Last modified on February 15th, 2023
Can anxiety cause brain fog?
Brain fog is a problem for many people, resulting from medical conditions, diet, and lifestyle factors. When you struggle with brain fog, it can be helpful to pinpoint the reason so you can work to treat that underlying cause to alleviate the problem. One question people tend to have is does anxiety cause brain fog. The answer is yes, anxiety can cause brain fog, and we explore this in more detail below.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog describes symptoms related to processing information, thinking, understanding, and remembering. When you deal with brain fog, it can impact you in a wide variety of ways, including:
- Your memory and ability to store and remember information
- The way you understand and use language
- Your ability to process information
- Your understanding of information
- Your visual and spatial skills
- Completing simple tasks becomes difficult
- Your short-term memory might be affected
- Your execution functions which include problem-solving, planning, and organizing
Brain fog is not a condition; it’s a sign or symptom of some other condition in most cases.
When you are in the midst of experiencing brain fog, you may feel very scattered or as if you can’t focus on any one thing. You might feel disorganized and disoriented as well.
You may have problems dealing with complex situations or solving problems, and you may feel like reacting to certain situations is difficult.
What Causes Brain Fog?
There are many possible causes of brain fog. Some of them are psychological, others are related to certain medicines or medical treatments and some reasons for brain fog are due to physical health conditions or diseases.
Some of the many possible causes of brain fog include:
- Side effects of chemotherapy and cancer treatments
- Using multiple medications at once that may adversely interact with one another
- Hormonal changes related to issues such as pregnancy, thyroid disorders and menopause
- Blood pressure medications
- Some sleep aids
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Low blood sugar
- Cognitive decline related to age
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Vitamin deficiencies and in particular, vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies
- Lack of sleep
- Multiple sclerosis
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Hashimoto’s disease
Does Brain Fog Cause Anxiety? Or Does Anxiety Cause Brain Fog?
The answer to “does anxiety cause brain fog” is that, yes, anxiety can absolutely be a cause of brain fog.
The relationship is also bidirectional, meaning it can go both ways. As your brain fog increases, your anxiety can as well.
Anxiety is a condition that makes our body think it’s in fight or flight mode, perhaps constantly or nearly constantly. Your nervous system is in high gear when in fight or flight mode. This means anxiety can cause you to experience overthinking, racing thoughts, restlessness, and fear.
Anxiety is normal to experience sometimes in stressful or worrying situations. What’s not normal is experiencing feelings of anxiety all the time. Anxiety is a mental health condition that can make it hard to get through your day.
If someone has an anxiety disorder, they may respond to various triggers and situations with fear or dread, and there are often physical symptoms that come along with it, including sweating or a pounding heart.
When people have an anxiety disorder, they can’t control how they respond to situations, and they typically realize their response is out of proportion to what’s happening.
Brain fog is something we associate with symptoms that are just the opposite, on the other hand. For example, brain fog symptoms often include slowed thinking and process and feeling off and unable to remedy it.
It may not seem natural that brain fog and anxiety are linked to one another, but they are.
How Does Anxiety Cause Mental Fog?
When you’re dealing with brain fog, it can lead to a lack of concentration and problems with memory and thinking that can feel muddied.
When you struggle with anxiety, it physically and mentally exhausts you.
Your brain is constantly overthinking and is in overdrive leading to mental fatigue. You may also struggle with physical symptoms such as insomnia, which can contribute to brain fog.
If you’re familiar with Amen Clinics, they’ve done work to learn more about the connection between anxiety and brain fog. They’ve looked at brain images and found that people who have increased activity in the basal ganglia part of their brain and more vulnerable to anxiety.
Brain imaging research also shows that chronic stress can cause the brain’s hippocampus to shrink. The hippocampus is part of the brain involved in the formation of memories.
When anxiety hijacks your brain, it may reduce its capacity to do other mental tasks. There’s often a stress overload that decreases the neurons that would typically form in your hippocampus.
In simpler terms, anxiety can affect how your brain functions and change how it retains information.
When your brain is being monopolized by anxiety, other tasks aren’t going to be prioritized, and you suffer. This can include concentration, attention, processing, and remembering. We tend to describe the result as brain fog or feeling distracted, forgetful, and spacy.
Hormonal factors might also be at play with brain fog induced by anxiety. Anxiety disorders can be associated with chemical imbalances and hormone imbalances.
For example, stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, can induce anxiety. These hormones can tell our body that something scary is awaiting us, affecting our brain, especially with long-term exposure. For example, an increase in stress hormones causes your body to release even more, creating a difficult cycle to break out of.
When you deal with untreated and unmanaged anxiety, your brain is constantly flooded with stress hormones, which leads to mental exhaustion.
That mental exhaustion is often followed by brain fog.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety-Induced Brain Fog?
The symptoms of brain fog from anxiety are similar to any other root cause.
You might, for example, take a long time to complete simple tasks. You could feel tired when you’re working, or you could feel like you’re easily and often distracted.
Other symptoms of anxiety brain fog include forgetting things you were supposed to do or you might feel like you have a hard time accessing your thoughts.
You could feel numb, like you lack mental sharpness, or it requires a lot of effort to do everyday things.
Your daily functioning may be severely affected, missed deadlines could be a problem, and brain fog may affect your ability to get ahead in your daily life and career, based on what people describe.
Other Mental Health Issues and Brain Fog
Anxiety uses your mental resources, and you might have to put a lot of energy toward focusing on something that isn’t anxiety. Your anxiety could be intrusive to your thoughts, making it hard to think clearly and concentrate.
Other mental health conditions can cause a person to experience brain fog, difficulty concentrating, or related cognitive symptoms.
One is depression, and another is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
PTSD and chronic fatigue syndrome may also trigger brain fog.
How Can You Deal with Anxiety Caused By Brain Fog?
When you struggle with brain fog, it’s important to try and pinpoint the reason and work on dealing with that.
With anxiety, seeking cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful in not only dealing with the symptoms of anxiety but also the symptoms of brain fog.
You want to eat a diet serving your brain health well and include plant-based foods whenever possible. Omega-3 oils and vitamins, including A, B, C, and D, can be especially helpful for brain health, mental clarity, and focus.
Exercise can help alleviate symptoms of both anxiety and brain fog too.
If anxiety and brain fog impact your life significantly, you should speak with a medical professional to help you decide the next steps.
What Supplements Help with Brain Fog?
Whether your brain fog is because of anxiety, depression, or any other cause, some supplements can help provide clarity and sharper thinking. These supplements might also help with not only mental fog or a foggy brain but may also help mitigate anxiety and help you have more energy.
Research shows that being low in B vitamins or deficient can lead to brain fog symptoms, including memory issues and difficulties concentrating. A lack of B vitamins is also linked to anxiety. A B complex will have all of the necessary B vitamins. The B vitamins most important to help with brain fog include folate, which is vitamin B9, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Our favorite B complex is below.
L-theanine is found in green tea and as a supplement. According to studies, it may help with reaction time, alertness, and memory. L-theanine has been shown to improve working memory on cognitive tests and is also great for anxiety. Taking an L-theanine supplement can help you feel calmer and reduce tension.
Our favorite L-theanine supplement for brain fog and anxiety is the following:
Omega-3s as a supplement can improve your brain health and may help with particular symptoms of a foggy brain, including problems with memory and attention. An omega-3 supplement can also improve your mood and reduce depressive and anxiety-related symptoms.
We like the following omega-3 supplement:
Low vitamin C levels are associated with memory, focus, attention, and concentration problems. Low vitamin C levels can also contribute to mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression. Taking a supplement if you’re not getting enough from your diet could help your foggy thinking and anxiety.
We like liposomal vitamin C, like the one below.
Can anxiety cause a foggy brain? Not only can it, but it’s common. Anxiety brain fog is something that many people with mental health disorders deal with.
You can do certain things to help your anxiety and brain fog symptoms, including finding better ways to manage your stress response and anxious thoughts, practicing self-care, getting enough sleep, and potentially taking supplements.
Research suggests that you might want to think about B vitamins, L-theanine, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin C to reduce anxiety and brain fog.
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