Confused About Confusion

photo by Monstera

Being confused and bewildered is one of my most common states of mind. Often I may not even know why I’m confused. Both amusingly and annoyingly, I frequently find myself being confused about why I’m confused.

Modern daily life is confusing, complicated, and confounding at the very best of times. For dyslexics, and other neurodivergents, the daily grind can be even more so strange and baffling. I have frequently heard about, and myself experienced, brain fog and feelings of internal ‘fuzziness’ when I’m feeling confused and overwhelmed. Metaphorically, it can be like trying to look clearly through a window that fights back. Instead of being transparent, what one can see and process become opaque, blurred, and in essence unclear.

Subsequently, this confused and ‘fogged’ state of mind can have a massive impact upon a dyslexic individual. The causation and grassroots of this confusion can really vary among dyslexics. However, what dyslexics do share is for incoming information and stimuli to be presented in a different and preferred way that is easier for them to process.

Ronald Davis explored and discussed how dyslexia is a ‘gift’ and a great benefit to those with a dyslexic profile in his enlightening and ground-breaking book, The Gift of Dyslexia.1 . He also thoroughly explored the role of confusion within dyslexia. Davis adopted the term ‘disorientation’, whereby the human brain is overwhelmed and unsettled potentially by contrasting or conflicting information. When such events occur the brain unknowingly sees a warped version of reality. This ultimately acts as a barrier for dyslexic individuals to perceive the world around them accurately and efficiently.2 Examples of dyslexic disorientation can include: incorrect or inconsistent spelling, misreading words, skipping words or whole lines when reading, presenting with poor balance and coordination, and difficulties with handwriting.

Most notably, an individual’s ‘threshold’ or proneness to disorientation can be impacted by a number of extraneous factors. These can include: illness, fatigue, stress, loud noises, time pressure, fear, a change of environment, reminders of past failure/unpleasant experiences, poor lighting, and incorrect size or font of text. In this way, such occurrences can act as a catalyst or accelerant for confusion and brain fog. As an individual’s threshold to disorientation can change and alternate, their dyslexic symptomology may also change from one day to the next. Intriguingly this can help explain why a dyslexic individual may be able to successfully perform a task or action at one point in time, but potentially not in another.  

Disorientation cannot be banished entirely, but can be managed and challenged. The first step to achieving this revolves around being able to recognise, identify and pre-empt when we may become disorientated.  This may include, for example, particular situations or tasks that trigger confusion and associated stress and fatigue. The quest for searching for the grassroots of this confusion can be a rocky, turbulent, yet very rewarding experience Sometimes it can be unclear and mystifying what may be confusing us. Other times, it can be as subtle as a slap in the face.

Feelings of confusion and disorientation can be commonplace amongst the dyslexic population. As has been explored, this natural process occurs from being exposed to conflicting or contrasting information or being subject to too much incoming information. Methods and techniques however, do exist to aim to identify and reduce these feelings and thoughts of brain fog, fuzziness, and confusion.


  1. Davis, R, D. (2010). (3rd ed). The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Brightest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn. London: Souvenir Press Ltd.
  2. For some examples of the possible effects of disorientation on perception, see Disorientation | East Bay Dyslexia Solutions