Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have a big impact on your ability to think clearly.

In fact, ADHD can sometimes make you feel like a fog has crept into your brain. Your reaction time slows down. It can be harder to remember information, process your thoughts, and find the right words to say what you want to say.

This article explains the relationship between ADHD and the condition known as brain fog. It describes the thinking skills that can be affected by ADHD and discusses treatments that can help dispel the fog.

“Brain fog” is not a scientific or medical term. Researchers sometimes refer to the experience as a slow cognitive pace – a temporary slowing in your thinking skills.

When you are dealing with brain fog, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • mental fatigue or drowsiness
  • oversight
  • wandering of the mind
  • a cloudy or dreamy feeling
  • an inability to focus or concentrate
  • a feeling that you are disconnected from reality
  • distraction
  • loss of motivation
  • slow physical movement
  • a feeling of overwhelm
  • an inability to find words to express your thoughts

While fog in the natural environment may seem pleasant and relaxing, cognitive fog can be quite the opposite. This can lead to a drop in your productivity at school or at work. This can cause communication problems in your relationships. And that can quickly lead to frustration and anxiety — feelings some people with ADHD know all too well.

Brain fog can occur for many reasons.

Research has shown that aging, traumatic brain injury, central nervous system damage — even dehydration and standing too long — can cause it. Health problems such as lupus, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and COVID-19[female[feminine can all cause temporary mental sluggishness.

People with ADHD sometimes also experience brain fog. Here’s what the research says about the link between ADHD and that foggy feeling.

ADHD is a difference in the way the brain develops during childhood. The condition sometimes lasts into adulthood, although symptoms may differ as you get older.

Health experts at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) let’s say there are three main types of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive-impulsive may appear as the need to be active, on the move and talkative most of the time.
  • Inattentive can appear as an inability to concentrate, pay attention and remember things.
  • Combination exhibits both elevated activity and cognitive symptoms.

Many symptoms of inattentive ADHD are the same ones you experience when you have brain fog. Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty following instructions are some examples of these common symptoms.

On 25 to 55 percent of children with ADHD have trouble sleeping, and 43 percent of adults with ADHD also have trouble sleeping. ADHD can keep you from falling asleep quickly and keep you up all night, affecting both the quality and quantity of your sleep.

When your sleep is disturbed, you cannot think as clearly as when you are rested. Studies show that people with ADHD and sleep disorders experience more:

  • inattention
  • daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • errors of omission in schoolwork
  • difficulty with language, intellectual functioning, and information processing

ADHD and sleep disorders have a complex relationship. ADHD makes it harder to get enough sleep. And when you don’t get enough rest, your ADHD symptoms can get worse. This pattern creates a cycle, so it is important to treat both conditions.

Some of the medications used to treat ADHD symptoms can cause side effects that resemble brain fog. These side effects may include:

  • exhaustion or fatigue
  • daytime sleepiness
  • a feeling that you are sedated

Certain ADHD medications can also cause sleep problems. You can’t sleep as long as before. And it may take longer to fully wake you up in the morning.

If you experience side effects like these, you can talk to a healthcare professional about changing your dose or type of medication. They will be able to work with you to find the right balance of medication that is right for you.

It is important to discuss this with your doctor before changing your treatment because stopping certain medications too quickly can have harmful effects.

Health specialists thinks the term brain fog encompasses many of the symptoms people have when there is inflammation in the brain or nervous system.

Inflammation also plays a role in the development of ADHD. For example, early exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke that cause inflammation may increase the risk of ADHD in young children.

People with ADHD are also known to have an increased risk of other inflammatory health conditions like asthma and eczema.

People with ADHD often have higher levels of cytokines in their bodies. These proteins are part of the natural immune response and high cytokine counts are a sign of inflammation. Researchers found that a jump in cytokines can:

  • reduce your attention span
  • increase your chances of making mistakes on thinking tasks
  • slow down your reaction time
  • interfere with your working memory

More research needs to be done to understand exactly how ADHD, brain fog, and inflammation influence each other.

Although there is no cure for ADHD itself, treatment can help dispel that foggy feeling. Here are some options to discuss with a healthcare professional:

For many children and adults, cognitive symptoms respond well to treatment. First-line drug treatments for ADHD include:

Dehydration can make brain fog symptoms worse. In studies, dehydration affected memory, attention span, fatigue, ability to do “mental” work, and reaction time. When study participants drank plenty of water, those skills rebounded quickly.

You’ll want to drink in the morning and afternoon, so you don’t have to wake up at night to go to the bathroom.

People with ADHD should take extra care to make sure they are well rested. Treating both ADHD and sleep issues can give you better results than treating ADHD alone.

In to study involving 244 children with ADHD, those who were taught good sleep habits had fewer ADHD symptoms and better daytime functioning than those who were treated for ADHD without resolving sleep issues. The benefits were still there a year later.

You can create better sleeping conditions by:

  • make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool
  • put away digital devices well before bedtime
  • limit drinks, especially caffeinated ones, at the end of the day

If you think you have a sleep disorder, talk to a healthcare professional about whether a sleep study would help your condition.

Regular exercise improves thinking skills in people with ADHD, studies Pin up. Activity boosts executive function, which is the set of skills that allow you to remember, plan, focus, and follow instructions.

All forms of exercise are beneficial. Cardio exercise, such as running, biking, or swimming, may help clear up ADHD brain fog in the short term and may have longer-lasting cognitive effects. Exercise may be more effective for children than for adults, according to some studies.

Brain fog is a popular term that refers to a feeling of mental fatigue and a slowing down of your thinking skills. People with brain fog have trouble remembering and processing information. They may also have slower reaction times and lapses in attention.

ADHD is one of many health conditions that can cause brain fog. Many ADHD symptoms mirror brain fog symptoms. Brain inflammation may be behind some of them. ADHD can also cause sleep disturbances that make brain fog worse.

Drug treatment can improve some brain fog symptoms, but some drugs can actually make mental fatigue worse.

Talk to a healthcare professional about which medications might best treat your symptoms. Drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of rest, and exercising can also help dispel mental fog.


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