Brain fog and fibromyalgia…it‘s a pernicious symptom of living with Fibromyalgia that can fall into the background of the twin peaks of pain and fatigue. Something that affects our everyday lives and we may not even realise it is a thing.
Brain fog, fibro fog, or cognitive dysfunction (a very unattractive term, but there it is.)
It can strike during any conversation, any task, any time.
I can’t do confrontations because the stress causes me to forget how to stand up for myself. All the words or well-articulated statements I’d have written down become buried in fog when I try to access them in the moment. Even subjects I’m well researched on become minefields when reaching through my memory for the information. Which is part of why I write everything down.
There’s been a thousand conversations where I’m reaching for simple words that blew away a moment before I want them. There have been even more times when I say one thing when I mean another. Sometimes I know I’ve done it, but often I don’t. Occasionally I’ll realise later.
As someone who loves words and writing it’s more than a little upsetting.
Brain fog was thought to be another thing that is all in our heads, however, “a 2015 study in Arthritis Care and Research found that fibro fog is a real issue. In a study of 60 individuals – 30 with fibromyalgia and 30 without fibromyalgia – researchers found various impairments of attention and memory in fibromyalgia patients when compared with healthy controls. What remains unclear is what is causing the cognitive challenges.” Reference: Fibro Fog: Sleep, brain dysfunction likely culprits for cognitive difficulties associated with fibromyalgia on Arthritis Foundation accessed here.
It is thought as many as 50% of Fibromyalgia patients struggle with it, perhaps more.
Brain fog has been theorized to be caused by poor sleep, the nervous system being off-kilter, stress and anxiety, and pain severity. Though, they really don’t know the cause yet.
Here’s the ways fibro fog can manifest:
- Clumsiness/loss of spatial awareness
- Losing words
- Mixing up words
- Forgetting things
- Confusion (I’ve never experienced this but see how it could occur)
- Overwhelm (too many competing sensory inputs)
- Becoming easily distracted
Here’s some things that help minimise brain fog in fibromyalgia:
- Get the best sleep you can get (something I have found and is supported by the literature – sleep really is king to managing Fibromyalgia symptoms)
- Pace activity and rest
- Manage pain
- Give yourself time and understanding
These are not small things for us to do. I spend a lot of time working on good sleep and managing pain. However it’s far better to what it was when I was at my worst.
Here’s some ways to combat fibro fog and the effects:
- Lists, write it all down – even before I was diagnosed or had any idea of why life was so much harder for me, I planned religiously and had lists upon lists.
- Routines, automatic pilot can be useful
- Explain it to those around you often – I often tell my family that there is nothing more dear to me than a person who mercifully adds the right word in their own head for or me or gives it to me gently.
- Check your medicines are not the culprits – sometimes our medicines cause as many issues as they solve, it’s good to be aware of what their side effects are so we can mitigate them.
Brain fog is just one of those things that come with chronic sleep deprivation, pain and fatigue, but there are many things we can do to compensate for it.
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