Thursday, 25 August 2011

Brain Fog

Brain fog (also called fibro fog or cognitive dysfunction) is one of the most common complaints of people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS). For many, it can be severe and can have just 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. (

When I was first diagnosed with CFS I was told what to expect in terms of physical symptoms, but I was never warned about the psychological symptoms. Through reading other people's experiences I have come to know these symptoms as 'brain fog', and this is as close to a perfect description as you can get. You do feel like there is this great, thick, grey fog hanging over you and blocking you from thinking clearly. Although the severity and the type of symptoms I experience differs from day to day, the general fog is always there, hovering over me and stopping me from feeling like myself, even for a second.

To someone with CFS/ME just the mention of the words brain fog will bring to mind all the symptoms and they will understand what I am talking about, but those who have not experienced this will need more information to be able to understand what it does to you, and how it prevents you from being a normal person, to the point of not being able to hold a conversation. So for those people I think it would make sense to explain how it affects you, don't worry I will try to keep it basic and not be too technical!

Description -

Like the physical symptoms, brain fog varies from day to day and usually gets more severe as the physical symptoms worsen. One of my main symptoms of brain fog which I experience on a daily basis is problems with my short term memory. I often feel like I'm losing my mind, I forget things that I have only just been told and I have to write down everything I have to do in order to at least try and remember them a bit better. Often I forget people's names, and even where I know them from. It leaves me feeling very confused and frustrated. I also feel embarrassed, at my age I shouldn't be having these kind of problems with my memory, isn't forgetfulness only for old people? Apparently not...

On the same kind of topic brain fog also often makes it difficult for me to vocalise what I am thinking, it is a basic thing we all learn how to do. We think what we want to say, and then we say it. Simple really. But since I have become unwell I have found that it is not always simple, I often mix up my words, or say the wrong word. Like saying the word 'kangaroo' when I meant to say chair (that one isn't fake, I genuinely did that a few days ago!).

Another big problem with brain fog is that it severely affects your ability to concentrate. When I was still in school and unwell this was extremely frustrating for me. I would sit there in lessons, I would be listening intently, but I would not have taken anything in after the first few words, I simple could not keep my mind on the subject. It wasn't that my mind wandered onto something else, the best way I can explain is that it just seemed to go blank, nothing could get in and nothing could get out. Also you can be distracted very easily, and once you have been distracted it is extremely difficult to get your mind back on the subject. Not exactly helpful when you are trying to take in hundreds of pieces of information everyday!

Also I often have trouble with numeracy, I was never the best at maths but I was good enough to do simple math pretty swiftly. Since becoming ill numbers are like my worst enemy. I can't remember even a short sequence of numbers and I struggle to do basic maths, it isn't that I have forgotten how to do it, it is just that when I try to figure it out my mind goes blank. It just sounds like a jumble of numbers that mean nothing to me.

Hopefully this post was not too much of a rant and has informed some people of how CFS can affect you mentally (although I failed to mention the other main psychological symptoms which are depression and anxiety).

It leaves you feeling confused and separate from everyone else. In a bubble, and completely incapable of basic mental tasks which even a child could do.


  1. Chronic fatigue symptoms are different from drowsiness. In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation.

  2. Interesting. I just typed in 'grey thick mist' in to a search engine. Call it a whimsical expectancy to find an explanation for a state of mind I find myself in today, and many other days. Whilst, I have no knowledge of CFS, I related to the fog that you describe in far too many ways. A pleasure to read. I sincerely hope that you're well.

  3. I believe I have had CFS since my teen years after reading your description of how it affected you in school. I had a light bulb moment as I was exactly the same way and I thought I was just inadequate. It hit me hard, CFS at 41yrs. old. I've been suffering now for 6 years and as i get older the illness is getting worse. You write extremely well and it seems you are doing exceptional with coping and living your life with this condition.


Any comments appreciated, don't just keep your opinions to yourself =)