Stress/Anxiety and its toll on memory and concentration

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Hi all,

About 8 months ago, my stress level got quite high because of 'life' working rotating shifts (sometimes long hours) while also managing a family with five kids at home. The breaking point came with a profound period of cognitive confusion and what I have come to find out to be derealization. Anxiety got pretty bad shortly thereafter because I thought I was losing my mind, for example actually forgetting names of various inanimate objects and having a difficult time staying on task.

Fast forward a few months and I became somewhat capable in keeping the anxiety in check, as the brain fog went from a 8-10 to more 2-3 out of 10. Still, I was still struggling with coming up with the right word in a sentence, or being able to pick up the name of an obscure object right away w/o looking it up.

Even now, while I don't have the degree of DP and mental confusion as I did 8 months ago, I still find myself stuck in the mud mentally. Some days are worse than others, however even on a good day I'm still looking up a few things on line just to ensure I haven't lost my intelligence (a form of memory hoarding I suppose, except rather than hoard 'memories', I'm hoarding facts and vocabulary). And through it all, my memory recall is still sluggish. Not long term memory, and not even short term (i.e. I can tell you where I left the keys, what I ate for lunch yesterday, what I talked about at work yesterday, etc.). Just recall and following along with a conversation, book, TV plot, etc. I may not "feel" as anxious as I did last May, but I'm not naive enough to deny that anxiety is playing a role here.

I am happy to say that I'm finally starting CBT on Wed. That's step 1. What I've wanted to know for a while, and I can't seem to find out conclusively, is whether or not AA/AD meds such as SSRIs will help for those of us who not only suffer with anxiety and depression, yet do so with the primary (at times debilitating) symptom being the lack of mental clarity. It doesn't make me suicidal, yet I'm not necessarily looking forward to...well... much of anything when I feel like this. Hello depression!

I see a lot of posts online from people who say their lack mental acuity ("brain fog"wink gets worse while on medication, while fewer have admitted their fog was alleviated after taking medication. The last thing I need is to have this situation get worse with medication, which explains why I have apprehension and why I hadn't started with the meds yet. Well, I should say I did actually start (Lexapro) back in September; I just couldn't get past day 4 because of the increased anxiety and feeling of crawling out of your skin. I'm to the point, and I'll tell the therapist this is well, that it if it will help me, i.e. help with all the symptoms including the memory lapses, then I will most certainly push through during those difficult side effects early on. Otherwise, what's the point? What I'm looking for right now is some reassurance, someone with the same or similar conditions and have gotten better with therapy and/or medication.

Thank you in advance,


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10 Replies

  • Posted

    hi are you still dealing with dp/dr and if not how did you end it?
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    • Posted


      I don't deal with dp/dr as much these days. I do supplement with Mg, phosphatydlserine, vitamin C, D3, B Complex, holy basil, Ashwagandha, and GABA. I also have 5-HTP (50 mg) on hand along with L-Tyrosine (500 mg) for the seratonine and dopamine (mood) boost when needed, but it's been my experience that while I don't think it hurts, I also don't believe it's helping considering my issues are primarily anxiety-based. So for now I'm not taking the 5-HTP nor the L-Tyrosine.

      I do find the whole ordeal more difficult following a string of midnight shifts, when trying to re-adjust to a regular sleep schedule. I've noted that in my journal. The do/dr is kept at bay unless I have a setback -- which happens when I forget a word or a concept that normally pops right out.

      And of course, like many of you, I wake up each morning with the first thought of "wondering what could go wrong today", rather than focusing on positive things, or just focusing on something else.

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  • Posted

    Hello, I have the same memory problems.I have been doing the same job for 16 years and sometimes I forget where product is located in the warehouse. I also have Anxiety issues which can cause memory problems. When your not relaxed things just don't stick. Try getting more sleep and exercise also try taking Magnesium and Ginkgo Biloba it's not just for old people. I have found that caffeine also helps your memory any actually helps stimulate muscle coordination. I have read 6 articles saying caffeine is good and 6 that say it's bad so the jury's out.Well hope I have helped good luck.

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    • Posted

      Thanks Wes!

      I'm due to have sinus surgery here in about 11 days, so I cannot take GB until about a week afterwards since it's a blood thinner.

      As for coffee, I take about a cup of coffee every now and then, but not as much these days for fear that it might worsen the anxiety. As a result, I'm trying to drink more tea these days.

      The magnesium definitely works. Like I said in a response above, I seem to have gotten the anxiety a bit more under control with supplementation, along with exercise, but man, I'm still having those memory issues. I could be because I'm not letting it go, i.e. I walk around quizzing myself, "okay, what's that object called over there, how about that, etc.). Yesterday I couldn't recall 'thimbal' when I saw one, nor 'valve' when referring to what you connect the air hose to on your tires. Real disconcerting, because not only do I forget these what seems like "little things", for some things, it's almost like I have to relearn it. In other words, instead of the "oh, that's what that is", I feel like only now do I know what it is, when I *know* I used to know it.

      I've read plenty on how anxiety and stress mess with short term and working memory, but nada on recall. I still have sharp long term memory, i.e. what I was doing 35 years ago this month!

      Did I mention I also have untreated adult ADD? It has up to now (age 47) never been a problem, nor has my low free testosterone levels (under 300). I have made sure my general practitioner and endo are aware of this (more blood tests in store from the endo). Perhaps it's compounding the issue now (?)

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    • Posted

      I've done that to myself too, trying to name objects and it taking a minute or seeing someone on tv that's not a huge celebrity but still someone that I know and can't for the life of me remember their name or at least not their full name and it bothered me. Best advice is to stop paying so close attention to it and it'll pretty much cease. That's what's honestly helped me. I was crazy with trying to remember literally everything that happened during the day and that only made things worse when I couldn't.

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    • Posted


      Thank you for this response. You have no idea what it means to me. While we're all sufferers of anxiety, I felt that, up until now at least, my symptoms were quite unique.

      You mentioned some pretty sound advice. When I attempt to do as you suggested, you're right, it gets better. However I know I need CBT, and perhaps medication, because ultimately I get to a point when I come across a word (whether on TV, in a book, through conversation, at work, in church, etc.) that I feel compelled to look up, just to "verify" it means what I think it does, and if I'm using it in the correct context. This leads to an endless cycle of doubt and confusion. Especially when dealing with words that have multiple meanings. Not fun. I'm sure this word/fact checking is an OCD, yet I don't see a lot of documentation on it. "Memory hoarding" is referred to as hoarding memories, as in exactly what I did today, yesterday, etc. for fear of forgetting. I can't find any literature that deals with hoarding vocabulary or factual information.

      It's difficult for me to write as fluidly or eloquently as I used to before all of this started. Like I said, I can't wait to see the CBT.

      By the way, in terms of vitamin B12 -- maybe it's just me, but it makes me feel a little more anxious, with a little more puffiness in the ears. I take 1000 mcgs sublingually when I do take it.

      Thanks again for your response!

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    • Posted

      No problem. Yea I've felt like that too, like I'm the only one with specific symptoms of anxiety but if you read enough posts on her and elsewhere you'll come to realize like I have that there's hundreds if not thousands of people who share our same symptoms and they all lead back to anxiety. A couple books that have helped me too are "rewiring your anxious brain" and "the worry trick" id highly recommend picking those up.

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  • Posted

    Funny because I've had brain fog as a result of major stress and anxiety too, not cool. Like you, mines gotten better but not all the way. Vitamin b12 oddly enough kinda helped I believe. I can't speak to AD's but I do take xanax and I can't honestly say one way or the other if it made it worse. I feel like it made it better because it decreased my overall anxiety which I believe helped me realize I wasn't developing like, ya know, early onset dementia lol. If you don't wanna try any pharm's yet maybe just look into vitamins like b12.

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    • Posted

      Hi Jack,

      I had an issue taking 1,000 mcgs of B12 (made me feel a little weird for some reason -- perhaps it was a combo of other vitamins/supplements at the time). Anyway, I'm cutting a 1,0000 mcg sublingual in half and taking 500 a day.  We'll see how that goes.  

      Today is one of those days when I felt the anxiety was well within control -- yet still felt a bit fuzzy in the head.  Mind you, I've been dealing with or at the very least "thinking" about this for the better part of 7 months now.  Anyway, everything went smoothly at work today until someone mentioned the word "collate" (as in the copier collated the copies in 3 separate stacks).  I was befuddled because I had honestly *forgot* that term.  Normally that would propel me into an anxious funk, but I was able to brush it off much better than I used to. Perhaps that's progress.  But STILL, this is the sort of thing I'm talking about -- and (again) I have a hard time chalking it up to anxiety.  Then again, I'm 47 and can still get to/from work, do my job, remember what I did yesterday, etc., so I have a hard time believing it's MCI or early-onset of dimensia either.  Just very disconcerting nonetheless.

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