Written by Alaina Alexander on
June 2, 2021
Written by Alaina Alexander on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

You may not know it, but brain fog symptoms such as impaired thinking and concentration could be cognitive changes indicative of a foggy brain.

Brain fog is a term used to describe when your head feels like it’s full of cotton or wool after waking up from a bad night’s sleep. It can feel like you’re in a daze or just “off.”

The truth is, there are many different brain fog symptoms and signs – some are more serious than others. Understanding these 12 signs and symptoms will help you understand if something may be off with your mental health.

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is a condition that makes it difficult to think and communicate. It is the feeling of being mentally tired, unable to concentrate, and having difficulty thinking, a foggy haze that makes it difficult to keep thoughts in your head or plan ahead very far. You may also experience a lack of motivation or interest in any mental activity.

Brain fog can be very frustrating because it makes you feel like your mind isn’t working properly and that you’re not able to do anything; you just feel foggy.

What are brain fog symptoms?

Brain fog symptoms are a series of mental features that substantially affect your capacity to think, remember, concentrate, and make clear decisions. Below are the most common symptoms of a foggy brain:

1. Feeling Fatigued

A fatigued mom dealing with brain fog with children in the background.

This is one of the most common brain fog symptoms that can cause you to feel worn out. You may feel mental fatigue when working even though you’ve been getting plenty of sleep, feeling like every task is a mountain you have to climb. It all just seems to be too much.

Mental fatigue is one of the most problematic brain fog symptoms that people don’t always associate with the condition, but it’s often one of the first indications that something may be wrong. You might not have been able to pinpoint any specific reason for feeling tired or exhausted all day, but once you start noticing other brain fog symptoms, it’s easy to connect the dots.

2. Forgetfulness

You may find yourself being forgetful of key details of your day-to-day life or losing your train of thought easily. You were thinking you just had to finish this task a minute ago, and know what it was is completely gone from your mind.

This is one of the most common brain fog symptoms, especially for those with anxiety. To help with this symptom, you’ll want to keep a notebook handy for those times when you’re feeling scatterbrained and have no idea what your current task is.

Write down the tasks that are important to complete today, so they don’t get forgotten in the future! You may also find it helpful to set an alarm for when it’s time to do a certain task.

3. Memory Problems

You may not be able to remember something you just did, like locking your car door. Maybe you read an article on brain fog symptoms yet are not be able to remember what they were! Or you could have trouble remembering things from the past like what year you graduated or the names of your childhood friends.

Memory problems are one of the most frustrating brain fog symptoms because no matter how hard you try, things never seem to be quite clear again. It’s easy to see why this would become such an issue throughout daily life!

4. Confusion and Disorientatio

The brain fog symptoms of confusion and disorientation can affect you in many ways. You may feel out of place and spaced out. Time seems to be moving too slowly or quickly. You were sure you set your glasses on the desk yet find them in the fridge.

It may be difficult for you to keep your thoughts straight and even become hard to process information at all. You may have difficulty following through with a task, feel confused, and keep forgetting what you just did, so you have to start all over again.

In the event of brain fog symptoms, confusion, or disorientation, it is important that your cognitive function be checked out by a doctor who can provide medical advice as soon as possible. Once you have your brain fog symptoms medically reviewed, you’ll know if something more serious is going on.

5. Being Easily Distracted

One of the common brain fog symptoms is being easily distracted and off task. You might find yourself doing the dishes when you meant to fold laundry. Perhaps you have a hard time paying attention to the meeting in front of you when there is music in the other room.

You may have trouble staying on task for extended periods of time without being distracted by feelings, sights, or sounds in the environment. You might have trouble following conversations as well because of all that distracting information coming in from every direction at once.

To combat this symptom, try techniques like mindfulness, making a repeated effort of paying attention to what’s happening now. This can help slow down racing thoughts, so they’re less likely to take control of your mind!

6. Inability to Focus and Concentrate

A man cannot focus, one of the biggest brain fog symptoms.

Difficulty concentrating on one task without your brain constantly jumping from thought to thought or even daydreaming altogether is one of the biggest brain fog symptoms that a lot of people struggle with—they find it hard to stay focused on anything for more than a few minutes.

You could find yourself reading the same page over and over again because your brain cannot recall words or sentences you just read. The answers you give may be irrelevant or unrelated to the question asked because your mind is wandering.

If you’re feeling this way, don’t worry. It’s not your fault, and there are a few things that can help. Try exercises like yoga or meditation, which can help calm the mind and alleviate brain fog symptoms in some cases.

7. Lack of Mental Clarity

Lack of mental clarity is one of the brain fog symptoms that make you feel like you are in a permanent mental haze. You may feel unmotivated and frustrated with your thoughts or emotions dulled or numb.

You may have trouble putting thoughts together or finishing sentences like a mental fuzziness is preventing your brain from functioning.

When your thoughts are a jumble, you may have trouble concentrating, learning new information, or remembering facts causing you to question your mental health.

Making sure you are getting a diet rich in fresh leafy greens, and healthy fats can help, as well as removing inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and overly processed junk. Try diffusing rosemary oil to help clear your mind and relieve fuzzy thinking.

8. Trouble Problem Solving

Having a hard time calculating the monthly budget, figuring out how many potatoes to buy for dinner, or what phone number to call? This can be one of the massive brain fog symptoms.

Issues with problem-solving are a common trait that individuals with brain fog struggle with. You may feel blocked in your thinking or overwhelmed. Try breaking the problem or task into smaller steps that can be accomplished one at a time. Then keep only one step on the table at a time.

For example, if you are trying to figure out what phone number to call when the internet goes down, clear other bills, emails, or phone calls from your desk and focus only on paperwork from your internet provider.

One thing you can do is make lists of what needs to be done or a checklist for each step. This will help keep your brain focused on the task at hand and not wandering around aimlessly in search of an answer.

When grocery shopping, write out a list before going in (or on your cell phone) that lists the things you need. Then, just follow the list and cross out each ingredient when you have it in the cart.

You may also find it helpful to check in with yourself about how you are feeling at the moment. Are you hungry, tired, or frustrated? Eating a healthy snack or taking a brisk walk may take care of that while working on a problem.

9. Slower Processing

Feeling it takes you much longer to think, needing more time for simple tasks that used to come easily, and that it takes forever to come up with an answer can be one of the massive brain fog symptoms. When it feels like an eternity before you can reply to a question and you used to be quick on the draw, brain fog may be the culprit.

This is different from intentional slow thinking, where you take your time to work through a project and give each detail focus thoroughly. It may feel more that you are stuck failing to make progress at all. Every time you try to get started again, it may be easier for a bit, but then the brain fog will return, and you’ll have to start over.

You can shift your body from side to side or get up and down to help get your blood moving, and so your creative juices flowing to break out of the mental block. Try taking deep breaths through your nose for three seconds before exhaling to improve cognitive function. In short, get that blood flow and oxygen going to your brain.

10. Trouble Finding Words

Difficulty finding the right word for what you want to say or recalling common words is also one of the most prevalent brain fog symptoms. You may recall the word but have trouble recognizing it in writing. This can be very frustrating, and being unable to speak clearly may also lead to miscommunication and trouble getting your needs across.

People with brain fog often experience the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, where they know there is a word on the edge of their mind but can’t figure out what that word is. This may manifest itself as difficulty finding words when speaking aloud, in conversation, or writing.

Try substituting a similar word for the one you’re looking for and see if that sparks your memory. Write down any words that come to mind as soon as possible so you can revisit them later when they are no longer on “the tip of your tongue.”

11. Diminished Visual and Spatial Skills

This is one of the most problematic brain fog symptoms where it is easy to forget why you were walking into another room when decreased visual and spatial skills make it hard to keep up with where you are. It can mean losing your way when driving in a familiar place.

This involves loss of your sense of depth perception, which makes it difficult for you to judge distances accurately—for example, not being able to tell how far away a stop sign is as you walk towards it on the street. You get lost moving from one room to another in your own home and find it difficult to judge distances from one room to the next.

Your vision may feel blurrier than normal. You may have trouble reading words on the page, and the letters are fuzzy or out-of-focus and don’t come together to form words. This may lead to a constant need for glasses, contacts, or special lenses to help you see clearly.

12. Trouble Multitasking

When you have the other brain fog symptoms, it’s no surprise you would also have trouble multitasking. If your brain health isn’t top-notch doing something extra stressful for it may not be the best idea anyway. Multitasking can actually decrease cognitive ability.

Multitasking causes more stress, and that means cortisol goes up, and when chronically high, it can raise inflammation and damage memory. Multitasking causes the brain to lose focus on either task and ends up lowering efficiency. That means wasting more time and effort. So much for being more productive.

Multitasking also makes it harder to pay attention and filter information. When you focus on one thing at a time, the brain is better able to zone in and tune out the rest—that way, leaving more of your mental resources available for what you are actually doing.

The punchline here is don’t do it. Instead of splitting your attention, refocus on one step and task at a time.

A note about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Brain fog, a specific kind of cognitive dysfunction, is one of the most common symptoms for people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

CFS is poorly understood, with some chalking it up to a viral infection and others suggesting that it may have an autoimmune or psychological component. One clear thing about this condition is the fatigue is persistent and lasts over six months.

“For many people living with these conditions, it can be severe and may even have as big an impact on their lives as pain or fatigue. In fact, some people say brain fog is more of a disability than their physical symptoms.”***

What can you do about brain fog?

People meditating to fight brain fog symptoms.

First, it’s important to determine what is causing your brain fog symptoms. There are many different triggers for mental fuzziness, including lack of sleep, dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, chronic stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications such as antihistamines and bladder control medicines, sedatives, and pain medicine central nervous system.

Brain fog symptoms can be hard to deal with, but there are ways you can help reduce the severity and even prevent them. Try implementing some of these tips into your daily routine to make sure that you’re proactive in taking care of yourself!

  • Get plenty of sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, your body will be more stressed, and you’ll have trouble concentrating on the tasks at hand.
  • Remember to drink water throughout the day (even if it’s just one glass!). Dehydration can lead to brain fog and also make you feel sluggish.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to help with brain function – too much sugar or caffeine can aggravate brain fog symptoms.
  • Take a good B vitamin complex and get omega 3s when possible (it’s important to consult with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements).
  • Make sure you’re getting enough exercise. Exercise can help improve cognitive function, so try going for a walk or spending some time outdoors!
  • Avoid stress – it’s important that you take care of yourself and understand what stresses you out in order to alleviate the pressure. Meditation and yoga are great ways to help manage your stress.

When to get your brain fog medically reviewed?

Brain fog does not exist on its own, and it can be a symptom of cognitive impairment from other disorders such as an autoimmune disease like lupus brain fog. Blood sugar or pressure imbalances can cause cognitive problems and inflammatory conditions too.

If you are experiencing any of these brain fog symptoms, it would be wise to see a doctor who can provide medical advice and rule out these other potential causes of cognitive dysfunction.

Brain fog treatment depends on the root cause. Once the cause is established and you have a medical diagnosis, the physician will work with you to create an individualized plan that can help alleviate your brain fog symptoms.

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