Do you ever find yourself temporarily confused? Perhaps you’re standing in the aisle of the grocery store, when suddenly you’re overcome by dizziness or the numbers on the price tags begin to overwhelm you. Without warning, it seems like a cloud descends over your brain, and you become slightly numb to the world, disorientated, and even unsure as to how you got here and what you’re meant to be doing. If this sounds like you, then you might be experiencing fibrofog – one of the common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Cognitive dysfunction, as it is more commonly known in the medical world, is given the name “fibrofog” because of its consistency as a symptom among those suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and from descriptions of the dysfunction feeling like a “heavy fog” which impairs concentration and other cognitive functions. Usually, fibrofog is characterised by symptoms of:
- impaired concentration
- general confusion
- difficulty with short and long-term memory
- issues pertaining to short-term memory consolidation,
- impaired speed of performance in daily tasks
- an inability to multi-task
- feelings of disorientation
- feelings of cognitive overload
- a diminished attention span
- difficulty with word recall
These symptoms can lead to feelings of helplessness, confusion and ultimately greatly hinder an individual’s ability to process tasks at the same speed as before. Often this can exacerbate feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation and depression. The effects, however, tend to be temporary, and some FMS sufferers report little to no cognitive dysfunction, while others report occurrences which are cyclical. Still, there is enough evidence to suggest that many FMS sufferers struggle with issues pertaining to memory recall and occasionally have problems with their thought processes.
Scientifically speaking, there has been a suggestion that FMS sufferers sustain a 10% deterioration of gray matter during the natural aging process when compared to individuals without FMS. These studies, of course, have been routinely questioned and require further consolidation before they will have any consequential bearing on the field.
Naturally, with so many medical professionals working on this particular element of FMS, there are many ways of treating fibrofog – and after muscle pain, it is usually the number one complaint for which FMS patients seek treatment.
Get enough sleep
As with all aspects of FMS, one of the main theories surrounding the possible causes of the syndrome is the issue of sleep disturbances. Cognitive dysfunction in particular is linked to problems with an individual’s sleep cycle and their inability to enjoy enough deep sleep. Do your best to make sure you’re not only sleeping for enough hours a night, but that you’re also keeping your bedroom suitably dark – blinking LED lights from cellphones and computer screens can disrupt your sleep cycle without you even realising it. Also, should you be experiencing a particularly bad period of fibrofog, an afternoon nap is one of the quickest ways to refresh your mind.
Consult with your doctor
Hopefully you will have managed to find a doctor who is sympathetic to your FMS symptoms, because there are many doctors out there who are willing to continue seeking alternative diagnoses simply because FMS is not always universally recognised in the medical industry.
Your best bet is usually a rheumatologist. While they should have many suggestions for treating your most prominent symptoms, make sure that they know how severe your experiences with fibrofog are. There are several very beneficial medicines out there which can easily help clear your mind.
Keep active and keep fit
Endorphins will always be the number one friend for an FMS sufferer. Exercise, of course, can be a very daunting prospect when your entire body is in pain. This makes yoga quite an attractive alternative – not only is it usually easier on the body (so long as you stick to a beginner’s class), but it can also help alleviate your pains.
The heavy emphasis on breathing will also help clear your brain as you get the blood flowing. Sometimes, when you feel your mind begin to dull over a little, doing a few quick stretches can be enough to quickly revitalise your brain long enough to fight off that fibrofog. Another useful thing to try is any type of activity which challenges your brain – whether it be crosswords, Sudoku or some or other craft, doing something that forces you to think outside the box is a very good way of training your brain to work through the unpleasantness of fibrofog.
Try some supplements
Another simple, but effective way of quickly boosting your brain functioning abilities is to add some supplements to your diet. FMS sufferers should anyway be supplementing their diet, but if treating fibrofog is one of your key concerns, there are some very specific supplements which you should be trying. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has long been a favourite for anyone with FMS, as it is a naturally occurring amino acid which works not only as a metabolic aid, but also in producing both serotonin and melatonin. The effect is that 5-HTP boosts your energy and regulates your sleep cycles, leading to you feeling happier and able to be more active and clear-minded.
B vitamins and Omega-3 are also fairly common in the FMS patient’s supplement regimen as they boost energy levels and brain functioning, but then there is also carnitine. In addition to being an antioxidant, carnitine’s main function is to produce energy by breaking down your fat cells and assisting your brain in utilising your neurotransmitters, serotonin and glutamate – all of which are usually out of balance for someone suffering from fibromyalgia.
Write it down
Lastly, there’s cognitive training. If you find that fibrofog is starting to get the better of you, learn to adapt by writing things down more often. While it may seem like quite a task, you’ll slowly be training your brain to process the same information in multiple ways. Keep a notebook and a calendar so you can always have multiple reference points, and also find ways of breaking tasks down into step-by-step stages. Introducing the idea of routine and written reminders is simply one way to keep your brain focussing on multiple tasks.