Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brain Fog in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Not All in Your Head


Those of us with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia are familiar with "brain fog" or what medical professionals like to call cognitive dysfunction.  Although on occasion I experience brain fog from fibromyalgia, it wasn't until  I sustained a migraine varient/complicated migraine in '06 and again in '08 that I could truly appreciate what these people go through; that is because this is what happens to me for days after I experience a migraine.  It isn't often talked about  in relationship to migraines so I wanted to bring it up here. 
*Brain fog is a classic part of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (and an after affect of some migraines)
  1. Horrible short-term memory,
  2. Difficulty with word finding and word substitution (e.g., substituting the word "fork" for "knife"), and
  3. Occasional disorientation — Approximately 30 percent of those with CFS or fibromyalgia have episodic disorientation lasting around 30-60 seconds. This often occurs when driving or even turning down a supermarket aisle. It can feel scary, but is not dangerous. Though you may not know where you are (or are going) people seem able to drive or walk safely till it passes. This can also manifest as briefly not recognizing common objects or names (even of children).
In some cases, brain fog is mild.  For some, however, it can be severe and quite scary — especially in professionals who otherwise function at a very high level. Though standard testing will often not pick up the problem, in these cases the brain fog can make it difficult or even impossible to continue one's job.  It may even leave you concerned that you are developing Alzheimer's. But you're not. CFS brain fog is when you keep forgetting where you left your keys — Alzheimer's is when you forget how to use your keys!
... Study Showing CFS-Related Brain Fog Not "All In Your Head"
Meanwhile, the "you're crazy, it's all in your mind" school of thought on CFS continues to recede into ancient history. There were those who attributed the brain fog (and all of CFS) to depression — which was, well, crazy! Here is another new study showing that the brain fog of CFS and depression are not  related.
Study: The role of depression in cognitive impairment in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome
In the test, 57 women with CFS were evaluated for cognitive function using neuropsychological tests that measure mental acuity in areas such as ability to pay attention, to count forward and backward, auditory-verbal learning skills, executive functions, and psychomotor skills.
Participants were divided into two groups, with one group including those CFS patients who suffered depression (based on clinical assessment to determine scores on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and the other including those CFS patients who were not determined to be depressed.
The results showed no difference between the two groups in their levels of cognitive deficit in performing attention and executive functions. Researchers therefore concluded that there was no link between depression and the cognitive impairments exhibited by patients with CFS.

The role of depression in cognitive impairment in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Santamarina-Pérez P, Freniche V, Eiroa-Orosa FJ, Llobet G, Sáez N, Alegre J, Jacas C. 2011 Mar 12;136(6):239-243. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


  1. I am sorry that I can say I relate to this, fibromyalgia and brain fog. Chronic pain is not fun. I am actually feeling pretty nasty today.

  2. Shana, I had hoped things were beginning to turn around for you. Fibromyalgia and Chronic pain are anything but fun. Is the weather where you live making you feel worse? It can do that sometimes. I'll be praying that you feel better soon.

  3. I will call you or you can call me again. The allergies are really bad right now, and it is effecting my breathing and congestion. I am teaching 2 mornings a week and very active in the AA community and art show and art league and church and several friends here that I am helping that have cancer. Depressing and draining. Sorry that you are struggling too. more later. gotta get to bed. love me