Are you feeling disoriented? Can’t organize your thoughts or focus on one task long enough to complete it? Find yourself forgetting things constantly and unable to recall short term memory? That’s brain fog, baby! Brain fog isn’t a medical term, but it’s a common issue that most of us—at some point or another—will suffer from.
But what, exactly, is brain fog? How can you figure out if you have it, and what can you do to get rid of it?
Well, the first two questions are a little complicated, but the third is one we have some definitive answers to.
What Is Brain Fog?
It’s important to remember that brain fog isn’t itself a medical condition. You’re not going to show up to your doctor’s office, tell them what’s going on and then have them sit there and be like, “Yup! Brain fog! You’ll be dead in two weeks!”
Instead, it’s important to think of brain fog as what it actually is: A cognitive dysfunction that can either stand on its own, or potentially be a symptom of other medical conditions. Now, those “other conditions” could range in severity from mild to wild; from a lack of sleep or minor hormonal changes, to more severe things like Alzheimer’s Disease and Multiple sclerosis.
So, first and foremost, it’s important for us to say that if you’re picking up on any of the symptoms we’re going to discuss below, and they get worse, don’t improve or stay the same over time, you should see a doctor. Doctors can typically “test” for brain fog and diagnose it relatively easily, but because it’s something that can be a symptom of many other—more serious—health issues, it’s important to see your doctor as early as possible.
What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a little more than just lacking attention and forgetting what you ate for breakfast. We all lose focus at the office on a Monday morning. But if you’re going for days on end without being able to sit down and focus on your work—or anything else, for that matter—then it could be brain fog.
A lack of clarity is also a big symptom of brain fog. And we don’t mean lacking clarity in the, “What does it all mean?” sense of the word, but in the, “I can’t figure out what the tip on this dinner tab is,” or, “I can’t remember the six-number password combination to my iPhone” sense.
If you’re also finding that you can’t concentrate on the tasks in front of you, or that you’re having prolonged memory issues in general, these are both telltale signs that you’re experiencing brain fog.
If you’re feeling slow or sluggish and are noticing basic everyday tasks are taking you longer to complete, or that your grades or work performance are slipping, this may also be indicative of brain fog.
Basically, brain fog sounds simple to diagnose because it is, really. However, the question you should seek to answer isn’t whether or not you have brain fog, but what is causing it.
Causes of Brain Fog
Pinpointing the causes of brain fog can be simple, but it’s also important to note that, like brain fog’s symptoms, there are quite a few things that can cause it, and they range pretty drastically in severity from things like poor sleeping habits to larger issues like depression and hypothyroidism. Here’s a general rundown:
Stress: When you’re stressed out, your blood pressure may raise, your immune system may be compromised and you may experience what’s called “mental fatigue,” which is exactly what it sounds like. All of these things can individually contribute to a feeling of brain fogginess, but together, they create the perfect storm for some serious issues.
Lack of Sleep: You’d be surprised at just how valuable a good night’s sleep is to the human body. In order to keep your body—and brain—functioning optimally, it’s recommended that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night. If you’re burnin' the wick at both ends too often for too long, you may experience brain fog, and find it difficult to concentrate, focus and get stuff done.
Medications: It’s super important that when introducing new medications to your body, you’re aware of any and every side effect you may encounter. If after you start taking a new medication you start experiencing any of the symptoms of brain fog, it’s best to consult with your doctor to see about either lowering your dosage or trying another medication. Some medications even list brain fog as a potential side effect.
Diet: The food you put into your body has a lot to do with how you feel. If you’ve taken an elementary level health class, you already knew that. What you may not have known is that the foods you eat also affect your propensity for brain fog. For instance, a vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety and several of the other symptoms heavily associated with brain fog.
Preexisting Medical Conditions: Remember: Brain fog is a cognitive dysfunction, and while it also has its own varied list of symptoms, it is also itself a symptom of some potentially large medical conditions. That’s exactly why if you think you’re experiencing it, you should contact a doctor immediately. Some of those medical conditions include: Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple sclerosis, dehydration, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anemia, lupus and even arthritis. The point is, go see your damn doctor.
Treating Brain Fog
When push comes to shove, treating brain fog should be left up to your doctor. However, there are several things you can do if you’re experiencing symptoms of brain fog to help alleviate some of its symptoms.
Some of these things include:
- Changing your diet to include more vitamin B12-rich foods like beef, breakfast cereal, clams, trout, tuna, salmon, milk and other dairy products.
- Getting good rest. Aim for 8-9 hours. We know that sounds insane for most adults, but we stand by it. Sleep is important.
- Exercising. Seriously, regular exercise can help with focus, concentration, lethargy, depression and some of the other symptoms of brain fog.
- Working on cognitive puzzles and other games that’ll make you use your brain.
- Finding effective ways to manage your stress levels could also help with focus. Activities like yoga, mindfulness meditation and getting regular massages are proven ways to lower stress, blood pressure, etc.
- Medications like standard antidepressants may be able to help treat brain fog, so long as they’re prescribed by a doctor.
Anyway you cut it, brain fog is a very real thing. It's not all in your head (lol), and if you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you should go speak to your doctor immediately.
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