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The Science Behind Depression Fog

Depression fog is more than just a feeling; it’s a complex interplay of neurological and hormonal changes. Join us as…

The Science Behind Depression Fog

Disclaimer: This article discusses topics related to depression and mental health. Some content might be triggering for some readers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please seek professional help or speak to someone you trust.


Depression fog, often termed ‘cognitive dysfunction’, is a lesser-known yet debilitating symptom of depression. Unlike the more commonly recognised emotional symptoms such as sadness or hopelessness, depression fog affects cognitive functions, making tasks like thinking, decision-making, and memory recall challenging.

Neurological Underpinnings

At the heart of depression fog are neurological changes. The brain, a complex organ with billions of interconnected neurons, relies on a delicate balance of chemicals and electrical signals. In depression:

  • Frontal Lobe Activity: The frontal lobe, responsible for decision-making, problem-solving, and emotional regulation, often shows decreased activity in those with depression. This reduced activity can lead to difficulties in concentrating and making decisions.
  • Hippocampus Changes: The hippocampus, vital for memory formation, can shrink in prolonged depression, leading to memory problems.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which play crucial roles in mood regulation, can become imbalanced in depression, affecting cognition.

Hormonal Factors

Beyond neurotransmitters, hormones play a significant role:

  • Cortisol: Often termed the ‘stress hormone’, elevated cortisol levels are common in depression. Chronic high levels can impair cognitive functions and exacerbate depression fog.
  • Thyroid Hormones: Imbalances in thyroid hormones, especially in hypothyroidism, can mimic symptoms of depression, including the fog.

External Triggers

While internal changes are significant, external factors can intensify depression fog:

  • Chronic Stress: Prolonged stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, affecting cortisol production and worsening cognitive symptoms.
  • Sleep Deprivation: A lack of restorative sleep can exacerbate the fog, making it crucial for those with depression to maintain good sleep hygiene.
  • Medications: Some antidepressants or other medications can have side effects that mimic or intensify depression fog.

Navigating the Fog

Understanding the science behind depression fog is the first step towards managing it:

  • Therapeutic Interventions: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can offer tools to cope, helping reframe negative thought patterns and improve cognitive functions.
  • Medication Adjustments: For those on antidepressants, speaking with a psychiatrist about potential side effects and adjustments can be beneficial.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular sleep, stress management techniques, and physical activity can help alleviate symptoms.


Depression fog, while challenging, is not insurmountable. With the right knowledge, support, and interventions, it’s possible to navigate through the haze and find clarity. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength. If you or someone you know is struggling, Therapy with Tom is here to help, offering empathetic and tailored therapeutic services.

Useful Resources:

Tom Konieczny

Tom is a qualified integrative psychotherapist based in the UK. With a background in psychology and a passion for holistic healing, he offers a compassionate and individualised approach to therapy. Drawing from his diverse life experiences, Tom provides insights and support tailored to each client's unique journey towards well-being

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