Brain Fog -the Bane of the Lives of Patients with Fibromyalgia

For many patients with fibromyalgia, brain fog is the most frustrating symptom.

For anyone who hasn't received a formal diagnosis of fibromyalgia, but is suffering the symptoms, brian fog, with its associated memory loss, deterioration in cognitive function, and ability to interfere with daily life, is scarily like any number of other more serious diseases.  Most patients who are finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, have already had brain scans, body scans and a host of other tests to exclude a number of very scary conditions.

So what exactly is Fibromyalgia Brain Fog?

Fibrofog is like your brain is filled with marshmallow. Every idea, every action, every thought, and every nerve impulse has to find its way through that marshmallow before it can go anywhere else.It slows your thought processes, blocks memory retrieval and formation, and even screws up co-ordination and fine motor movement.

Many say they would put up with a little more of the pain associated with fibromyalgia, if only they could get their heads back. Simple daily chores turn into major projects, which need to be planned step by step, and sometimes even written down in steps so that the job gets done. Conversations become difficult as you forget the start of someone's sentence before they finish it. And as for memory... As for what? What was I just saying? 

As Noise Gets Louder, You Get Stupider

Actually it isn't just noise. It can be bright lights, crowded spaces, a number of people talking over each other, even background music. Airports can have this effect, making you lose your passport between security and boarding, or hand across your duty-free receipt when trying to board your flight. Closer to home, have you ever been in a busy supermarket and found your regular grocery list takes three times as long to assemble. (And not just because they've  moved everything again)

The point being, is that if you are over-stimulated in any way, you can't concentrate on the matter at hand and you will take longer to do everything, and make more mistakes.

Remember how you used to hold the baby on your hip, listen to the radio, talk on speakerphone to you best friend, and make dinner all at the same time? Don't try that when you're in the middle of fibrofog. You may end up pausing in the middle of browning the onions as you hear something interesting on the radio. Half an hour later you'll find the house full of smoke, the baby in the fridge, and your friend  screaming at you to hang up the phone so she can call the fire brigade because she can hear all your smoke alarms going off. And you won't have the remotest idea where the last half hour has disappeared to!

Tiredness makes you Dumber

Exactly what it says.

As fatigue sets in, your brain clouds over. You look at one of your kids, and suddenly you forget his or her name. You turn to introduce your beloved lifelong partner to a work colleague, and both names flee from your mind. Even the simplest calculation, like how to make up $2.50 out of loose change,  seems impossible.

At the traffic lights, you're not one hundred percent certain that green means go. Even when you get it right, as soon as you're through the lights, you're afraid it was red when you crossed the line. As you drive along the road, you forget where you're supposed to be going.

This is brain fog in all its frustrating, and sometimes scary glory.

You Can No Longer do Two Things at Once

This is like overstimulation, but it comes from inside, and is usually under your control. When you're suffering from fibro-fog, switch off the radio when driving, because you can no longer deal safely with the distraction. Even being involved in deep thought processes can be so distracting that you can forget what you're doing, or do it badly. Ever sent the kids off to school, worried that they had a healthy enough lunch, then discovered later that you had tidied the kitchen table putting the butter in the bin, the dirty plates in the fridge, and left the milk on top of the diswasher.

Your Keys are in the Fridge

This is a classic complaint for people with fibromyalgia. You would not believe the number of things that we find in the wrong places.

The only remedy for this is to have a limited number of 'safe' places for a number of key items. For example, my  'downstairs' reading glasses case is on the hall table. If I can't put my reading glasses into this case, they stay on the top of my head. My handbag goes under a particular chair in the kitchen. My car keys in my handbag.

Of course the only way you can make this work is to shout REALLY loudly at anyone who moves stuff in the interest of 'tidying'. Explain that each time you lose your keys it can take as much as half an hour to an hour out of your day.

Or better still forget to pick them up from the office as you keep getting distracted from the hunt for the missing keys!


Your Memory is Shot

Memory is a real problem for fibromyalgia sufferers, and it is at its worst when fibro-fog is at its thickest. Learning new information is difficult. Copying text is almost impossible. Comparing two open web-pages is a herculean task involving much switching back and forth which only adds to confusion.

Even the most basic of memory functions, the recording of our daily lives, is disrupted by fibro-fog. Details of meeting people, what you ate, what restaurants you ate in, all these may be poorly recorded if you are in the middle of a fibro-fog episode.

The next day you may be scared to find whole chunks of the day before 'missing' or so vague, that they may as well be missing.


Fibro-fog is not proof you have Alzheimer's. It does not mean you have had a stroke, or a brain tumour. You are not going mad. It should not merely be written of a symptom of depression, or anxiety if you happen to suffer from either of these conditions along with your fibromyalgia (although either can intensify it.)

Fibrofog is an extremely annoying, but benign symptom of fibromyalgia. It gets worse when you are tired , in pain or stressed, but will not deteriorate with time.

There is no magic bullet to cure it, but you will be able to moderate its effect on your life with careful management.