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My Brain is Foggy: What is Brain Fog?

If your brain is foggy you might be experiencing a very real condition called brain fog. Learn what brain fog is and how it impacts lives on HealthyPlace.

Brain fog is a change in cognition and mental functioning. It’s a broad term that’s used to describe those times in which someone just doesn’t feel like himself. When someone is experiencing brain fog, she is dealing with mild impairment in various high-level brain functions. While this description of brain fog is accurate, it doesn’t fully explain it. Here’s a closer look at this common condition to answer the question, “What is brain fog?”

What is Brain Fog? Fatigue is Why Your Brain is Foggy

When your brain is foggy, it is because it’s exhausted. When the brain is in a state of fatigue, it has a hard time functioning. Peak performance is impossible. When your brain is foggy, you might experience any of these mental states:

  • Forgetfulness; memory/recall problems
  • Confusion
  • Problems focusing, paying attention, concentrating
  • Difficulty processing information you hear or read
  • Planning (short- or long-term)
  • Quickly switching between tasks
  • Disorganization
  • Learning difficulties
  • Communication deficits (such as having a hard time selecting words or understanding what someone is telling you)
  • Sluggishness, feeling out of it or not with it
  • Feeling detached from people and situations around you

Someone with symptoms of brain fog might have nearly all these experiences, or he might have just a few. Brain fog varies in severity and intensity, but living with even a small number of these symptoms can be overwhelming and discouraging. Brain fog is a cognitive deficit that, even in its mildest form, can negatively impact lives.

Life with Brain Fog

Living with a foggy brain can be summarized in one word: frustrating. It’s not something that causes disability, but it can seem like you’ve lost your ability to think and function in your life. Brain fog can interfere with all areas of your life: work or school, relationships, ability to run your home and care for others.

When your brain is foggy, your thinking is slow. It can take an extraordinary amount of effort to move from moment to moment. A definition of brain fog might be any one of these statements:

  • An experience that causes you to forget where you parked while you’re standing there staring blankly at your car
  • Something that makes you forget what you’re saying while you’re saying it
  • A condition that makes you want to scream in frustration because you’re normally so productive but at the moment you don’t know how to organize your desk or use your calendar to plan your day

Brain fog is something that makes you feel like you are stuck in one spot while the world operates normally around you. It’s like one of those dreams where you’re trying with all your might to run somewhere important, but a strong force holds you back.

Brain fog arises when the brain is fatigued and simply can’t work the way it’s supposed to. Brain fog, however, is not brain damage. It’s a temporary experience rather than a permanent illness.

Brain Fog Isn’t a Diagnosis, but It is Real

Even though brain fog is recognized by medical and lay people alike, it’s not a diagnosis in its own right or even a stand-alone condition. Brain fog is considered a to be an experience that’s part of other conditions.

The cause of brain fog can be part of both physical and mental illnesses. It can also be a symptom of mental or physical illness or a contributing factor to them. It’s not a separate diagnosis because brain fog always occurs in the context of something else. That said, brain fog is a real thing. Medical and mental health professionals can test for it with cognitive tools, and it shows up on brain scans.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Psychiatry studied brain fog in women with mood disorders. Cognitive testing showed deficiencies in attention, focus, and speed of response to questions. Brain scans reflected this change in processing.

Brain fog, therefore, is an actual experience that accompanies a wide variety of mental- and physical health conditions. When your brain is foggy, you might experience a variety of frustrating cognitive difficulties that interfere with your life. Brain fog may be exasperating, but it’s not life-threatening. Also, you can treat brain fog and regain your optimum level of functioning.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2018, July 2). My Brain is Foggy: What is Brain Fog?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/symptoms/my-brain-is-foggy-what-is-brain-fog

Last Updated: May 16, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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