Can Anxiety Cause Brain Fog? Understanding the Connection

Can Anxiety Cause Brain Fog? Understanding the Connection

Brain fog is a term used to describe a state of mental cloudiness or confusion. It can manifest as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and a lack of mental clarity. While it's commonly associated with conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, there's growing evidence suggesting that anxiety may also play a significant role in causing or exacerbating brain fog. Understanding the connection between anxiety and brain fog can shed light on how to manage both conditions effectively.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is not a medical condition in itself. Instead, it's a symptom that signals something isn't quite right in your body or mind. It's a cognitive dysfunction involving memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, and inability to focus.

It might feel like a cloud that reduces your mental visibility. It can prevent you from thinking clearly or remembering things you usually have no trouble recalling. You might feel confused, disoriented, or find it hard to focus or put your thoughts into words.

Brain Fog Symptoms

  • Slower thinking
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Confusion
  • Lack of focus and mental clarity
  • Difficulty completing simple tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Haziness

These symptoms can vary in intensity and frequency, and they can affect different people in different ways. But if you're experiencing a combination of these symptoms, you might be dealing with brain fog.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response to stress or apprehension characterized by feelings of unease, worry, and nervousness. It manifests as a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. While it's a normal part of life, excessive or persistent anxiety can interfere with daily functioning and may require professional intervention.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Becoming easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating, mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or restless sleep
  • Excessive worry about different things
  • Panic attacks, characterized by sudden feelings of intense fear or discomfort

Can Anxiety Cause Brain Fog?

Anxiety is a natural response to stress or perceived threats. When you feel anxious, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare you to deal with the perceived danger. While this response is essential for survival, chronic or excessive anxiety can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health.

Research suggests that anxiety can impair various cognitive processes, including attention, memory, and decision-making. When you're anxious, your mind may become preoccupied with worrying thoughts, making it difficult to focus on tasks or retain information. This cognitive impairment can contribute to the experience of brain fog. This is supported by Sukel (2022), who found that depression and anxiety are linked to brain fog-like symptoms.

It's also believed that chronic stress, a common feature of anxiety disorders, plays a significant role in cognitive difficulties. Chronic stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain, leading to symptoms like forgetfulness, confusion, and lack of mental clarity - the hallmarks of brain fog. This is evident as McEwen (2017) found that stress can cause an imbalance of neural circuitry subserving cognition, decision-making, anxiety, and mood.

This is further supported by Simard et al. (2009), who revealed that psychological distress and depressive, anxious, and apathetic symptoms were present in participants with mild cognitive impairment and may also predict progression to dementia.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with poorer thinking skills and altered perception, which can cause further anxiety. When we're anxious, our minds are often in a state of hyperarousal, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep. During sleep, our brains undergo various processes that help maintain cognitive health. For instance, it clears out toxins, consolidates memories, and replenishes energy stores. When these processes are disrupted due to insufficient sleep, it can result in symptoms of brain fog, such as feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of mental clarity.

In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can also exacerbate anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. The more anxious we are, the harder it is to sleep, and the less we sleep, the more anxious we become. This lack of quality sleep can directly contribute to the development or worsening of brain fog.

Managing and Reducing Anxiety-Related Brain Fog

Navigating through the haze of anxiety-related brain fog can be challenging. However, with the right strategies, it's possible to manage and even reduce its impact on your daily life.

Therapeutic Approaches to Anxiety and Brain Fog

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a popular therapeutic approach to tackle anxiety-related brain fog. It helps individuals identify and change thought patterns that lead to anxiety and foggy thinking.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): This therapy focuses on mindfulness meditation to help reduce anxiety and clear the mind.
  • Psychotherapy: This involves talking to a mental health professional to understand and manage anxiety, which can help reduce brain fog.

The goal of these therapies is to manage anxiety, which, in turn, can help reduce brain fog. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to find the best therapeutic approach for you.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Brain Fog

  • Regular Exercise: Exercise is known to release endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, which can alleviate anxiety symptoms. Regular exercise boosts your mood and also improves cognitive function.
  • Balanced Diet: Consuming a diet low in carbohydrates may improve brain function and reduce brain fog. Insulin resistance might be related to brain fog, and overall feelings of sluggishness. Moreover, a savoury breakfast will contribute to a more stable blood glucose levels during the day and ensure there is less fluctuation in your cognitive power during the day. Another rule of thumb when it comes to nutrition is to eat the carbs last. By consuming fiber (salad) first, you "coat" your gut, and after the main meal (protein & fat), the insulin spike from anything containing carbohydrates will be minimised. 
  • Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety and brain fog, so ensuring you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night can help reduce these symptoms.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you stay in the present moment, reducing the tendency to overthink or worry excessively, which often leads to brain fog.
  • Limit Alcohol and Smoking: These can increase anxiety levels and worsen brain fog. It's best to limit consumption of both.

Supplements to Alleviate Brain Fog

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish oil, these can help improve brain function and are linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • B Vitamins: Particularly B12, B6, and folate (B9), are crucial for energy production and the proper functioning of the brain. They play a role in reducing brain fog by improving mood regulation and cognitive functions.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to impaired cognitive function and increased levels of brain fog.
  • Magnesium: Essential for brain health, magnesium can improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, indirectly addressing factors that contribute to brain fog.
  • L-Theanine: L-Theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness and may improve focus and attention.

NMN Bio has a whole host of supplements that are beneficial for brain health, energy, and focus.

In particular, the NAD+ Brain contributes to memory performance and cognitive function. It's packed full of natural compounds such as apigenin, well-known for its calming effect on brain cells, and L-Theanine, which has notable effects on relieving stress disorders, improving mood, and maintaining normal sleep.

Alternatively, the NMN supplement boosts NAD+ levels, improving focus and concentration, increasing vitality, and offsetting physical decline.

Both of these supplements offer a promising approach to supporting brain health and cognitive function.

Wrapping Up: Brain Fog and Anxiety

Understanding the intricate relationship between anxiety and brain fog is essential for those seeking to enhance their cognitive performance and overall well-being. Anxiety can significantly contribute to the experience of brain fog, manifesting as mental fatigue, difficulties with concentration, memory issues, and a decrease in cognitive functioning.

Managing anxiety and ensuring enough sleep are pivotal steps in mitigating brain fog and improving mental clarity. Incorporating lifestyle changes, therapeutic interventions, and supplements, like the range at NMN Bio, can address the root causes of both anxiety and brain fog, leading to improved cognitive health and a reduction in the symptoms of both conditions.

By prioritizing mental health and recognizing the signals our bodies give us, such as the need for enough sleep and the presence of mental fatigue, we can take proactive steps towards clearing the haze of brain fog and enhancing our daily cognitive performance.

Researched and reviewed by Dr Elena Seranova, Ph.D.

Dr Seranova holds a master's degree in Translational Neuroscience from the University of Sheffield, UK, and a Ph.D in Stem Cell Biology and Autophagy from the University of Birmingham, UK. She is a published author in multiple peer-reviewed journals, including Cell Reports and Developmental Cell.


Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola P. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. (2007)

Lukasik et al. The Relationship of Anxiety and Stress With Working Memory Performance in a Large Non-depressed Sample. Frontiers in Psychology. (2019)

McEwen, B. Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress. Chronic Stress. (2017)

Simard et al. Psychological distress and risk for dementia. Current Psychiatry Reports. (2009)

Sukel, K. Lifting the fog. New Scientist. (2022)