Fibromyalgia, Fibro Fog and Cognitive Dysfunction

Fibromyalgia, Fibro Fog and Cognitive Dysfunction

Through the Fog
I find one of the most frustrating symptoms of fibromyalgia to be cognitive dysfunction. It is utterly frustrating to be in the middle of a conversation and not only forget what you were going to say, but also forgetting what the conversation was even about. I’m guessing it’s as frustrating for you as it is for me.

Mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, and memory loss are all part of the package. This is commonly known as fibro fog. According to Dr. Ananya Mendal, MD, some of the common manifestations of fibro fog include:

• poorer recall, forgetfulness, and impaired memory.
• difficulty with concentration and the ability to stay attentive.
• focusing difficulties along with impaired judgment.
• speech problems and the inability to perform simple cognitive tasks.

Some people find it much more difficult to stay focused when trying to multitask. That never used to be an issue for me, but I find I can concentrate better and feel less overwhelmed if I stick to one task at a time.

I do daily crossword and word search puzzles to keep my brain a bit sharper. Concentration type games could also prove helpful, as they force your brain to recall where you saw the matching pieces.

Jennifer Glass, PhD, makes the point that the brain systems involved in causing us to experience FM pain are also involved in regulating attention. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate that.

It’s very frustrating not to remember people’s names, what you had for lunch, whether or not you took your medications, an appointment (which you missed because you forgot to add it to the calendar), what you went in a room for, forgetting what you just said, and so on.

What can we do to help alleviate some of these debilitating symptoms?

Here are some suggestions made by Everyday Health to help you combat fibro fog:

• Avoid caffeine. Contrary to popular belief caffeine can actually be detrimental, actually making things worse.
• Use a planner, calendar, timers, or Post-it notes to help remember important life events.
• Keep a routine. I find that if I don’t do certain things at the same time each day, they will most likely be forgotten and not done. This is especially true for when I take my medications and supplements.
• Eat healthily. Good nutrition plays a crucial role in our cognitive function as well.

What are some things that frustrate you, and what are some ways you have found to deal with them? I know fibro fog can be scary and utterly frustrating, but do some research and have conversations with your medical providers for ways that you can improve your cognitive function.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

42 comments

  1. Dianne Wilber says:

    Fibro Fog affects me the most when I`m driving . It`s so embarrassing to forget how to get to a place i`ve driven to before . Sometimes going there several times still doesn`t help me . So ,of course I have to write everything down in my direction book . I know , some are saying ,get a GPS for your car ,I don`t have a smart phone , so I did . now I have to have someone help me w/ it .Hopefully it will be my solution .

    • Diane Vaulner says:

      Hi, Em. These symptoms caused me to have panic attacks before I was ever diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I was treated for them and for PTSD, none of which actually helped the Fibro symptoms, although I had both problems and agoraphobia. Now, I take a Fibro Cocktail that includes Duloxetine (hybred of Prozac). Pain is still there, but I deal better with the fog problems. Best of luck to everyone.

    • Shane says:

      Fibro fog effects me most when I am on the computer and get tired. I can’t deal with any distractions, and I have difficulty spelling and recalling simple words. I just have to get off the computer and rest for a few minutes to clear it up.

    • Darlene says:

      Dianne,

      This same driving problem has been happening to me more and more lately and I panic and wonder if it’s brain fog, aging or is this an early symptom of Alzheimer’s. I’ve lived in the same town 50 years and I have a mental map of how to get to places. Nowadays though it’s like I think I know the way but if the intersections are complex and in the formation of an X instead of a + it can throw me. Or if an interstate highway interrupts a street and I know which side of the highway a certain place is but when I’m actually driving there I end up on the wrong side going to a similar place but not the one I wanted. I feel that panic rising in me. What is happening? Why am I doing this? It just doesn’t seem fair that plain ole stress, fatigue, pain, brain fog can cause me to get so lost. It’s happening more and more frequently. It’s like the wires are crossed.

  2. Chris says:

    For me it’s what I do for a living. I am a corporate trainer, standing in front of groups of people who I have never met, trying to sound like I know what I am taking about. I have a lot of trouble getting words out some times, and it becomes embarrassing, which causes frustration and more cognitive issues. I try to make light of it, but their job relies on me delivering the proper information. It’s a lot of stress sometimes. I have learned ways to control the class so that they can do an activity, take a longer break, or even leave early depending on how I feel. It’s not always an option, but I try to listen to my body.

  3. Em says:

    I no longer get so irritated when my brain slips into neutral…I find I laugh at myself a lot so I am either dealing better or have become certifiable. I did not know one can actually speak dyslexic-perhaps I have devised a new language and can assure all it sounds nothing like pig Latin. Most entertaining and sorry so few have experienced my new language.
    Have fun when you can and rest when you have no other choice as your body now controls your mind and we can’t deny it…at least I cannot.
    Thanks again.

      • Em says:

        Now Robin are you absolutely certain about the “keep posting”? All I know is I am thankful for the red worms under spelling errors as no one could make out my words. I know I have hit bottom when I have to ask Webster for help.

    • wendy says:

      Em, i hear ya! the days or partial days when i can’t put words together at all or recall even the names that i ought not to have any problems with drive me cray cray! ? & if it gets to a fever pitch then i swear & even that doesn’t always make sense! ?so, between clutzy movements & dyslexic speech to being unable to find the words at all to swearing its beyond the beyond annoying! & small talk can be a challenge on days that i feel i’m in my introvert zone, anyway. but, when i’m in my introvert zone “because” of the speaking challenges above, then its torture! ?

      • Em says:

        Hey someone else who speaks my language-I am not alone in this absurdity!! All I can do is laugh. I excrete verbal deleted expletives and I am not one who curses…Delete to infinity and beyond!!!!!! I can still type though. Hugs to you Wendy-remember the song “Wendy”? Oh crap now I will be singing this tune for the rest of the day!!!

    • Donna G says:

      You have to keep a sense of humor. Its a running joke in my house, I never know what is going to come out of my mouth. Ex: Put the brush in the refrigerator.??? What? I don’t know what I was trying to say but that wasn’t it. Of course every time I miss place something my husband says check the frig.

    • Darlene says:

      Somehow my words, thoughts, tongue, mind get tangled. One time when I intended to say the word “guitar” the word that came out of my mouth was “chicken”!!! Those words don’t even relate!

  4. Gisela says:

    I have ordered a Bio-Tuner, Sota(brain tuner) from the USA and have had it for a month – what a difference it has made to my brain fog although I had to check up quickly who makes it!!!!. It has different programmes for “energizing” which makes my desk job so much more efficient and there are programmes for “deep sleep” which helps me too. There is also a programme for “creativity” which I have forgotten to even try – well I didn’t say I was perfect yet :).

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I was only diagnosed in the last couple of months with fibromyalgia and am currently 2/3 way through my 1yr masters program and have been struggling with the fibro fog in particular. However I do know that the dyslexic speeak as some have called it is probably dysphasia as I believe there is a link between them but not sure. This has been a very helpful piece for me.

  6. Susan Savidge says:

    The ‘fog’ is terrible. I forget to display my disabled badge when parked in disabled bay and am fined £38 each time. We moved 4 years ago and I can’t make new friends as I know I will forget all they’ve told me about their own family – too embarrassing. But oh yes – there is a lot to laugh about Em and that helps.

  7. Petr says:

    Hi I probably have a FM but when it started 4 years ago no doctor knew what I suffer as I live in Czech and here are only limited info regarding FM, I lost 20 kg from 90 to 60 kg due to digesting prpblems but over the time I tried many alternative treatments, including Chinese medicine, where I learnt about Reishi mushroom that helped me a lot, I think it could help to all of you as well with memory problems and other FM symptoms, it should be taken longer time but I noticed improvement after 3 weeks, better sleep, digesting, energy etc….it is not the only one dried mushroom I tried, later on also hericium, caga, and some more supplements for example enzymes…..interesting is red wine reasonable amount (not excessive) consumption, b-complex vitamins, coenzyme Q10, And some others….my problem is chronic stress and probably genetic predisposition, my mother has FM symptoms also but she doesn’t care about reasons….it is not so serious level of FM….my case is whorse due to stress exposure, today I know it. Combination of gut problems, genes, way of thinking started FM… amazingzing experience I had with 3 days meditation course, for two weeks now pain no fog,but again I started to do the way of living and all symptoms are back, at that time I was not aware that my problem is FM…..I know I can heal myself but nowdays again in stressfull job and FM is back…so the awareness is key element but also to act accordingly which makes me problem still….I wish all of you to recover as much as possible
    Petr

  8. Bobbi says:

    I have lived with Fibro for over 20 years and on disability for 7 years, it has truly been a living hell but 2 years ago I made changes to my lifestyle added natural supplements and now live with none of the debilitating effects. My change has been so dramatic and profound my Mother convinced me to write my Get Well this is Hell protocol down. I have energy, zero pain, off all my medications, lowered my blood pressure off that med, can think such a blessing, It has been awesome. My post is at gumptionbma.wordpress.com no ads, nothing to sell you, no lies, no promises just a chance to get your life back, naturally. Hopefully, it will inspire you to create your own protocol. God’s speed on this journey.

  9. Donna G says:

    It is a struggle because it stops me from learning. My husband & I owned a home business. Things I learned in the beginning,4yrs later I still forget how to do things. The same mistakes over & over. I wrote things down step by step but forgot that I wrote it down & where I put it. I struggle with the anger & frustration knowing it affects my family & relationships. After 7 yrs. & a lot of guilt disappointing my husband we had to close the business. My husband worked a full time job + the side business. He had to correct my mistakes daily.He was doing his full time job, pt job & my work too. I applied for disability (IL) it took 5 yrs. & I was rejected. It was such an emotional ordeal after 3 appeals I couldn’t do it anymore. Looking back I have had FM pain since I was about 10yrs. old. Though most days I deal with it well, I still struggle with the issues- I JUST WANT TO BE NORMAL!!!!! People find it hard to understand me (pain, fog, numerous meds etc…)It has been so long that is my normal. If I stopped taking meds, I would feel like something was missing.( I have other complicating factors as well) I find it hard to understand others. I have had this so long (before I was diagnosed at age 32) I don’t know what normal is. I turn 50 this yr. Hard to believe I dreaded last yr. because I thought last yr. I was going to be 50. I fear for aging if I am this bad now what will I be like at 60, 70… They say that FM is not progressive but I & others at my FM support group feel otherwise. FM won’t kill you but will ruin your life! Obviously today is not a good day for me.

  10. GinaMarie Bennett says:

    My best fibro fog moment was when my husband asked me where something was and my reply was “It’s…in the room…where we keep the bed”. Another (scary) fibro fog moment was when I got in the car and was looking at the gauges. I had to ask myself which one of these tells me how much gas I have and which one tells me how fast I’m going. It was like the first time I ever got into a foreign car that was in another language and the gauges were not in the same places. I find my fibro fog affects me greatly at work. Right now it’s not even 1pm and I am having trouble getting into tasks and keeping my eyes open.

  11. jeremy says:

    hi my name is Jeremy I have been diagnosed with FM about 15 years ago and as Donna G ha said it has ruined my life I take a lot of medication with the fibromyalgia I also have a lot of other problems the fibro fog drives me round the bend my friends and family say oh look, Jez, is having a brain fart they all have a laugh .they think it’s funny but it really drive’s me mad the pain is the worse one day you wake with you normal ache’s and pain’s and another day you wake up and be in agony and not able to get up but I am getting used to every day is a pain day the thing is I feel really useless my wife is my career I would not know what to do without her thanks for reading my post

    • Robin Dix says:

      Jeremy, I’m so sorry for your suffering! Sometimes I think people laugh or make insensitive comments because they don’t understand it and they also don’t know what to say to you

  12. Blono says:

    My fibro fog my partner asked me were something was I said it’s in the hoover he looked strange at me and said fibro fog I’ve been living in fibro world for 2 half years but feels a lifetime I’m female aged 45 and like lots of us it come from nowhere never knew this even existed haha the worst part for me was people who look at you and say you look fine it used to really get to me but now I got more things to worry about handling my pain fatigue really like posts from one fibro friend too another xx

  13. Carol Lecus says:

    Oh,as usual…..You all must be in my head, describing my life. Hi everyone, I’m Carol, a mother of 5 with three littles at home. I used to be a CNA/PCA/patient transporter, for 25yrs till I couldn’t physically do my job anylonger. So, I fought three years for disability. I am married to a hard working, great providing husband but as for him having any compassion, forget it! He has become a mean, nasty, complaining bitch and refuses to read anything to educate himself on any of my disabilities and stresses me out more and makes me feel worse about myself. I live with chronic pain and fatigue syndrome everyday.
    I have…..Crohn’s Disease,Fibromyalgia, A.S.-Anklyosing, R.A.- Rheumatoid Arthritis, O.A- Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Spinal Stenosis, major Depression, Anxiety n panic disorder because of it all. The hardest part for me is….Not being able work,not being able to clean, not being able to be active, not being able to be a great spontaneous mother, not being able to play,and not being able to come to terms with,not being or will I ever be, the person I once was.
    It’s hell feeling like you’ve got the flu,while wearing lead clothing after being hit by a dumptruck. Just waking up is a chore and then to even try to get up and worry about trying to get something done, when you know that taking that hot Epson Salt bath, is going to drain every ounce of energy that you might have, to even take the bath in the first place. I feel as if I’m just existing and while up in pain every night, I pray for God, to just end my misery but I guess it’s just not my time. My kids need me. I just can’t do this any longer. I have absolutely no one who understands, no one to talk/vent to and no one to hang out with on a good day. Even though I’m surrounded with love from my littles, I feel so empty n alone. That’s all I’ve got. Just wanted to share my story to vent a bit. Thanks for reading n I wish you all….many good, productive days!
    Gentle hugs ((?))

    • Robin Dix says:

      Welcome Carol! I’m so sorry for all your suffering. It’s so much harder when young children and a less than understanding spouse are involved. We all understand your frustration and feeling alone. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to join my women’s group: In Spite of My Illness

  14. You are right about keeping to a routine, especially regarding meds – if I don’t take them at the same time every day, I will totally forget to take them. I’m always going to the kitchen and then staring blankly at the fridge/cupboard etc wondering what the heck I’d come there for. I’ve drifted off mid conversation losing track of the subject- luckily my family understand. Latest was to point at the thingummy (tv) as I couldn’t remember what it was called. Pain doesn’t help – I also have dermatomyositis and severe spinal problems (cervical and lumbar discs displaced, stenosis, arthritic changes…). Most important thing for me has been to hang on to my sense of humour and retain the ability to laugh at myself ?

  15. Em says:

    Seems many of us also have others ailments as well-doubtful that it will ever be discovered just what causes what and this is of no concern to me altho and many with fibro, etc. are realizing how important a routine is in our lives. I know any kind of change or stress can exacerbate any kind of health issues. Speaking only for myself altho I have come to realize I am not alone. What works for one may not work for another.
    I was recently scammed by a rep from a well-known secondary to Medicare and that company became my primary—-here to say my stress has been through the ceiling and because I knew someone who was her friend and she used this to gain my trust.
    Thankful for the red worms under words as I cannot hardly see much less think clearly. I am trying to get myself, my words organized and call Medicare. I lost all of my trusted doctors…she needed the commission and was only doing what she needed to do her job well.
    I am fortunate in that I only take one med and have 2 refills and this I always pay for out of pocket as no insurance will pay for Nature-Throid which is thyroid medication as I am allergic to the synthetic. What I am now taking costs 1/3 what the synthetic was costing.
    Okay, why am I saying this under this fog, etc.? I want others to beware of reps of any kind and once you turn 65 they are worse than gremlins and multiply far more rapidly…technology has downfalls—-beware as “they are everywhere, they are everywhere”!
    Stoop low enough to use a friend to gain my trust-lower than the belly of a pregnant ant.
    I need no replies at this time. Dear Ones please be careful.

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