.
Among the range of lingering symptoms in survivors of the COVID-19 virus are instances of brain fog and mental confusion. Even survivors who were considered to have very mild symptoms are experiencing brain fog, among other issues like fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Furthermore, dealing with the COVID virus has had a significant impact on anxiety and depression.
We aren’t yet sure what will be the best tactics for treating these side effects of the virus, but psychologists believe that it is important that they are taken seriously and that survivors seek out mental health experts if they are experiencing cognitive issues.
What to do About Brain Fog
If medications can explain your brain fog, talk to your doctor about trying a new medication or starting a new medication protocol to help you focus better, sleep more restfully, and have fewer symptoms of brain fog.
If you’re not sure what is making your brain feel foggy, have your doctor screen for any of the medical conditions that might be responsible.
Once you have a clean bill of physical health, it’s time to examine your lifestyle and your mental well-being for potential causes for your lack of focus. Here are a few lifestyle changes that might make a big difference:
One of the simplest explanations for brain fog is insufficient sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, consider changing aspects of your lifestyle to help you sleep better, such as not looking at screens for an hour or so before going to bed and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime.
If you still can’t sleep after making basic lifestyle changes, consider a sleep aid or talk to your doctor about prescribing medication to help improve your sleep.
Exercise increases blood flow and helps you fall asleep easier at night, so frequent exercise may be able to help you overcome feelings of brain fog. In fact, exercising when you experience brain fog may be able to help shorten the duration of symptoms.
Eat Brain-Healthy Food
Changing your diet can be a highly effective way to improve brain fog. Foods that are difficult for your body to digest as well as eating very large, heavy meals will make you feel slower physically and mentally. On the other hand, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes may help your brain function more effectively, not to mention the essential vitamins and minerals found in these healthy foods.
Stress is one of the most common causes of brain fog in otherwise healthy people. When we experience stress, we go through a number of physiological changes, such as breathing faster and increased heart rate. We also go through psychological changes when we experience stress.
If you experience chronic stress, everything that your mind perceives as less important than the stressful event will be shuffled to the back of your mind or forgotten entirely. This can create the feeling that your mind is fuzzy.
If you’re experiencing brain fog despite making lifestyle changes, it may be time to seek out the help of a mental health professional.
YANA is an online mental health clinic that is easy to use, convenient, and affordable. With expert mental health doctors, the ability to prescribe medications as needed, and discreet virtual mental health visits all from the comfort of your own home, YANA can help you get back to feeling like yourself.
It is important to take brain fog seriously. It could point to an underlying mental health condition that is affecting your quality of life more than you may realize. Get started with YANA today and see how easy it is to take the first step towards better mental health.