Fibromyalgia Research UK
Making sure no one has to manage Fibromyalgia alone
Fibromyalgia Thinking and memory problems
Thinking and memory problems, also known as cognitive problems, are common in Fibromyalgia Issues include memory, attention span, planning, decision making, understanding or concentration.You might experience issues with your memory, attention span, planning, decision making, understanding or concentration.Many people with Fibromyalgia talk about 'fibro fog' refer to a sense that their thinking processes are sometimes not as organised or reliable as they used to be before they had FibromyalgiaCognitive problems are often caused directly by Fibromyalgia although they may be the side effect of medication.Other Fibro symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, or depression can make your cognitive issues worse. Cognitive problems are not the same thing as dementia.For most people their cognitive symptoms are relatively mild and can fluctuate from day to day. Initially, you may not recognise them as an aspect of your Fibro and put them down to other reasons such as stress, overwork, tiredness or just getting older.Living with cognitive problemsProblems with thinking or memory might sound trivial, but they can have a big impact on the day-to-day experience of living with Fibromyalgia. It can be frustrating to find that your cognitive issues go un-noticed by those around you. Your experience might not look as bad to the outside world as it feels to you.You may need to explain your cognitive symptoms to friends, family or work colleagues in order to get understanding or appropriate support. It is worth remembering that in most cases you have not lost the skills you used to have, they just take a little longer to express. With the right support and plans in place you can continue to do things as you choose.The longer you have had Fibromyalgia the more likely cognitive problems are to occur. Research suggests that cognitive symptoms usually stay the same over several years, or only very gradually worsen. You have time to develop strategies to compensate for any difficulties, or train your brain to slow down any cognitive decline.Why do cognitive problems get worse?Cognitive problems can be made worse by:fatigue or poor sleep - which slows everything down. Try to pace yourself and plan demanding activities for times when you've got the most energyphysical effort - if you have difficulties with your balance or your mobility you may find that you need to concentrate more when you are moving about to ensure you don't fall. This means you have less capacity to concentrate on other things, such as carrying on a conversation at the same time as walking. Try and balance physical and cognitive activities so you only have to concentrate on one thing at a timeemotions - stress, anxiety and depression can all impact on cognition.infections - and other illnesses can worsen cognitive problemsmedications - including some that are commonly used to treat Fibromyalgia symptoms such as bladder problems, anti spasm and pain. A GP, pharmacist can help further on this.other things that generally worsen symptoms - such as heat, or tense or exciting situations. Try to stay cool in hot weather, or use relaxation techniques to copeWhat are the most common cognitive problems?MemoryYou may find that your memory isn't as good as it used to be. Usually memory problems in Fibromyalgia revolve around difficulties remembering recent events or information and forgetting to carry out plans. Diaries, smartphones or notice boards are useful tools to record information and act as reminders. Have a set place to keep things like your keys and glasses to make it easier to find them and stay organised.Word findingDo you feel like a word is 'on the tip of your tongue' but you can't quite recall it? This is a common problem, even for people without Fibromyalgia, It can be helpful to try and describe the word you are struggling with in other terms, for example 'the building with teachers and children' could be used to describe 'a school'.Concentration and attentionYou may find it difficult to concentrate or find your mind wanders, particularly if lots of people are talking at once. This can make it harder to follow a conversation or give you a feeling of 'information overload' if only some of what you are being told is relevant. Try to reduce distractions such as turning the TV off before making a phone call, or dividing large tasks into more manageable ones or delicate.Information processingThis is when you experience difficulties with following a series of complex instructions. This can particularly be a problem if information is given rapidly. Reducing distractions and trying to avoid interruptions can help.Managing cognitive symptoms often involvesfinding strategies that work for you to minimise the effects of your symptoms.You could try the following suggestions,establishing a fixed routine - keeping things in the same place, or doing things in a certain orderusing verbal tricks to help you remember things -using diaries or smartphones for reminders, planning or memory promptsprioritising tasks to focus on one thing at a time and removing distractions where possible, for example sitting in a quieter part of the office or turning the TV downbreaking down longer tasks into more manageable chunks and carrying them out over a few daysavoiding doing things when you are tired or anxious so you have more chance of staying focused.If your cognitive problems are worsened by your other Fibro symptoms, getting those symptoms treated can help. For example, if heat is an issue, using cooling therapies such as fans or air conditioning can be helpful. Equally, managing symptoms such as stress and anxiety can help. You could try these techniques:guided relaxationaromatherapybreathing exercisesmindfulnessYogaAnd light exercisesRemember we are poorly people, we can not do everything like we use to, our lives have changed.I also think it is very important that we except our diagnosis first before we can expect anyone else in our families our our friends to be able to.