How does anxiety affect cognitive ability?

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    Brain fog, that is what you might end up with, with a chronic illness (lupus, fibromyalgia etc), depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.

    Your ability to process information and to memorize will be affected by anxiety, racing thoughts, anxious thoughts will take over your mindset and your life to the degree where it leaves you unable to relax, unable to process information (especially after panic attacks, your whole body might feel heavy, your brain will feel foggy and you will feel exhausted). I find that this gets worse in the evenings or 4–5 hours after I have woke up, throughout my workday it seems like my brain goes from sharp to unable to work – I can’t think clearly, I can’t seperate my thoughts because they are racing through my head and all of this makes me feel even worse because I am expected to act normal but when you use 5 minutes to calculate something that is actually really easy and you normally can do in a matter of seconds it really makes you feel worse and even more anxious – when someone needs information you might not even remember it or suddenly remember it MINUTES or HOURS later. So yes, to shortly answer, it interferes with your ways of thinking – your ways to process information and actually remember it later on but there are good news – with treatment you can become less anxious over time, you’ll feel better about yourself and your brain will process information normally again. I wish you the best, whether this is for you or someone else – have a nice day❤️

    To put it really shortly;

    Cortisol is a stress hormone that gets released when we’re stressed and anxious. It affects our memory and attention – that in turn affects our learning abilities. This happens because cortisol breaks down in the hippocampus and would only allow important information to go through.

    Another hormone is adrenaline. When adrenaline rises and the sympathetic nervous system take over, our heart rate rises, breathing speeds up, blood pressure and temperature increases.

    Here we’re in a fight vs flight mode.

    Here your mind is very active and is not focusing on the new things that we’re learning, nor attempt to put it in the long term memory.

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    Simply, anxiety can affect cognitive ability by causing a kind of “brain fog” due to the fight-flight-freeze reflex of human beings.

    When mind and body resources are redirected toward what feels like danger, a different part(s) of the brain is activated, leaving other cognitive aspects on the wayside as unnecesary to the task at hand.

    (We also learn this as writers writing scenes. One wouldn’t be thinking of a fight with a friend or having pizza for dinner if a grizzly were standing over you, seeing YOU as pizza.)

    It’s why it’s difficult to make rational judgements when angry, for another example.

    Different parts of our brain can take center stage and get in our rational way.

    Anxiety can affect cognitive ability because it changes your perception of everything you learn.

    Someone with chronic anxiety has a differentpoint of the world than if that same person was not living with anxiety issues. Therefore it affects how you learn, what thought run through your head, how you see the world etc.

    If you have any other questions about anxiety and how it can affect you, check out this blog written by licensed therapists who cover a wide range of mental health topics in addition to anxiety: Anxiety Archives – Talkspace Online Therapy Blog


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    Anxiety can affect every thought that comes in our mind. It works as a filter that only highlights certain aspects of a thought and makes one worry even more. Because of this selective nature, people with anxiety tend to focus only on negative stimuli and not on other things. Therefore anxiety affects attention.

    Anxiety also results in racing thoughts which may or may not be connected and are therefore, difficult to comprehend. Thus, anxiety can lead to mental confusion.

    Mental confusion and selective attention can further reduce cognitive abilities required for decision making, problem solving, perception etc. thus, affecting overall productivity.

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    I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, I have no qualifications to answer this but I have experience with anxiety and personally, I feel it does affect my memory quite badly. If your brain is constantly consumed with panic and that’s all your thinking about, then you forget other things, sometimes it’s hard to keep up a conversation. Depression can also affect this I believe. But obviously a psychiatrist will have a more scientific answer.


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    Since anxiety takes all of a person’s attention, it really does affect both your memory and ability to learn rather negatively. I’d recommend consulting a counselor, or finding a way to combat your anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t just affect your memory and ability to learn either, so I would recommend finding help as soon as possible.


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    I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety when I was 24. Since childhood, I have been always overly cautious with everything. That has build up an attention to detail in me. Often times I spot errors in movies and texts which other people couldn’t.

    I feel my anxiety has increased my cognition at least in one of the ways.


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    Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities. But by learning some techniques and strategies to cope you can re-train your mind to memorise thing. Buzan study skills are great in learning and memory skills.


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    Answer requested by

    An anxious person’s mind will keep wandering and he can’t focus.

    He’ll keep thinking of imaginary situations and make problems that never existed in his head.

    Always remember…. The more you think….the less you can focus.


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    This video says (and shows) it all, what is the effect of anxiety on mental performance, how to overcome it, why you do well one day but not another, it really opened my eyes some time ago:

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