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dan8819 06-02-2012 10:58 AM

"Brain fog"
Hello all, I just joined today because I would like to see if anybody else out there can relate to some of my symptoms.

For about 7 years, I have dealt with a fluctuating degree of cognitive impairment. What happens is that I'll start out feeling fine, but over the course of a few hours or more, I feel like my brains slows down. I increasingly become disconnected from things happening around me, it takes me longer to understand what is said to me, my mind doesn't react to things quickly. The effects are most evident socially. I lose the ability to think of things to say, comprehend what others are saying, and connect emotionally. In school, too, it makes it harder to follow what the professor is saying, as I hear his or her words but don't seem to grasp them well. Eventually, I grow worse until I'm so zoned out that I hardly feel like I'm in the moment. I can sit still for ten minutes and hardly have any thoughts or emotions or desires to do anything. I turn into a bit of a zombie.

Now, the gradual slowing down of my brain and zoning out takes place over the course of a day or two, then I hit bottom with the symptoms at their worst for a couple of days. Then, slowly, things get better. Usually, there occurs one moment when suddenly my brain seems to kick back on again, and next thing you know I'm functioning just fine. There's no rigid time-table to all this though, and I haven't found any specific triggers that make me better or worse. I've studied my symptoms as best as I can for years now, and neither I nor my providers have really gotten a handle on what's going on or what to do about it.

So, that being said, I'd love to hear from all of you. Anybody experience anything like this before? Any advice on what to do about it? Thanks so much for taking the time to listen, and I wish you all the very best in your lives' journeys!

SOE 06-03-2012 10:53 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hi Dan, Are you on antidepressants? I found that some of them made me feel very zombie-like -- especially Effexor.

dan8819 06-03-2012 11:53 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hi SOE, I'm currently on an MAOI, Emsam, on the lowest dose, and recently we've added an anxiolytic (BuSpar) because for some reason I've been having a lot of nervousness and anxiety, which wasn't really typical of me, not to the level of intensity that it's been. At any rate, the brain fog I describe was an issue before I started medications years ago--it was the symptom that drove me to seek help in the first place. I was on Wellbutrin for quite a while, then Lexapro was added. I was on one or the other or both for a few years, but I was still having the trouble thinking. About two years back, I got off everything for a couple months, and the cognitive dysfunction was still there, prompting us to try some other medicines the past two years, which hasn't resulted in much to be honest. I have never taken Effexor, by the way.

The best I can tell is that the brain fog hasn't been a side-effect so much as the original problem that I sought treatment for. That being said, the BuSpar has been making it hard for me to concentrate in a way that is different from the "brain fog" problem I've encountered.

I'm actually a bit excited now, however, because for the first time I've encountered someone (from a different forum) who apparently has dealt with symptoms very much similar to mine. Until this weekend, I've never found anybody else with the same symptomology, and from what most of the doctors have said, neither have they. This other guy calls it anhedonia, which I've heard used both as a symptom and as a diagnosis. I've had one Ph.D. I saw call it the same "for lack of a better term", he said. He said this cognitive issue I have is generally considered a symptom of atypical, endogenous depression, and that I should continue looking for some help medically. So far, no really big breakthroughs though.

SOE 06-03-2012 12:21 PM

Re: "Brain fog"
I'm glad you found someone with similar symptoms. It always helps to have someone going through the same thing you are. I hope you and your doctors get this figured out soon.

dan8819 06-03-2012 07:36 PM

Re: "Brain fog"
All right, this weekend I've been in touch with several people who have dealt with similar symptoms to mine, and I think that it's going to be incredibly helpful for my psychiatrist and me in choosing a course of treatment. I'd like to know if anybody else here has had the same cluster of symptoms as I have. Below is my attempt to detail as best I can what I have dealt with, as I wrote it to another forum goer I've been in contact with. If you've got a moment to spare, hunker down and prepare to read my overly long description of my cognitive issues! If any of you feel like my symptoms are similar to yours, please please please make a quick reply to this. I feel that the more we all know about this type of dysfunction, the better guided all of our attempts will be at getting better. Best wishes to all of you here!

With much appreciation,


Hey [poster], glad to hear from you. Before I get into this message and forget, I'm 24. I've moved back home to take a year off to try to figure out something that can help me medically. I felt bad just up and leaving all of a sudden, and to this day, I don't think I've told any of my classmates the real reason why I left. Most of them probably think I just bugged out on the work or something.

I too find it a bit strange that [another poster]'s symptoms appeared so quickly, though I've heard of at least one other case of a sudden-onset depression. There was a Christian pastor in the U.S., a well-known name (I can't remember it anymore), but he recorded a sermon online where he talked about how one day his skin felt like it was on fire for a while, and then after that he was really depressed and had trouble functioning mentally. Eventually, I think he took Lexapro and got better with just that. His sermon was to encourage Christians in seeking mental health help when needed, not just ignoring it.

Personally, my symptoms developed a little more naturally I think. Through high school, I was at the top of my class, overachieving way too much, and stressed out all the time. I really burned out. Got depressed, but in the usual way. Sad, hopeless, a little suicidal at times, no pleasure in things, no restful sleep, emotional flatness. But with those normal symptoms was also the "zombie"-like disconnectedness, or brain fog, or cognitive dysfunction, or whatever we want to call it. I felt "out of it" almost every day. Maybe once a month I felt normal.

So, after a year of being depressed in high school, I started seeking help. I saw a psychiatrist who blew me off and didn't listen to anything I said. My parents were so shocked and angry that we didn't seek psychiatric help again for years. Instead, I saw a counselor who recommended meds that I then asked my family doc to prescribe for me. It was a weird set-up. I went to college and really changed my life. Stopped working so hard (relatively speaking). I truly did change my mindset though. Instead of pushing myself to the limit, I filled up my electives with fun stuff like basketball and weight lifting. I exercised. I ate more healthy. I tried to socialize.

But the brain fog still persisted. True, I had normal days more often, like once a week or so, but the majority of the time I was still in the fog to some extent. It made socializing really just too difficult. Sure, I had acquaintances, but I wasn't close to anyone. When I was out of it, I didn't have anything to say, and I would be quite awkward talking to people. I never had any consistent mental state in college--I couldn't rely on my brain to work any given day, so I'd never plan things to do ahead. I was very lonely. I really feel like I lost out on the college experience. But, maybe it's good I didn't get into the crazy partying/drinking scene, because I hear that's not too good for the brain either haha.

School from 2010-2011 was much the same as college, although I was surrounded by smart, talented, quick-thinking people who really didn't find me that interesting. Plus, with all the work, I didn't have much time to reach out anyway even when I did feel normal. I was incredibly lonely.

When it comes to intelligence, it hasn't affected mine, which makes it so much harder for doctors to understand. They say, "Well, you're at the top of your class, you must be thinking just fine!" It's hard to explain, but what I find is that I can still push through the fog and get my work done, I can still memorize what I need to, but when I'm foggy, it's just more difficult. I have to reread passages more, I have to take notes carefully while the professor talks because what he or she says doesn't sink in. It's like I hear it without really comprehending what he or she says (same when talking to friends, family, and strangers). I do find that when I feel normal, I get schoolwork done much faster and I pick up on things more completely and more quickly. But, foggy or not, I'm still as smart as I used to be, whatever that means. I'm just quicker when I'm not foggy.

Stressful situations are also really rough. When my girlfriend and I get into an argument or something emotional, I tend to blank out. Now, that could just be laziness, or callousness, or anxiety, or many other things, but I do find that when it comes to important matters and important decisions, it's really hard to make a good judgment when I'm foggy. It's like I can't think on a higher order, on a more executive level.

Socially, now, I also tend to avoid situations when I'm at my worst. I'll just tell my friends that I'm tired or some other lame excuse. When I'm not feeling too terrible, I'll push myself to get out and be around others, though I won't be much fun and I won't have much fun. I'll tend to be quiet, awkward when spoken to. I've asked my closer friends (those who know about my struggles) if they notice, and they usually say they don't, just maybe that I'm a little quieter but that I'm still a nice guy. Trouble is, I know what I can really be like, I know what's "normal" for me, and it's so much more than the quiet but "nice" guy they see.

When it comes to memory, I also have a lot of difficulty remembering things. My girlfriend constantly brings up events or conversations that we had, even only just a year ago, and I can't remember it at all. Even events from the past week or even earlier in the day I'll remember just generally. I think part of this has to do with the dumbing down of my sensory perceptions when foggy. I'll see things without noticing, I'll hear things without listening, I'll touch things without feeling. Conversations especially are tough. People will say something to me, and I feel like I can hold onto their words in my head, but my brain won't process them. Their comments will just bounce around, and my brain won't respond to anything. It's like it's numb or hollow or void of all mental activity. Just this emptiness. No emotions either. I believe this sensory distance or lack of comprehension and grasping eventually leads to lack of memory formation (since I don't experience things very directly). Fortunately, I've been keeping a journal over the years to help record my mental status. At least that way I can go back and remember what things were like for me years ago, though when I started I never thought I'd be my age and still dealing with this, and I pray that I won't look back at 30 and be thinking the same thing.

Inquisitive1too 06-03-2012 11:33 PM

Re: "Brain fog"
Wow lol.
My whole day was filled with 'brain fog' and I was dwelling on it, noticing my difficulty to remember, my slowed responses to what was just said to me, slowed thinking in general, feeling like I was disconnected from the moment I was currently in, etc.

And I thought to myself... is there something wrong with me here or do other people experience this too?
So I'm glad that you posted this thread because I can state, indefinitely, that you are NOT the only one who experiences this.

Now keep in mind, I've never taken any psyche meds for depression or anxiety in my life. Granted I was on Ritalin for my A.D.D. from age 7 to age 15, but I was ONLY given it on school days.
Only other psyche meds I've been on was Geodon&Lithium for 6 days because an incompetent hospital threatened me with it (long story, can't go in depth for legal purposes).
Let's just say I will be voting Ron Paul for now on: Less authority over people's free will, Please and Thank You lol.

But yeah, other than that isolated 'situation' I've never had psyche meds of any kind so I can also say, without doubt, that it's not a side effect of any medication AND that it's not just you.

But yes, I too have depression though mine was not a sudden onset.
I was neglected throughout my childhood and was socially inept as a result of it.

But yeah, I wish ya the best and hopefully my input helps you find the answers you're looking for.

Best of luck to ya!

JB68711 06-15-2012 02:04 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hey Dan, how are you doing now? I'm surprised no one brought up "dissociation" and "depersonalization". Look those terms up, it's such a relief to put a name to these feelings and see that this is something that is "defined". I've gone through the same thing you described, it was way too familiar to me when you brought up social situations, because those were the worst. I remember being at a party, or with a few friends and feeling like I was so disconnected and like there was a barrier between me and everyone else, feeling stuck in my head... it was almost a dream like feeling for me. Anyway it's been about 6 or 7 years since I've felt like that, treated with a few different anti depressants. I've been on Cymbalta and Clonazapam for probably about 3 years now and they've been working for me. Hope all is well, please update when you get a chance.

dan8819 06-18-2012 08:19 PM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hey JB and Inquisitive1too, thanks so much for replying. JB, I relate completely to feeling dissociated and depersonalized. That story of feeling like there is a wall between yourself and those around you is all too familiar to me. Right now, I'm hanging in there. It's been an emotional rollercoaster, being told completely different things from multiple medical professionals. I was so lost, I had no idea how to treat my condition, and there was no consensus among my doctors either. Now, however, I'm gaining hope. Perhaps soon I can finally find something that helps.

It's been a huge relief the past few weeks to find other people who are dealing with similar symptoms, because it might help guide me and my psychiatrists in treating this. I'd love to talk to you both more, if you don't mind. I'm in touch with two other people right now, from around the world, who have dealt with the same symptoms, and it's been very helpful for me to learn more about their experiences.

At the moment, I'm actually quite excited to be able to talk to a physician who is researching our sort of issues. I'll speak to him more soon, but my hope is to share with him what I've learned about myself in order to help him in his research. In the process, I hope to gain some valuable information myself so that my psychiatrist and I can make some wise choices with my treatment. Right now, unfortunately, I haven't found anything that's helped, though much of the medication I've tried has been barking up the wrong tree (before I was able to confirm that it is indeed depression-related, my psychiatrists tried treating it like ADHD, psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder, without any luck). Now that I know more confidently how to approach the issue, I may finally get somewhere with treatment after 8 years!

I can't thank you both enough for sharing your stories with me. Again, I'd love to chat with you more, if you don't mind.

Thanks again you guys, and to anyone else out there who feels like you are experiencing similar symptoms, please do join in! The more people who share their stories, the more likely others may be helped.

Best of luck to us all!

JB68711 06-19-2012 03:09 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hey Dan, my bouts of dissociation and depersonalization (and anxiety disorder) came after a small time of drug use. When I was being prescribed medication I wasn't paying much attention to what it was... it was my last resort. I did not want to take medication, and I have friends who are against it. However, I didn't know what else to do. I was not able to function comfortably outside of my house. I tried to talk to my mom one very early morning, she was getting ready for work and I was up all night (at about 6am); I told her "Mom, I don't know what's going on, I feel weird. I feel like I'm disconnected from everything around me, I just don't feel right." And she said something like "I'll find a number for a psychologist".

At that point, I felt even more disconnected. I felt I needed someone to talk to, and my mom couldn't give me that. She had to go to work. Reluctantly, I called her at work a couple of hours later, and told her that... and she said "I had to get to work, I don't know what else to say". She just didn't understand, and no one really does unless they have gone through it.

dan8819 06-19-2012 08:57 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Yeah, that's been the hardest part: explaining to others how disruptive it is. It's not just a matter of feeling a little quieter than normal; it's an almost complete loss of higher level functioning, both emotional and cognitive. Though it's possible to function on a basic level in the sense that I can still do homework, perform my job well, respond to questions from others, and the like, I can't really think deeply, process information, be observant, or feel things much.

If you don't mind, could you tell me which medications you tried and what effect you think they had? What you found helpful and what not so helpful? I've been trying to compile as much information as I can about what works with these sorts of symptoms.

Personally, I've been rather treatment resistant. And we've established this well with a genetic test I got to do (as a research trial, thank goodness! Those tests are expensive...). As it turns out, the vast majority of depression medications are not metabolized well by my body, so I have to expect bad side-effects, a lack of response, or both from most medicines. Even still, I've found that when starting Lexapro and also Emsam (an MAOI), both times I felt an initial positive response to the medication. Eventually, that response wore off and I returned to the brain fog, but I'm hopeful that the initial response indicates that there's some hope for me.

From what I can tell from Wikipedia and the like, the similarity between the two medications lies in their effects on raising serotonin levels. Lexapro, the SSRI, blocks serotonin's reuptake from the synapse, while Emsam inhibits serotonin's degradation (as well as the degradation of the other monoamine compounds, including dopamine and norepinephrine). This makes me wonder if serotonin is implicated in the brain fog issue, at least for me. Of course, I'm no expert in this matter though.

The more I find out about other people struggling with this issue, the more impassioned I am to help find some answers. For my part, I almost gave up hope (in a very bad way) when my third psychiatrist in a row had told me they didn't know what was going on or what to do. Now, however, I feel like I'm making some progress.

Thanks again to all of you guys and gals for sharing your stories. I hope you all find it comforting to know that you're not alone, because for me it's been an unparalleled source of relief and inspiration.

I'd like to hear more specifically about your experiences, specifically 1) your symptoms, described as completely as you can, and 2) your experiences with medications, what you tried, what helped, and what didn't.

If any of you have any questions for me, I'm an open book :). I'd be more than happy to share what I've experienced and what I've learned so far. I think I've shared my story pretty well so far, though I could be more detailed. I just don't want to blab too much if nobody wants to hear it, haha.

Rileyroll 07-05-2012 04:06 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
I can be a bit like that but I suffer from depression and have mental illness.My advice to you would be to go to your local doctor and have a complete body check.If anything it will put your mind at rest,perhaps if you are allowed you could take an energy drink into your class,something that boosts the serotonin in your brain.Perhaps your brain is not producing enough serotonin,which is known as the happy drug.You need to get a supplement that will have serotonin booster in it.

College boy 07-26-2012 08:13 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hi Dan,

I have the same problem. I wake up in the morning and it takes me a good 5 hours to wake-up (even with coffee) and sometimes it takes my whole day. I can't think clearly, I feel like I could go to bed again even if I slept well, I feel like a zombie, nothing scares me, I have a hard time concentrating because of that fog. Its like i'm in a fog most of my days and its frustrating. I suffer from depression and anxiety and I'm medicated. However, like you, I had that probleme at every stages. I would really want to know the root cause of this. I personnaly think that its probably linked to my mental health conditions. But the weird thing is that, even if I feel ok and being treated, I have that fog.

dan8819 07-30-2012 09:05 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
Hello everyone, apologies for being absent for a while. I've been a bit busy lately. So, my best guess (and this is just a guess) is that these symptoms are somehow related to a deficiency in serotonin. From a genetic test I had done on myself, I've learned that my serotonin transporter gene is homozygous for the short polymorphism of the promoter region. This means that my body, presumably, makes fewer serotonin transporter proteins (SERTs) than maybe is normal. These SERT proteins are responsible for reloading serotonin back from the synapse into the axon terminus of the neurons. The SERT is also the target for all serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This genetic lack of SERT protein perhaps indicates both a genetic predisposition to depression as well as an explanation for the resistance to SRI treatment. Furthermore, there are genetic liver issues as well involving my body's processing of medications in general. It certainly makes sense, as my relatives and I all share a natural resistance to most medications in general.

So, under my psychiatrist's care, we are using this information to construct a new treatment regimen, one that will hopefully bypass the metabolic obstacle posed by my liver while overcoming the problems posed by my neurons. It's a tall order, and it's definitely on the cutting edge of medication therapy to take such an approach. I have several ideas to try, but unfortunately it'll take a little while to truly test them out.

For those of you who have posted in the meanwhile about the brain fog, I believe I know what you're experiencing. I am deeply sorry that you have to go through it, because it certainly causes a lot of distress. For myself, it's forced me to change a lot of my life's goals, although I'm doing the best I can to stay positive. As I remain living at home (with my parents at age 24 :-P), I'm remaining active. I'm both studying the scientific literature (though science still isn't that advanced in psychiatry) and working on a book about everything I've learned. If my psychiatrist and I are successful in figuring this out, then hopefully what we learn will be a help to yourselves and others.

So, take hope! You are not alone in this. There are people out there fighting for you.

dan8819 07-30-2012 09:26 AM

Re: "Brain fog"
By the way, JB, you mentioned that your symptoms started after a small period of drug use. I'm not sure what you mean by that, and I certainly don't want to assume anything, but what you said reminded me of something I've encountered over the year on the Internet. Please don't take this post as directed toward you or anything--I just wanted to share something I've seen.

I've read dozens, maybe even hundreds, of posts by people on health forums like this one. I've always looked for people with "brain fog" type symptoms similar to mine. One thing that surprised me was the large number of people who developed symptoms after using marijuana. The symptoms usually appeared suddenly after "a bad joint" or overdose or something, though sometimes they just developed over time while smoking pot. I've never tried any rec drugs before, but reading all of those stories was really quite frightening. All political, ethical, economic, and philosophical issues aside, I'd definitely advise everyone (and this is NOT any sort of professional advice, mind you) to avoid marijuana and synthetic compounds. Anecdotally, to me at least, there seems to be some people who have developed chronic, perhaps permanent, psychiatric problems shortly after using them. Of course, these are just stories, right? All I'm saying is be wary. Most people don't get on health boards and post fake stories about brain fog after pot use when they're bored.

I'm not judging here, I'm just saying this out of concern for you all. It's a possible risk of such drug use that I don't think has really been studied. I haven't looked for research on it, but I imagine there aren't too many scientists administering recreational marijuana haha. Forgive me for the unsolicited PSA, but, friends, don't do drugs :).

With your mother's approval,

P.S. Eat your vegetables too

Davesport 07-30-2012 10:14 PM

Re: "Brain fog"
dan8819, Please find a way to keep me informed. I have the symptoms you describe. I will try to highlight similarities and differences. First, other issues have confounded any diagnosis. Several years ago, I had a disc herniation that changed my life. A couple years of NSAIDS messed up my stomach and caused esophageal erosion. I started taking Lortab (hydrocodone and acetaminophen). Took it for a year before having surgery for my esophpagus. After this laproscopic surgery, I feel that I have not completely waken up from surgery. My blood pressure got quite low during surgery due to getting close to related nerves in the area of the surgery. I immediately expected brain damage, but with that I would expect some improvement over time. Surgery can also sometimes cause depression, although my surgeons have no idea what I'm talking about in wither case - of course. After a couple years of chronic pain and brain fog, my doc says depression would be normal and the symptoms fit. Celexa has helped some with depression, but not at all with the brain fog - I want off it, just to take it as a source of my fatigue out of the equation. I saw him after questioning my upper level decision making. I went to a neurologist. He saw that I take Lortab and said, "I think your family doctor can figure this one out." I am very careful with how I use Lortab. I need it to keep pain level tolerable - abuse of it simply isn't sensible.

I was average in elementary school, well above average intellectually in high school, an overachiever in the Army and in college. I have had several challenging and stressful jobs. The brain fog has affected my personality (a little) and hurt my word recollection (a lot). I am 45 and have a family of four. I have to make sure this does not get worse. My employer recently asked me to improve my public speaking skills. I have never had a problem with that. Recently, I guess I have just never been called on that before. My delayed and perhaps less than flowing responses have people wondering if I'm the same person that wrote the report. This is new since the surgery. I know inside that I can double and triple check the report and that I don't have that luxury in a public meeting. I never really loved to read for enjoyment but go through technical manuals or text books as needed without a second thought. I don't enjoy it at all now.

Because I am still apparently high functioning and my coping mechanisms are alright, I don't think I will ever be "fixed". I am hoping that the light will get turned back on as quickly as it was turned off. That hope is perhaps the most illogical part of my thinking, but necessary to enjoy the small stuff and hold out hope for improvement. If I thought I could not improve, I would seek a lower paying job. I think about it everyday, but that would be a very big let down for my family and I would feel lazy. Maybe everybody goes through this as they age, I think to myself.

Just a bit ago I got on Healthboards to find anything related to this mess. What you describe sounds quite specific. I have not been on Healthboards since my disc herniation in 2006 (unless I forgot!). I did not go to work today due to back pain and fatigue. I have never done that before and obviously can not make that a habit. We moved furniture this weekend - I may have dealt with the back pain, but the combo punch of that and fog is a bit much. Generally speaking, I could go to sleep (or at least want to) most of the time.

Yes, my symptoms are like depression and I won't ignore that (it may run in the family) and they perhaps are like drug abuse. Only I know that this was a sudden onset that is at least somewhat independent of those. The liver function/processing you mention is intriguing, given my daily dose of Tylenol.

Drugs and environmental factors can not be discounted, but the combination is too complex to work through for just a few people. Many blame fungus or mold, for what that's worth. Even if, that doesn't explain the onset or link it with a specific trigger.

BTW, I think you are taking a healthy approach to tracking down the root of your problem. I will be glad to provide additional information as needed. If you do a book, you've sold one already! Keep your head up and keep a balanced life is the only advice I can offer so far.

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