Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders experienced in the US. In fact, over 40 million adults in the US have an anxiety disorder, and 17.3 million struggle with major depressive disorder (MDD). Anxiety and depression can impact physical health and have long-lasting effects on the individual and their loved ones.
Brain fog can occur as a result of these mental health conditions or stress. Brain fog from time to time is a normal experience. However, brain fog can become a recurrent problem that interferes with daily functioning when it is caused by depression or anxiety.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is not a medical condition but is instead a group of symptoms that are involved with cognitive decline. Brain fog is characterized by the inability to concentrate, difficulty with memory, and difficulty completing tasks. Depending on the severity of this group of symptoms, cognitive decline can begin to interfere with work, school, or daily functioning.
Brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels of inflammation and changes to hormones that determine mood, energy, and focus. The imbalance of hormone levels can negatively impact not only the brain but the whole body. Brain fog can lead to other conditions like obesity, abnormal menstruation, and diabetes.
Causes of Brain Fog
Brain fog is not only caused by anxiety and depression but other conditions. Understanding the causes of brain fog can help with the treatment of the symptoms associated with cognitive decline.
Common causes of brain fog include:
- Medication – side effects of certain medications can cause symptoms associated with brain fog
- Chronic illness – mental health disorders and medical conditions that are recurrent can be associated with symptoms of brain fog
- Stress – prolonged stress can reduce the blood flow to the brain causing an increase in exhaustion making it harder to think, reason, and focus
- Vitamin deficiencies – lack of Vitamin B-12 can cause brain fog symptoms because this vitamin is known to promote brain health
- Hormonal imbalance – estrogen and progesterone levels in pregnant and menopausal women can cause brain fog symptoms
- Viral infections – COVID-19, SARS, and H1N1 viruses can cause inflammation in the brain resulting in brain fog symptoms
Anxiety & Brain Fog
Anxiety is characterized by a variety of symptoms including the symptoms associated with brain fog. Anxious and recurrent thoughts can cause sleep disturbances and problems leading to cognitive decline. The brain’s fight or flight response associated with anxiety and the stress hormones triggered can explain why anxiety can cause brain fog symptoms.
Anxiety is associated with the production of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine which can overwhelm and exhaust the brain. Amygdala activity in the brain during anxiety increases causing hypervigilance and a decline in rational thinking. Activity in the hippocampus of the brain with anxiety decreases which can cause memory and learning difficulties.
Depression & Brain Fog
Brain fog can occur during depressive episodes because of what happens to the brain. The physical makeup of the brain can be altered during long periods of depression. Stress and depression can lead to impacts on the hippocampus and amygdala brain regions.
The hippocampus can shrink causing difficulties with executive functioning skills, concentration, and making decisions. The thalamus changes with prolonged depression can impact sleeping patterns and the processing of sensory information. The amygdala may be overactive with depression and cause a heightened level of fear and anxiety leading to brain fog symptoms.
Treatment for Anxiety & Depression
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is an evidence-based therapy used to treat anxiety and depression in addition to other mental health disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can aid in treating depression and anxiety. CBT focuses on replacing unhealthy thought and behavioral patterns to learn to cope with mental health disorders.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another type of evidence-based psychotherapy that can be helpful in treating depression and anxiety. DBT uses four skill modules of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness to improve symptoms of mental health disorders. DBT can be practiced on an individual basis or group setting with a licensed therapist.
Medications can be used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. The most common medications prescribed for these disorders are antidepressants like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).
However, antidepressant medications tend to not help with improving brain fog symptoms. Cognitive decline is one of the most common residual symptoms of depression and anxiety despite the use of antidepressants as treatment. Additionally, antidepressants can cause side effects like anxiety, insomnia, and weight gain.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive and medication-free treatment for depression and anxiety. TMS stimulates parts of the brain associated with anxiety and depression by sending short magnetic pulses through an electromagnetic coil that is placed on the top of the head. Customized treatment plans can be created based on diagnosis and individual needs.
TMS therapy typically lasts for 6-20 minutes, 5 days a week for 25-30 sessions. TMS is associated with minimal to no side effects, unlike antidepressant medications. This therapeutic technique can be an effective treatment for brain fog symptoms found with anxiety and depression.
Get Help for Brain Fog Symptoms
Brain fog can be caused by anxiety, depression, and other medical conditions. Prolonged cognitive decline can create difficulties with daily functioning, working, and schooling. Hormonal changes and brain inflammation can increase brain fog symptoms.
If you or a loved one are struggling with brain fog from anxiety or depression reach out to Brain Center TMS today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.