Brain Fog: The Desperate Inability to Concentrate

· April 10, 2017

Brain fog is very common in people who suffer from fibromyalgia. It is also frequent when we are under high levels of stress. We lack energy and our minds stay suspended in an opaque dimension, far away and strange. Here, it is very difficult for us to focus, make choices or even remember simple things.

People who experience this cognitive dysfunction feel truly terrified. We suddenly start forgetting the names of the people we know, how we become disorientated or how we feel unable to understand what is been said to us or what we are reading. All of this without doubt makes these patients fear that they might be experiencing the early signs of dementia.

“In the brain fog or fibrofog, a small part of your neurons “shut down” temporarily. Getting scared or becoming obsessed with these momentary oblivions will do nothing except make the situation worse.”

It will always be the specialists who will offer us a proper diagnosis based on our symptoms. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that in general, fibrofog is associated with fibromyalgia. This momentary inability to hang onto reality, onto our life and to each of its daily happenings, is without a doubt a key factor when it comes time to make an integral diagnosis about this disease. A disease which is so weakening.

It can be said that, above all, with the right resources, patience and proper skills, its impact can be limited. Likewise, it is important to understand that brain fog is associated with other physical and psychological processes.

head covered in smoke

Brain fog: when our neurons “fall asleep”

They are not simple omissions. Nor are they common slips and even less are they something that is going to go away with a day of rest. People who experience “brain fog” affirm having the sensation that a part of their brains is turned off. Others define it more as “drawing a blank”, momentary leaks in which our minds seem to go into a “stand by”. It does this to the point of spacing out in the middle of a conversation or driving on autopilot, without even having a concrete destination or direction in mind.

It is without a doubt a phenomenon as dangerous as it is traumatic for the person who experiences it. It was discovered at the Wisconsin-Madison University that the key to this phenomenon can be found in a diverse group of cortical neurons. For some reason that it is not completely clear yet, they develop momentary “shut downs”, temporary failures in the connectivity that submerge the patient, without remedy, into that foggy tunnel where they remain isolated from reality.

The cause of these cognitive failures could have diverse origins, causes that are associated with times of stress or very concrete diseases. We will explain them to you below.


head covered in butterflies

Fibromyalgia

As we pointed out in the beginning, fibrofog forms part of the differential diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Likewise, it has also been discovered that the people who experience this disease as well as burnout syndrome, present a cytokine deficit. This is a type of protein that is essential in order for the brain to retain new information.

Undiagnosed celiac disease 

Consuming to much gluten or having celiac disease usually provokes that we suffer from episodes of brain fog. This autoimmune disease causes serious effects in our cognitive performance, about which we are not always aware as we are more focused on the physical or organic symptoms.

Changing your diet is enough to make the brain fog fade away.

You are a “multitasking” addict

many reminders on a board

Multitasking is that very common epidemic we don’t give any importance to. We tend to work without taking breaks, string objectives one after the other or concentrate all of our attention towards several stimuli at once. This all brings about, sooner or later, serious consequences.

The brain, as much as they try to convince us of it, is not a computer. It is a living entity that has its own rhythms, patterns and needs. If we overstimulate it to the extreme, we will not develop a bigger or more skilled brain. What will happen is that it will demand forced breaks from us. In other words, it will “disconnect” temporarily.

Hormonal changes

During menopause, there are challenges, changes to confront and, above all, oscillations in our body we must know so we that we may be able to “control” them.

Brain fog is one of them. The inevitable decrease of estrogen levels generates changes in our cognitive processes: difficulty concentrating, settling in new information, and making decisions as fast as we did before…

It is a common phenomenon that we can manage with the proper strategies and with the help of our physicians.

How to treat brain fog

After getting a right diagnosis based on our symptoms, we must treat the underlying problem. We must follow the medical guidelines if we suffer from fibromyalgia, manage our stress better or change our diet if we are gluten intolerant.

“The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open”
-Albert Einstein-

Therefore, the first step will always be to focus on following the medical guidelines that the specialists provide for us. The second step is getting “mentally prepared”. Brain fog must be faced with composure. You have to be very clear that fear, stress and anxiety tend to intensify the phenomenon even more.

Guidelines for facing brain fog

In our daily life, it is worth keeping in mind these simple strategies that, without a doubt, will be quite helpful.

  • Inform the people around you about what is happening to you. This will help others be more patient towards us, to repeat things for us, and to speak slower. Or they could intuit if at some point we are experiencing a “leak” or an absence.
  • Every time you are about to leave your house, take a note with you that says everything you plan to do that day.
  • In the moment you experience brain fog, sit down in a calm place and relax. Try to stay calm at all times.
  • Always carry in your pockets, your keys and your cellphone.
  • Start doing simple mental exercises today: puzzles, stimulation and concentration games online, reading books, doing Sudoku puzzles…