Brain Fog: A Symptom of Depression
Brain fog can be defined as "a state of mental confusion, detachment, and forgetfulness," according to Dictionary.com. While not a technical term, "brain fog" is a term with which many people with depression identify. Indeed, forgetfulness (memory loss) is a common cognitive deficit found in depression and confusion and detachment can be felt as a part of depression as well.
Brain Fog Signs and Symptoms
Brain fog symptoms and signs include:
- Confusion – confusion, itself, is not a particular cognitive deficit in depression, but the components of confusion such as slow thinking and indecision are. These cognitive deficits are noted parts of depression for many people. Confusion and forgetfulness are often closely linked.
- Detachment – brain fog detachment can be thought of as emotional detachment or an inability to connect with others emotionally. This can also be called "emotional numbing." Detachment may be a coping mechanism used not only to detach from others, but also to detach the person from their painful depression symptoms. Detachment is actually measured in depression as part of the most common depression rating tool, the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS).
- Forgetfulness – impairment in memory, both short- and long-term, is also a cognitive deficit found in depression. People with depression may have particular trouble remembering verbal information.
(Wondering how cognitive deficits affect someone with depression? Read this.)
Brain Fog Causes
It is not known why people with depression experience brain fog but it is likely that a combination of mood and cognitive effects, together, create a sense of a "foggy" brain.
It is also possible that a sense of brain fog may be a side-effect from a medication such as an antidepressant. If the person with depression experiences brain fog only after starting a medication, it is likely medication related.
Stop Brain Fog
So is there a treatment for brain fog? If the brain fog is an element of the depression itself, brain fog can be treated by:
- Treating the underlying depression
- Treating the specific cognitive deficits leading to brain fog
This can involve medication, psychological techniques, drills and exercises and adapting to the environment to compensate for the specific cognitive deficit.
If the brain fog is caused as a medication side-effect, the medication itself or its dose should be adjusted by a medical professional.
Last Updated: 13 April 2019
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD