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Clarity Lost: Breaking Through the Brain Fog of Anxiety

Understanding the Link Between Anxiety and Mental Haziness

Key Takeaways
  1. Brain fog often stems from underlying anxiety, as stress hormones and rumination impair cognitive function. Targeting anxiety can help lift brain fog.
  2. Symptoms like mental confusion, impaired memory, poor focus, and lethargy can severely impact daily functioning. Seeking treatment is important.
  3. Lifestyle strategies like exercise, healthy eating, quality sleep, stress relief, and social connection can help reduce anxiety and brain fog.
  4. Working with a professional therapist trained in treating anxiety using methods like CBT, ACT, and mindfulness can address the root causes of anxiety and provide long-term clarity.
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    What is Brain Fog?

    Do you ever feel like your brain is full of dense, impenetrable fog? Like thinking is impossible no matter how hard you try to concentrate? This agonizing experience is a daily reality for over an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older who reported a mood and/or anxiety disorder.

    Brain fog is a cluster of cognitive symptoms, including mental confusion, lack of focus, cloudy thought processes, and difficulty concentrating or recalling information. While momentary brain fog can happen to anyone when tired or stressed, chronic brain fog can be debilitating and is often linked to anxiety disorders.

    Sufferers describe brain fog as feeling constantly in a mental haze, unable to think sharply or complete tasks. A study found Canadians with an anxiety disorder report experiencing brain fog or issues with haziness in thinking and concentration.

    The good news is brain fog can be treated by addressing the root anxiety causing it. Therapeutic techniques that lower anxiety and calm mental chatter can help dissipate the fog.

    Brain fog from anxiety

    Trace It Back To The Source. What Causes Brain Fog?

    Brain fog rarely occurs independently – typically a symptom of underlying mental health issues. Tracing the fog back to its roots is vital to clearing it.

    For many, chronic brain fog stems from anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, OCD, and social anxiety. When anxiety is high, stress hormones like cortisol impair cognitive function.

    Anxious rumination also hijacks attention, making it hard to focus. Mental hyperactivity clouds thinking further. People describe their anxious thoughts as whitewashing the brain.

    Other potential sources include sleep deprivation, poor diet, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and certain medications.

    Pinpointing the driver of brain fog guides suitable treatment. As anxiety is a common culprit, reducing anxiety by managing stress, exercising, meditating, and therapy can help dissipate the fog.

    The Connection Between Brain Fog & Anxiety

    Research reveals a strong correlation between anxiety and experiencing chronic brain fog. There are several reasons anxiety leads to cloudy cognitive symptoms:

    • Stress Hormones – When anxious, the body produces stress hormones like cortisol. Studies show elevated cortisol impairs memory, focus, and mental clarity.
    • Hypervigilance – Anxiety causes a state of physical and mental hyperarousal. Hypervigilance exhausts cognitive resources by constantly scanning for potential threats.
    • Distracting Thoughts – The racing, repetitive thoughts of anxiety overload cognitive bandwidth, making it hard to concentrate.
    • Poor Sleep – Anxiety often disrupts sleep quality. Lack of sleep impairs thinking and contributes to next-day fogginess.
    • Avoidance – Severe anxiety leads some to avoid intellectual challenges or social stimulation. This can atrophy thinking skills.
    • Medications – Anti-anxiety meds like benzodiazepines are linked with cognitive side effects.

    In summary, anxiety, both biologically and behaviorally, fogs the brain. By targeting the anxiety itself, the clouded thinking often lifts.

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    Symptoms of Brain Fog

    Brain fog is a cluster of cognitive symptoms that can severely impact daily functioning. Common signs include:

    • Mental confusion – Feeling constantly in a haze, unable to think clearly and having difficulty focusing or concentrating.
    • Cloudy thinking – Thoughts feel vague, fuzzy or muddled. The mind often feels blank or numb.
    • Impaired memory – Trouble recalling details, memories or common words. Forgetting what you were about to say or do.
    • Lack of focus – Difficulty staying on task or paying attention. Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli.
    • Lethargy – Feelings of mental fatigue, slowness or sluggishness. It reduces motivation or energy.
    • Disorientation – Feeling spacey or detached. Unsure of time, location or what you were doing.
    • Poor comprehension – Trouble understanding conversations or reading material. It reduced reading retention and comprehension.

    Brain fog and anxiety can make it difficult to function productively and impair work performance and quality of life.

    How to Reduce Brain Fog & Anxiety

    Fortunately, there are effective strategies to ease anxiety, reduce stress, and lift brain fog. A holistic approach combining lifestyle changes and professional treatment works best:

    • Exercise – Aerobic exercise stimulates new cell growth in the hippocampus to enhance cognitive function. It also naturally reduces anxiety.
    • Balanced Diet – A nutritious, low-inflammation diet provides energy and the building blocks for peak mental performance. Limit caffeine and sugar, which can spike and then crash energy levels.
    • Quality Sleep – Getting 7-9 hours of restful sleep allows the brain to recharge and process information effectively the next day. Maintain proper sleep hygiene.
    • Stress Management – Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep breathing counter the stress response of anxiety. This clears mental clutter.
    • Social Connection – Loneliness exacerbates anxiety and brain fog. Nurture close relationships and community connections to stay engaged.
    • Nature Exposure – Spending time outdoors has been clinically shown to lower anxiety and boost focus. Increased natural light and reduced stimuli also help.
    • Therapy – Work with a professional mental health therapist trained in treating anxiety disorders and related thought distortions. Make anxiety relief a priority.

    Don’t resign yourself to a life of mental murkiness. Commit to consistently applying these lifestyle strategies and professional treatment to rediscover a sense of calm and clarity.

    Get matched with a counsellor that fits your needs.

    Therapy and Prevention

    Working with a certified therapist can help get to the root of anxiety and make long-term brain fog reduction possible through proven modalities like:

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This gold standard for anxiety teaches patients to identify and modify negative thought patterns fueling symptoms. Changing thought habits improves focus.
    • Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) – This technique focuses on accepting complex thoughts and feelings while committing to positive behaviours aligned with personal values. This lessens rumination.
    • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – Mindfulness practices train patients to stay calmly rooted in the present moment. Reducing anxious hypervigilance provides mental clarity.
    • Lifestyle Modifications – Therapists can help clients build healthy routines of proper sleep, exercise, nutritious eating and stress relief to manage anxiety biology.
    • Relapse Prevention – Therapists equip patients with coping strategies to prevent anxiety and brain fog from recurring, including cognitive restructuring, relaxation techniques, and mental health check-ins.

    Through professional guidance tailored to your unique situation, anxiety-fueled brain fog can be dissipated for good. Our compassionate therapists help you reclaim clarity and joy in your life.

    Regaining Clarity Through Counseling

    At Well Being Counselling, we understand how debilitating anxiety-induced brain fog can be and want to provide compassionate support to help you rediscover mental clarity.

    For those in British Columbia, we offer in-person counselling at our Vancouver, Coquitlam, Burnaby, Kelowna, and Port Coquitlam clinics. Our caring psychotherapists create customized treatment plans using proven techniques like CBT, mindfulness practices, and lifestyle changes tailored to your needs.

    We also have clinics in Downtown Toronto, Midtown Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario, where you can access expert in-person therapy to address anxiety and brain fog.

    Additionally, online counselling is available for those across BC and Ontario through secure video sessions. Online therapy provides the flexibility of appointments from home.

    Through supportive therapeutic relationships, we help clients get to the root of their anxiety struggles. We aim to equip you with the tools to reduce anxiety, clear brain fog, and elevate daily cognitive performance.

    Don’t let anxiety steal your mental sharpness and focus. Reach out today to start your journey out of the fog – we’re here to listen and help.


    Fixing brain fog from anxiety often involves managing the underlying anxiety through techniques like mindfulness, proper sleep, a balanced diet, exercise, and professional therapy. Addressing the root cause of anxiety can alleviate symptoms of brain fog.

    Anxiety brain fog may feel like confusion, lack of focus, forgetfulness, or a sensation of mental cloudiness. It can make thinking and decision-making feel slow or challenging.

    Brain fog can be a common symptom of anxiety. It's a manifestation of the stress and overwhelm that anxiety can cause. However, if it persists or interferes with daily life, seeking professional help is advisable.

    Yes, persistent chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety/brain fog lasting for months should be discussed with a healthcare provider. These symptoms could indicate an underlying health issue that requires professional evaluation and treatment.

    No matter what you are struggling with, we are here for you.

    No matter what you are struggling with, we are here for you.

    Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

    Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

    Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.


    • Jennings, G., Monaghan, A., Xue, F., Duggan, E., & Romero-Ortuño, R. (2022). Comprehensive Clinical Characterisation of Brain Fog in Adults Reporting Long COVID Symptoms. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11123440.
    • Ross, A., Medow, M., Rowe, P., & Stewart, J. (2013). What is brain fog? An evaluation of the symptom in postural tachycardia syndrome. Clinical Autonomic Research, 23, 305-311. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10286-013-0212-z.