Brain Fog: 7 Likely Causes
Many people get brain fog every now and then, but for some people, mental lethargy, “spacing out,” is a constant everyday struggle, and often a sign of an underlying condition requiring immediate treatment. Listed are 7 possible causes of brain fog, including vitamin B12 deficiency.
With brain fog, you often have difficulty staying alert and “on the ball.” You keep forgetting where you left your cellphone, and you find yourself looking for things that were right in front of you all along.
Lack of spatial awareness, memory loss, and the feeling that your brain is always in “autopilot” are all signs of episodic brain fog.
Brain fog is a common symptom of most chronic illnesses, including chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, and depression.
Additionally, there are several other factors that may contribute to constant mental fatigue and disorientation, underlying conditions that may escape your doctor’s attention.
What causes brain fog?
1- Vitamin B12 deficiency
Brain fog is one of the earliest signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, a type of anemia that may linger undetected for years. In most cases, physicians don’t test for vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia until the signs of severe depletion of vitamin B12 levels become apparent.
Symptoms of early vitamin B12 deficiency often include:
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Painful tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Muscle spasms
Stress, anxiety, and even electronic media devices can contribute to a prevailing feeling of brain fog. Our brains can only handle so much stimulation before our nerve cells call it quits. As a result, our brains go in autopilot, or brain fog mode, when stress levels are high or we have spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the television or computer.
3- Chronic pain
Chronic pain is distracting- when you suffer from constant headaches, aching back muscles, or frequent stomach cramps, then obviously, you have a hard time focusing on anything else.
Brain fog is a comorbid condition of illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and many other forms of chronic pain and autoimmune disorder.
4- Lack of restful sleep
Another side effect of chronic pain, and consequently a cause of brain fog, is the inability to sleep peacefully throughout the night.
People with chronic fatigue often wake up already feeling exhausted, and rarely feel refreshed in the morning, even though they slept a good six or eight hours the night before.
Lack of restorative REM sleep, more so than insufficient sleep time, directly affects your ability to think clearly and stay alert throughout the day.
Brain fog is often a comorbid condition of emotional illnesses such as depression and severe anxiety disorder.
As many conditions are comorbid of each other, it’s worth noting that depression and brain fog are also common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, and are sometimes misdiagnosed as chronic mental illness. A simple vitamin B12 blood screening usually indicates if low vitamin B12 levels are a factor.
6- Medication side effects
Sometimes, brain fog is a result of a medication’s side effects, or occurs when two or more medications are used at the same time.
7- Dementia from old age
Brain fog is also one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease dementia, or other forms of brain atrophy. Often, symptoms of early aging and dementia are exacerbated by plummeting levels of vitamin B12, as evidenced by several scientific studies on vitamin B12 deficiency in patients of age-related dementia.
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