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Debilitating "Brain Fog"

Debilitating "Brain Fog"2013-12-17T15:01:09+00:00

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  • #123411

    Post count: 1

    I suffer from life-altering “brain fog”. I’ve been on Adderall IR for a couple years now, first 15 then 20 and 30 mg twice daily (up until yesterday when my doc prescribed 30mg Xr). The first few weeks on each dose I experienced the following: Focus, motivation, productivity; the ability to get things done. Extraordinary mental clarity; the “brain fog” vanished. Energy; sleeping 7-8 hours (not the “normal” 12-15 I HAVE to get just to feel “decent” when the adderall isn’t effective) and feeling awake (not groggy). I’d call it markedly improved cognitive function, nothing resembling euphoria or a high, but in any case it faded. My mind is foggy as ever; I sleep from 10 pm to 6:30 am but never feel really alert; at best I operate at half capacity. I’m tragically underemployed, doing clerical work 8-to-6 despite an Ivy degree, but don’t have the mental stamina to work on applications after hours…I feel like when I am working, I’m trudging through deep mud. There’s no spark; My will to finish tasks (or even begin them) has been eliminated completely, to the point that even writing this email has taken me a few days. Is this the best I can expect? I need that clarity back. Some days I think my life (at least the quality thereof) depends on it. I don’t feel more foggy now than at any other time in my life, excluding the brief period when the Adderall made a difference. But now that I know what a clear head feels like, I’m desperate to recapture that feeling consistently.

    I haven’t been able to find any resolve with doctors regarding this issue and hoped someone could help.

    I truly appreciate the time taken to read this, thank you.


    Post count: 363


    I completely hear what you are saying. I have experienced the same problem, even with – and sometimes seemingly because of – medication. The first few days are good, then I start to feel a kind of toxic build-up and become unable to focus or concentrate on anything, and actually feel much worse. Also I think changing meds or dosage can do weird things. On-again, off-again meds leads to some pretty unpleasant states.

    Recently, I revisited my copy of the first “ADD Crusher” video by Alan Brown. In this video, he talks about the importance of diet, exercise, meditation, and proper sleep hygiene. Over the past few days I’ve attempted to implement his suggestions, and notice a significant difference in my mood and level of mental clarity.

    I start the day with a protein meal – eggs, tuna, or something like that. Plus Omega 3 supplements and a vitamin B complex. I avoid sugar, and other “white food.” Consume little amounts of protein regularly throughout the day.

    Meditation: There are different ways to do it, but essentially, the point is to calm down, sit comfortable, and clear the mind by coming back to a simple thought, repetitive thought. Brown mentions the ADHD tendency to obsess about the past and worry about the future – so the meditation is about trying to let go of that stuff and relax in the present.  Helps to reduce compulsive/obsessive fulminating. I lose a lot of energy to worrying.

    Exercise: Even making sure to get in a brisk walk every day would help. Cardio work-outs are more important than muscle fitness. This is a real challenge for me because of where I live, but I’m trying to figure out where I can build exercise into my day – such as walking instead of taking the bus.

    Sleep: Avoid the blue light of the computer or television an hour before bed time so the brain has time to relax and prepare for sleep.

    Those are just a few of his many suggestions that can help, for starters, with the Brain Fog issue.

    You can find clips of his videos for free on YouTube, just to check it out.

    I’ve had this video for a couple years, and thought it was great when I first heard it, and thought, yeah, I should really do that stuff. I started doing it, but got sidetracked on something and forgot about it. Now I’m just rediscovering it. Out of pure desperation, because I’m sick of living like this, my plan is to start doing exactly what he says, and if I have to remind myself by watching the video every day for a year, then that’s what I need to do. I already feel a whole lot better after just a few days.

    That’s my best .92 for now. Hang in there.



    Post count: 158

    @cbp756, I commiserate. I don’t think I have changed to the degree you describe, but I do miss that “clarity of mind” I experienced when I first started Adderall. Sleep, too has changed. When I first started Adderall, I stopped dreaming. Which I kind of missed, because I have some pretty entertaining and strange dreams – but the quality of my sleep was so much better — waking up feeling refreshed for the first time in my memory.
    Now, my dreams are back, along with usually feeling extremely groggy in the morning. I’m not much help, I’m afraid. I’m currently trying to sort out my own meds – lately they have been making me even groggier in the morning — that’s a new one for me. The doc said it’s a common response for people with ADHD.

    @SDWA‘s suggestions are very good though.


    Post count: 906

    No, this is not the best you can expect.

    I know exactly what you are talking about. That always walking through mud never fully awake feeling is my norm too.

    I didn’t take time to read the other responses because I really need to go to sleep now. So forgive me if I am repeating anything.

    The medication can only help to a certain point. And your brain will adjust to it and then it will not feel as effective. There are a few different options for getting out of that fog but basically what it comes down to is more stimulation.

    So, you can add another medication. Adderall is a very fast acting med. So maybe you could try taking a slower acting one that will stay in your system longer and then use a small amount of the fast acting one as a booster. I have never done this personally but I have seen many others here comment on it.

    Also, doing that boring job that is below your intellectual level may actually be making things worse.  If it isn’t giving your brain any stimulation then your brain will just say “whatever, wake me when it’s over” and take a nap. Or at least that is what I have found. I have always been underemployed too and just recently realized how much I hate life as a trained monkey. I used to avoid anything too challenging or anything. that required I be responsible out of fear of failure. And the result has been failure at everything I do. I understand now that I need that challenge and that responsibility to motivate me and keep me awake.

    Anything that you find stimulating and interesting should help to lift the fog. At least temporarily. Music, exercise, cross word puzzles….making weird noises. Seriously, there is a thread around here somewhere with comments about using weird, high pitched noises to wake yourself up. When I was a kid I used to drive everyone nuts humming, whistling, clicking my tongue, snapping my fingers….and my mother’s personal favourite, blowing in the little hole in the cap on my pen to make it whistle while doing my homework. That or clicking the pen rapidly over and over again if it was one of the clicky ones. I still do both of those when I am really concentrating.

    Anyway, I am sure I had something better to say when I started this but it got lost in the fog somewhere. I am really very tired and I need to go to bed.


    Patte Rosebank
    Post count: 1517

    Chewing, popping, and cracking bubble gum is my personal favourite.  Needless to say, I work alone!


    Post count: 906

    Oh yes, bubble gum. Forgot about that one. I always had bubble gum. At least 2 packs, sometimes 4 or 5, all different flavours and colours. There was one I really liked that had a cartoon of a horse on the pack and the sticks of gum were all different colours swirled together. And there was the Gold Rush gum of course but it was a little too pricey and I liked to get the most out of my hard earned pop bottle money. Hubba Bubba was my standard. And Bazzoka Joe, Double Bubble, those little round pieces with the liquid inside that squirted out when you bit into them…..

    So yeah. Popping gum and blowing bubbles was a big thing for me too. I only stopped because it hurts my jaw too much now if I chew it too long. I tend to chew very obsessively. I can’t even suck on a hard candy for more than a few seconds before I start to chomp.  Then I realize what I’ve done and think “oh man, I barely even tasted that one”. I get another one and say “this time I’m just going to suck on it….” Chomp, it’s gone.

    Okay, what was the subject again? Right, brain fog. I had a brilliant idea last night after I logged out. No clue what it was now. Should have written it down. Isn’t this medication supposed to be helping me?

    I am apparently too goofy to be of any help today. But really, it’s up to you. Whatever wakes you up and snaps you out it is what will work best.

    💡 Adrenaline. That was it. I was reading ADD Stole My Car Keys and I got to the part about “adrenalin junkies”. Creating a crisis helps to clear the fog and suddenly, you can focus.

    Of course, you can’t go around deliberately creating a state of emergency in your life just to get out of your mental fog. Well, you can, but that’s what most of us are trying to learn not to do, right? But there are little ways (and safe ways) that you can use adrenaline to your advantage. Even by breaking your tasks down into smaller bits and then setting a time limit for getting each step done.

    One of my main forms of mental stimulation has always been daydreaming, though I didn’t know that was why I was doing it at the time. I wasn’t trudging through snow banks on my way to the store to buy groceries, I was running across the snow covered surface of the planet Hoth taking down Imperial Walkers. The trick is not to get trapped in your daydream, which I frequently do. But imagining a little excitement into an otherwise dull life can give your brain a boost.


    Post count: 1

    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first time participating in this forum, and I have just recently found this site, for which I am profoundly grateful!!! 🙂  I am a 35yo who was diagnosed last July. The last six months have been a interesting, revolutionary, hellish at times (almost daily, in the last 3 months), rewarding and unexpectedly educational. I am responding to this particular thread because I just watched a video last night on that mentioned “brain fog” that cpb756 expressed. I am no expert and I can’t personally say I experience a “fog”, and I am not sure if you have heard Dr. Russell Barkley speak, but he mentioned a condition called SCT, or Slow Cognitive Tempo, a condition the “professionals” are still trying to understand. It is mentioned with ADHD because it appears to affect the “inattentive” type by 30-50%, or quite possibly could be in the future what is now called the “ADHD “inattentive type”, but who knows because they don’t really understand it fully right now (do they ever??) I found the differentiating symptoms from ADHD confusing, but I think overall I understood it. What I found most interesting, was that Dr. Barkley hypothetically questioned if -a medication such as Provigil, a drug largely used to treat Narcolepsy but sometimes an ADHD med- would work. I wonder if doing some research on this SCT may shed some light on your experiences of brain fog….I apologize if you are familiar with Dr. Barkley already, or have heard of SCT before. I just wanted to share what I found. 🙂

    I don’t know if we are allowed to post links here but you can find the 3 hour talk Dr. Barkley gave to CADACC called “Essential ideas for Parents”, on youtube. Skip to the 38th minute where he breaks down the DSM’s definition of the 3 types of ADHD, and watch for maybe 10 minutes. He includes a good chunk of info on SCT in this bit. I almost finished watching the whole 3hrs last night, but what I finally got to sit through was so incredibly helpful and empowering (for me at least). It took me about 8 times to watch it completely, due to how emotionally profound I was affected by this crystallized information, and due to the fact that I just couldn’t sit through it 😉

    However because of the emotions and weight of the information, I found rewatching it to be helpful for understanding what I did retain the previous times, and picking up new information I missed the previous times 😉

    Regardless, I wish you lots of luck!!! I am having no luck with the first psychiatrist I have been seen by, and I am looking forward to finding one that will at least look me in the eye and speak respectfully to me.




    Post count: 845

    @drooney – feel free to post any relevant links.  I really like the videos I have seen of Barkley and, as you say, have listened to them multiple times.  Each time, I catch something I had missed previously.

    I have heard Barkley mention SCT and feel that at times I have a touch of it.  Or maybe my mind is so overwhelmed and preoccupied with “other thoughts” that it seems as if I have SCT.  Perhaps not unlike a computer running slowly because of trying to process too many tasks at once.  I would say this is different from “brain fog” where you just can’t seem to do anything.  Like being hungover without the pain.

    Anyway, good to have you here.  Please post the link to the video you referenced and continue to participate here.  You sound like you have a lot to offer.


    Post count: 906

    @drooney, Welcome, glad to have a new voice. 🙂

    As kc said, please continue to post and share your thoughts. It’s always nice to have more people interacting and sharing.

    There are lots of links in various threads around here to Dr. Barkley’s videos. But it wouldn’t hurt to post them again here if you want to. It will be easier for everyone to find that way.

    I think I watched half of one once. I don’t sit through informational videos very well. Takes too long to get the info.  I’d rather skim over an article to find what I need, then go back and read more if necessary.

    And I did skim an article on SCT awhile back. In fact, if I remember correctly, I found it through a link someone posted here. And it fits me like a glove. It explains why I don’t seem to be like a lot of other people with ADHD, the ones who think about 500,000 things before breakfast and are always on the go. I spend a good portion of most days sitting and staring out the window, not really thinking about much of anything. Or at least, not consciously. Sometimes there is more going on in my brain than I am aware of.

    Which brings us back to mental fog, which is in fact one symptom of SCT. Sometimes it feels like everything is sort of muffled, like my head is stuffed with cotton. And sometimes I’m trying to work something out and it’s like I just can’t quite get there. The gears are turning, but very, very slowly. It can actually take me up to an hour just to type a comment to post here. And I usually start to get very fidgety in the process, often rocking back and forth, wiggling toes, bouncing up and down etc. And sometimes I just stop and stare out the window for a bit. Or come across a white rabbit and follow it down the hole and go off on a little mental adventure in wonderland before finally wandering back to where I was.

    And speaking of fidgeting and bouncing, at one time, when ADHD was known simply as “hyperactivity”, it was thought that it was caused by the brain functioning too slowly. Which was why stimulants were prescribed even though it didn’t make sense to give stimulants to a kid who was already bouncing off the walls.  At least, that was how it was explained to me when I was working with kids with special needs, long before I realized that I had special needs of my own. Or rather, before I knew that there was a name for the special needs that I had, other than the ones that people had always called me.

    Anyway, i think my original point got lost in the fog quite some time ago. So I will leave it there. 🙂


    Post count: 906

    @cbp756, Another thought occurred to me as I was reading your post again. And that thought was that there may possibly be another cause for your mental fog, something on top of the ADHD.

    Depression is the first one that comes to mind, because that is an issue for me. That fog gets so thick you could slice it with a knife when I’m depressed. And everything seems muffled and very far away.

    There are lots of other possible causes for worsening mental fog as well. So you may want to talk to your doctor about getting a few routine tests done, if you haven’t already, just to make sure everything is okay.


    Post count: 7

    Sounds to me like you may have a really boring job, maybe not suitable to someone with ADD.  The fog could be boredom and frustration which no amount of drugs can help.  Ask yourself what would you do if you didn’t have to work where you are now.  Try doing something you really want to do as an experiment and see if the fog doesn’t lift.


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