Do you find that you have trouble thinking, communicating your thoughts, or staying on task at school or work? You may have too many thoughts at once, no thoughts at all, or racing thoughts that make it impossible to maintain your attention and make your productivity take a nosedive.
If this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from ADHD brain fog - one of the more common (and frustrating) side effects of the disorder.
Brain fog is the term commonly used to refer to difficulty focusing, scattered thoughts, forgetfulness, and mental sluggishness that inhibits your cognitive function. Essentially, it’s when your brain doesn’t quite feel “sharp” and you have trouble thinking as a result, making it hard for you to achieve your goals, make progress professionally or academically, and live your best life. This mental sluggishness can come and go or be chronic depending on the cause of the symptoms and the treatment plan you’re on, making it incredibly frustrating and disruptive to your daily life.
Brain fog manifests in a variety of different ways, including:
- Struggling to find the right words to get a point across
- Having a hard time comprehending what you’re hearing or reading
- Trouble organizing thoughts and solving problems
- Losing focus on what you’re doing
- Forgetting things because you’re distracted
- Feeling mentally tired without a clear cause
These symptoms may mimic cognitive decline and cause concern, but they’re not likely to be permanent. However, if you’re suffering from ADHD, you’re more likely to experience these symptoms more frequently or even chronically..
The Role of ADHD in Brain Fog
While there is no definitive cause for why ADHD develops, scientists believe that the dopaminergic system plays a major role in the development of ADHD symptoms, including brain fog.
Oftentimes, cognitive processing is slowed at baseline in ADHD, especially inattentive ADHD which may be the real culprit behind ADHD brain fog symptoms. There is also a cousin condition (not DSM diagnosis) that is becoming recognized called Sluggish Cognitive Tempo, or SCT, which may be a more accurate rationale for development of brain fog symptoms.
The dopaminergic system is responsible for controlling functions related to movement and cognitive function. It manages the transmission of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is linked to learning and memory, through neural pathways that connect the brain and body.
One possible explanation for why ADHD causes brain fog is that there is an overabundance of dopamine transporters in the brain. These excess proteins lead to a greater rate of dopamine uptake, resulting in fewer dopamine neurotransmitters that are available for use in the dopaminergic pathways. When an imbalance between the production and uptake of dopamine occurs, the brain does not have enough of the neurotransmitter to facilitate the formulation of new memories, recall information, and perform other cognitive tasks that are essential for optimal performance.
ADHD can also contribute to poor sleep quality that worsens brain fog due to a disruption in cells’ ability to communicate with each other effectively.
Is It ADHD Brain Fog or Something Else?
While ADHD can be a factor for brain fog, not all brain fog is caused by ADHD. It’s important to look at your physical and mental health as a whole to rule out another more obvious cause before you assume that the cloudiness you experience is related to ADHD brain fog.
A variety of different factors can play a role in your mental health and cognitive functioning, including things like dehydration, stress, inflammation, lack of exercise, poor sleep quality, deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals, and more.
Mental illness can be a major risk factor in the development of brain fog, with both anxiety and depression being some of the most common comorbid disorders to occur with ADHD.
Chronic stress and episodes of heightened anxiety can lead to imbalances of hormones and neurotransmitters that interfere with cognition. ADHD symptoms can also cause anxiety because of the cognitive issues that come with the disorder and their ability to affect mental health, continuing the cycle that leads to symptom development.
Depression can also cause an imbalance of dopamine and other neurotransmitters similar to chronic stress or ADHD and can affect the brain's gray and white matter connectivity, leading to cognitive issues. Sometimes, depression can be attributed to the symptoms of brain fog and ADHD, leading to a repeating cycle that makes it hard to maintain a positive mental outlook.
If you've been diagnosed with ADHD, you may be dealing with brain fog symptoms related to altered dopamine regulation and signaling.
Fortunately, because the symptoms overlap so extensively, treatment for your ADHD is likely to be effective in treating your brain fog as well.
How to Treat ADHD Brain Fog
Regardless of whether you have an official ADHD diagnosis or just suspect that ADHD brain fog may be causing your issues, it’s crucial that you put yourself in the best position possible to prevent and address the symptoms of brain fog. If you don’t provide your body with everything it needs to operate efficiently, treatment of any kind is not going to be as effective as it can be. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to address the symptoms of ADHD brain fog on your own.
Sleep plays a major role in all of your biological processes, but it especially impacts your cognitive function. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain’s cells struggle to communicate with each other effectively, slowing down your ability to think, focus, and form new memories. By getting 8-10 hours of sleep, you provide your brain with the capability to work at peak efficiency.
Nutrition is another significant factor in your ability to think clearly. Your body and brain need certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to work effectively. If you’re not getting them as part of your diet, providing them through diet changes or supplements can help to fill in the gaps and enable your brain to work more seamlessly. Consider getting bloodwork done to check for deficiencies in important nutrients and work with your doctor to address them.
Medications can also impact your focus and memory, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - one of the most common treatments for comorbid conditions of ADHD like anxiety and depression. While it’s not a good idea to stop your medication to see if your brain fog resolves, consider talking to your psychiatrist about changing medications to see if another option is available that may not induce brain fog.
When all major factors of ADHD brain fog are considered, treatment through the use of stimulants and non-stimulant medication can be implemented to great efficacy. About 70% of patients receiving treatment for their ADHD report improvements in their symptoms, which includes symptoms of brain fog.
Get Help with ADHD Brain Fog Today
If you feel like your brain isn’t working as well as it could be due to undiagnosed or untreated ADHD brain fog, get in touch with us at Done today. Our team can help you to identify the root cause of your problems, create a treatment plan that works for you, and help you get what you need to live your best life.
Don’t wait any longer - get a quick online assessment now. Your brain will thank you!