Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Do you ever feel like you’re too anxious yet your brain is wrapped in a fog? So, instead of calming down, you go into an anxious state of trance. This phenomenon is common in people who have brain fog and anxiety.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to train yourself to respond practically to anxious or panicky situations and bring back your mental clarity.

In this article, we’ll talk about the common causes of anxiety and brain fog and how you can manage them effectively.

Let’s get started.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a symptom cluster, characterized by difficulty concentrating and bad memory recall.

Others might use the words “mental fatigue” or haze to describe their mental state. It is not a medical diagnosis.

The term describes a foggy or tired feeling in the brain. Patients experience a lack of mental clarity. Sometimes we associate mild cognitive impairment with brain fog.

What is Anxiety?

Feeling uneasy, afraid, worried, or nervous could refer to anxiety. We need to prepare ourselves in case of trouble or problems.

A chemical self-preservation reaction gets triggered in times of uncertainty as to survive a threat. When anxiety impedes your life, a professional could diagnose it as a mental illness.

For example, anxiety stops you from leaving the house or taking medication in fear that you might die. Obviously, this would bother your daily life.

Anxiety can come in many forms, such as the following:

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is anxiety in which you struggle with panic attacks regularly. Some people experience these daily or weekly.

People with a panic disorder can’t recognize clear triggers to the attacks. The panic attacks come out of nowhere.

People with panic disorders feel like they are going crazy, might die because of the panic, or fear more panic attacks which keep them in the cycle of fear.

A panic attack could look like this:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensation)
  • Chills or heat sensations.

Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)

People with social phobia worry excessively about exposure to others or social situations.

A very common thought pattern is that people will think negatively about them. Due to these anxious thoughts, they avoid going outside, to the shops, or to work.

Some people might avoid contact with friends or family. They fear that their loved ones (or other people) will notice that they are not as funny, kind, or competent as presented.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The most common type of anxiety is a generalized anxiety disorder. You feel an overall feeling of dread, worrying, or rumination.

Most people with generalized anxiety disorder have difficulty sleeping. They feel restless and nervous. It might be accompanied by other physical symptoms such as nausea.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

While it is less known, it is no less serious. Mostly young children suffer from this mental health disorder (4-8 years).

They feel an irrational and extreme fear that a parent or attachment figure would disappear. Something bad could happen after separation from this person.

Adults could also have this mental illness that is usually projected on their partners or children.

Usually, the person might refuse to go to work or school. They might also have nightmares about such situations.

Specific Phobias

Specific phobias are our last type of anxiety disorder. Usually, they feel intense fear related to objects or situations. They might fear needles, spiders, driving, or other things.

The fear could also be due to exposure to other spaces or situations in which they feel trapped. Another specific phobia is the idea that they will get sick, or that they might die.

Related Mental Health Conditions

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) are related mental health disorders to anxiety. They are currently not categorized under the anxiety group.

OCD is a mental illness that impedes people in their life due to checking, cleaning, or repeating behaviors.

People act on these compulsions because of obsessions. These are thoughts, images, or urges that indicate a possible negative outcome.

In their head, executing compulsions neutralize or protect them from a possible danger or threat.

People suffer from PTSD when trauma symptoms proceed long after the initial trauma. They keep having flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares. These symptoms expose them to a chronic form of fear.

The Link Between Brain Fog and Anxiety

A brain filled with anxiety might not have much space left to concentrate, focus or remember as you expect.

First, our brain is too busy with ruminations. It worries about our survival or other negative thoughts. There is no space to use for how to solve a math problem.

On a chemical level, cortisol and adrenaline are flooding the brain and body. Giving clear signals to focus on pumping blood to the heart, and preparing our muscles to react quickly in case we need to run or fight.

Anxiety can cause brain fog in two ways. The first is that you might be so preoccupied with your anxious thoughts and worries, or the possibility of something bad happening. These distract from your ability to focus on anything else.

Second, as mentioned before, anxiety is a natural response to a threat. This chronic stress causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol in your body, which handles physical symptoms.

A racing heart, the tension in the muscles and a shift in your focus are all reactions so our body is ready to survive. Such stress could impact the working and the architecture of the most logical part of our brain (prefrontal cortex).

So mental fatigue and anxiety, what is the chicken or the egg? It is not always clear, but they seem to have a connection.

We have established that our mind plays cruel tricks on us when we are under stress or feeling anxious.

Simultaneously, other risk factors could increase both anxiety and brain fog, such as the following:

Bad Physical Health

Not taking care of our bodies can mean many things. Not sleeping, hydrating, or eating properly might have consequences.

A tired body, or a body that is not properly fed, can’t properly function. Take care of your sleep. Go to the doctor if you can’t fall asleep, or keep waking up.

Eating a complete diet is recommended for most. If you have allergies or gut issues, it is important to listen to professional medical advice.

Eating things you shouldn’t cause digestive problems and difficulty in taking up the needed nutrients in your food. A doctor can assess your food sensitivities and allergies if needed.

Medical or Psychological Causes

Certain illnesses, hormonal changes, or withdrawal from medication or drugs could put us in a sore spot. It might heighten feelings of anxiety and stress. Some illnesses, such as COVID, for example, could also directly impact brain fog.

Anxiety disorders could be triggered or worsened during times of high physical stress. Some people might fall into this pattern after a diagnosis of cancer or heart conditions.

It is difficult to navigate negative life events or trauma. A life-threatening disease could surely be interpreted this way.

Some people might not have been through such a situation. Other risk factors of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, could be personality or a family history of mental health.

How to Manage Brain Fog with Anxiety

The key is to focus on the things you can control. If anxiety is what is causing your brain fog, there are things you could do to ease your symptoms.

Start with the basics:

Find the Cause of Your Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, we recommend consulting a therapist or psychologist. Together you can find what triggers your anxious reaction.

A form of CBT therapy could help you with formulating an action plan, coping strategies, or ways to manage your reaction better.

Exclude a Medical Issue

Going to a doctor should also be a part of how to treat anxiety and brain fog. As you are not sure if there is another medical cause.

It is great to exclude any medical conditions. If there is an underlying biological cause, you need treatment.

Physical Health

Sleeping is difficult when you feel worried or anxious. We need sleep for optimal brain function. A sleepy brain can not concentrate and might feel foggy.

The recommended amount of sleep for adults is eight hours. If you get enough sleep, you might find yourself clearer-minded.

You can get more sleep by implementing a sleep routine.

As mentioned before, eat your vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Brain fog could be due to a lack of energy, vitamins, or nutrients. Machines can’t go on empty. Why should you?

Lastly, move your body. Sometimes the chemical balance in our brain causes our anxiety and brain fog.

Exercise can improve endorphins and serotonin levels. Exercise could help you manage your mood and energy levels.

Manage Your Stress

The first step to managing your stress is to find the cause. Write your triggers and your stress warning signs in a stress management plan. Are there things that you do, or don’t do when you are going through a hard time?

To handle your stress, try adding mindfulness or positive psychology” tools into your routine. These exercises could help you manage stress, and focus your attention on what truly matters.

Mindfulness practice could look like taking time to focus on deep breathing and your body.

A positive psychology exercise could look like writing down three things you are grateful for every day.

Mental Health, Focus on You

Anxiety and brain fog might signal that your needs are not being met. Maybe you are a people pleaser, you love to help, or you feel you have no time to do something you like. Ladies and gentlemen, focus on yourself today.

The best way to help your loved ones, or your employer, is to first help yourself. Take up a hobby, focus on self-care, and be kind to yourself.

The result will be more peace of mind, and more energy to focus on what is needed.

When to Contact a Doctor or Therapist

Contact a doctor if your mental or physical health harms your quality of life. Usually, if the anxiety has brain fog as a result, your daily life is already negatively impacted.

A doctor can provide medication to ease the anxiety symptoms. A therapist can help treat the underlying cause of your anxious thoughts, which are the fundamentals of your anxiety issues.

Conclusion

Anxiety and brain fog, we all know how that feels. You can’t focus on your job. You get stressed because you don’t make progress. The work piles up.

Changing the situation gives you more anxiety. You feel frozen, or want to run away from it all. Nothing gets done. Your stress only grows, and your attention and motivation only decline until there is nothing left.

Anxiety and brain fog feel overwhelming, and it makes us all feel sad. Try some of the above tips to manage your anxiety and brain fog.

As a bonus, you might recognize a way to manage other stressful areas in your life.

If you are not ready to take action, maybe our online community could support you in your struggle. You can find more information about brain fog and its remedies in this resource.

Join The Mental Health Community You've Been Dreaming Of


This discord family is a safe place where we can all (anonymously if we choose) talk about and seek help for what is going on in our heads.

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