Is There a Connection Between Anxiety and Brain Fog?

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There is a strong correlation between anxiety disorders and brain fog. Either one can cause the other. In other words, anxiety can lead to brain fog, and experiencing brain fog may lead to anxiety.

Anxiety can increase brain fog because anxiety will often lead to fixating or worrying about a situation or thought. Rumination like this can overwhelm and exhaust the brain. Thus, any strain on the brain may impact mental clarity and “alter aspects of cognitive performance.”

Likewise, anxiety levels can increase when experiencing brain fog as you're still trying to carry out tasks. Trying to complete tasks while you have brain fog can make you feel anxious.

What Is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is an everyday challenge for many. The experience of brain fog is just what it sounds like, feeling as if your brain is in a fog. Brain fog feels like a mental 'fuzziness.' This fuzzy feeling can impact your cognition and make it harder for you to complete tasks.

In an attempt to explain what brain fog feels like, some may describe it using the following words:

  • Slower thinking
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Confusion
  • Lack of concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Haziness

One journal study defines brain fog as “a constellation of symptoms that include reduced cognition, inability to concentrate and multitask, as well as loss of short and long term memory.”

Brain Fog Is Really Inflammation Impacting Your Brain

Biologically, the term brain fog refers to neuroinflammation (chronic inflammation impacting brain functioning).

Disorders Brain Fog Is Associated With

Brain fog is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of chronic conditions, especially those associated with inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis (MS), cancers, fibromyalgia, etc., and disorders such as autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

Causes of Brain Fog

  • Chronic Illness
  • Mood Disorders
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medication
  • Gluten
  • Covid-19
  • Drugs
  • Burn out

Is Brain Fog the Same Thing as Mental Fatigue?

Brain fog is often used interchangeably with mental fatigue. People experiencing both mental and physical fatigue symptoms often experience brain fog.

For example, 85% of individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) report cognitive impairments. Since anxiety often coexists with fatigue symptoms, it is also associated with cognitive difficulties.

The Connection Between Brain Fog & Anxiety

Brain fog coexists with anxiety disorders, whether it be a symptom of the disorders or a contributor to the anxiety. For example, many with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) report fatigue and sleep difficulties, which correspond to brain fog. 

In a study examining anxiety’s impact on cognition, researchers found anxiety to produce some “working memory performance impairment.”

Brain fog and anxiety are both comorbid other medical conditions. For example, anxiety and brain fog are some of the most complained about symptoms for those with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

In addition, brain fog and anxiety are long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection. Researchers found that "fatigue, brain fog, headache, anxiety, and sleep issues were the most prevalent symptoms after COVID-19 infection.”

Brain fog can result from anxiety because anxiety often causes fixation or “worrisome thoughts,” which overexert and exhausts the brain. Such impact on the brain can reduce mental clarity and “alter aspects of cognitive performance.”

How to Reduce Brain Fog & Anxiety

Many practices can help manage and reduce brain fog and anxiety. Fortunately, the below methods are beneficial in alleviating both brain fog and anxiety:

  • Try brain exercises: Certain activities can help relieve brain fog and anxiety. Try engaging in activities that strengthen cognition and alleviate anxiety. Types of brain-boosting activities include activities like reading, puzzles, and brain apps.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): With CBT, you can learn how to manage any anxious thoughts you have. This can, in turn, reduce brain fog.
  • Physical activity: Incorporating exercise into your schedule greatly reduces brain fog and anxiety. Physical activity can enhance mental clarity and cognition, and The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests adults engage in 75 to 150 minutes of physical activity throughout the week.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Certain foods and supplements can enhance anxiety and brain fog. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a healthy diet routine that includes brain foods that benefit cognition and mental health.
  • Sleep hygiene: There is a link between insomnia, anxiety disorders, mood disturbance, and brain fog. Lack of sleep can cause anxiety, which is highly likely to affect sleep hygiene. However, not having the appropriate amount of sleep produces brain fog and fatigue. Therefore, it is essential to try and receive between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Reduce your stress: Stress-reducing exercises, such as breathing techniques and meditation, can help with brain fog and anxiety. Other related stress-reducing activities that can help include yoga and walking. To reduce stress, it is also important that you attempt to limit stressful situations and produce a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout.
  • Dietary Supplements: Nutritional supplements can help with brain fog and anxiety. For example, omega-3 fish oil is packed with folate, vitamin D, and iodine.
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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Tiara Blain, MA
Tiara Blain, MA, is a freelance writer for Verywell Mind. She is a health writer and researcher passionate about the mind-body connection, and holds a Master's degree in psychology.