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How would you describe your brain fog?


Senior Member
I'm finding it hard to put to words how the brain fog is, to make someone who's healthy understand, and I wonder how would you describe your brain fog, if you're struggling with it?


Senior Member
I don't get it as bad as I used to, but I think the best description I have is that it doesn't feel like there's enough room in my head for it to do the things it needs to do, to process all the information that's going into it; basically, like there's a spanner in the works. I think this makes more sense to me than anyone else though!
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Senior Member
New Mexico
I should understand by now what people are referring to when they speak of "brain fog". Are you referring to difficulty with mental tasks or an actual physical feeling in the brain? One of my worst symptoms when the illness was at its peak was an actual physical feeling in the brain.......like my brain felt numb, heavy, inflamed.............felt like my head was underwater.......stuffed with cotton.


Senior Member
I find that a specific anecdote of one of my worst moments tends to help, when I was looking at a list of items, and had to keep trying to figure out what a word was, then what it meant, then why it was relevant, then what I was doing reading it in the first place, etc.

I also tend to describe how things get harder and harder for me the longer I try to do them. So sometimes I start out thinking that something will be fine, and then as I go I get slower and slower and slower until it's like beating my head against a brick wall trying to think through even very basic things. But I'm still aware of how basic it SHOULD be, so it's very frustrating.

In terms of things healthy people can relate to, many people have had a time that they can't think of the word for something temporarily, even though they KNOW they should know that word. It's not quite the same thing, but it might help them connect to the frustration of your mind not performing the way you know it's supposed to.
Ah, one of the many great banes in my life. I actually get many different types of brain fog. So it can be difficult define brain fog clearly.

So I tend to say certain key points, such as:

- a lack of mental stamina
- inability to bring thoughts together or to hold on to a thought
- lack of clarity of short term memory

Trying to explain brain fog often feels a bit like trying to explain/describe colour to a person born blind. It is very difficult to explain many aspects of brain fog coherently to others, so I can completely understand why you might find it difficult.


Senior Member
Comparing brain fog to what I have is comparing a skinned knee to an amputated leg. I have significant brain damage, 9 lobes of hypoperfusion on my SPECT. I have yet to find someone else with this disease who even closely rivals what I have.

I'm not trying to discount anyone's suffering, just trying to give an idea of how bad this is for me.


Senior Member
A description of the cognitive dysfunction (brain fog) that you find in ME/CFS is given in the International Consensus Criteria (ICC) definition of ME/CFS, and the Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC) definition of ME/CFS.

The ICC describes the neurocognitive impairments of ME/CFS as:
Difficulty processing information: slowed thought, impaired concentration e.g. confusion, disorientation, cognitive overload, difficulty with making decisions, slowed speech, acquired or exertional dyslexia.

Short-term memory loss: e.g. difficulty remembering what one wanted to say, what one was saying, retrieving words, recalling information, poor working memory.

The CCC describes the cognitive manifestations of ME/CFS as:
Impairment of concentration
Impairment of short-term memory consolidation
Difficulty with information processing
Difficulty with categorizing things
Word retrieval problems
Intermittent dyslexia
Perceptual/sensory disturbances
Ataxia (a disorder affecting balance, coordination, and speech)

Out of the above listed symptoms, for me personally, my brain fog is typified by:

Poor short-term memory (for example, you may constantly forget what you were just about to do, or what you just did).

Poor working memory (so you cannot grasp or juggle more that a few facts or figures in your mind at one time, often making problem solving much more difficult, and making multitasking ie, paying attention to more than one thing at the same time very difficult).

Anomia, which is problems recalling words or names.

Slips of the tongue (semantic paraphasias), saying a different word to the one you intended often by unintentionally substituting a categorically-related item, or an item with similar qualities or characteristics, instead of the right item. For example, saying "axe" instead of "hammer" both are in the category of tools, and both have the qualities of being weighty metal implements that you strike with. It is as if the brain aimed to use the right word, but missed ever so slightly.

Miscategorization of environmental stimuli (like answering the phone when the doorbell rings).

Lack of focus, so that it becomes difficult to remain focused on the task at hand (this is possibly related to the poor short-term memory and working memory).

Confusion, being very easily perplexed by situations.

Lack of awareness of the things going on around you.
I should understand by now what people are referring to when they speak of "brain fog". Are you referring to difficulty with mental tasks or an actual physical feeling in the brain? One of my worst symptoms when the illness was at its peak was an actual physical feeling in the brain.......like my brain felt numb, heavy, inflamed.............felt like my head was underwater.......stuffed with cotton.

I agree with this. Many people talk of inability to bring up memories or explain things. Personally I don't struggle too much is this regard. However I do have a constant horrible physical feeling in my head. I always say it feels like someone has spread toxic honey on my brain. It effects my vision mainly, but I generally feel like I'm underwater. The worse this is the quicker my brain crashes when reading something or using mental energy in any way. It's always my mental energy that exhausts first. Even if I'm doing exercise I have to stop due to mental energy and this fog getting worse. Not because of muscle exhaustion or energy.

perchance dreamer

Senior Member
My brain fog causes a general surreal feeling, as if I'm in a dream instead of a waking state. I also have trouble sometimes with auditory processing.

For example, last week an electrician came to our house because the driveway timer lights got screwed up during our solar panel installation. He was not able to fix the problem and explained why not.

The problem wasn't that he was too technical. My brain just felt like it flat lined, and I had no idea what he was saying.


There is both the swollen, painful feeling that happens from any mental exertion, and the sluggish, slow, easily dropping bit of information problem that is there all the time.
I do frequently have the water in brain, weight on my head sort of brain fog, but I am able to quite closely gauge the effect it has on a specific task because I write computer code for a few hours most days.

On a good day with drugs I can quickly assess a bug/change request, identify a suitable solution and implement it quickly. This will generally last for 3-4 hours before my brain stops playing ball and/or the drugs wear off. At that point I have difficulty working out what is being asked of me, the solution seems difficult/impossible and I just cannot get started on implementing whatever I do come up with. If I try to push though for another hour or two I will usually do more harm than good and even get to the point where I am switching back and forth between windows on my desktop trying to remember what I was even doing.

The difference once the fog descends is incredibly dramatic when applied to a specific brain-oriented task like programming.

On a bad day/without the drugs I might get half an hour before the fog descends and it is hardly worth starting (I need probably 20 minutes to get back in the groove/re-establish where I was previously as a rule).

The nearest I can come with an analogy is pre-illness when I sometimes worked through the night for a project deadline. At some point in the morning of the next day (could be 4am, could be 9am) I would hit a wall where stuff just stopped making sense. Just to be clear I am not refering to the tiredness one might get in that scenario, I refer specifically to the mental exhaustion that kicks in.

Nowadays 9am on day one feels like 9am on day 2 after an all day and all night programming session and it only gets worse. :(

I sometimes get this voice in my head telling me I should push through and when it is absolutely necessary I can push through *physically* for a fair while before my body kicks back, but mentally it is simply not possible to push through. I cannot force my brain to understand when it is not and as I say when I have tried to code anyway the results are generally useless at best and counter-productive at worst.


Foggy member
Palmyra, Pa, USA
Like someone in there eighties that has had a stroke. I talked to my mother about my brain fog and she and my father do a lot of the same things. Both in there eighties both had strokes.

I feel general confusion most of the time. I think it's getting worse some times but my memory is so shot I can't remember for sure.


wiggle jiggle
as a brain paralysis.
brain is there, but its unaccessible.
as a building with many doors. but you just get into the entrance hall.

there is also memory deficits. which for me is something different. even though related.
its when things are completely forgotten from one second to the other.
at work, when i needed to scroll down the screen, i made a written note of where i was and what i wanted to look up.
otherwise within a second i had forgotten it all. where i was and what i wanted to look for. exhausting.

Mrs Sowester

Senior Member
As a physical sensation I have a sense of foggy pressure in my head behind the bridge of my nose - like my brain is swelling. If I push through the fog I get a headache.
Memory-wise I know that the information or word I need is in my brain but at the 'back' in a section I can't access to bring to the front where I need it.
Information processing I can manage one process, but forget that one when I move on to the next - not helpful for mental arithmetic.
Word finding, this morning I asked my husband "Do you want my kettle?" instead of cup - I was angling for a cup of tea...