Till startsida
University of Gothenburg
To content Read more about how we use cookies on gu.se

About mental fatigue

Here the text will be limited only to the kind of mental fatigue which may appear after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), stroke or other neurological diseases. We use the concept of mental fatigue as a generic term for the mental fatigue and long recovery time which the person may experience. In addition, other symptoms which often appear are described under the heading “Common Symptoms”.

Fatigue is extremely common in many different diseases. For example physical fatigue occurs after physical effort and is restored by rest. Psychological fatigue is seen in states of depression, is relatively constant over time and is not specifically improved by rest. Mental fatigue occurs after mental activity and is restored by rest.

Mental fatigue with a long time to restore the energy is most often seen during the rehabilitation after TBI, stroke or other neurological diseases and inflammations which affect the brain. Symptoms may be prominent immediately after the injury or disease and often decline gradually, but mental fatigue can be long lasting for some people. The degree of the fatigue and the time to restore the energy appears not to have any relation to the severity of the trauma or disease. Furthermore, the extent of the fatigue seems to be independent of which part of the brain is primarily affected. The person suffering from this kind of mental fatigue may experience rapid mental exhaustion after mental activity which is disproportionate to what is expected. Some people can continue in their jobs, but for others, problems connected to work and everyday activities are common. There are people who are unable to work, who have obvious difficulties in everyday activities such as shopping, cooking, reading the newspaper as well as spending time with their family and friends. In today’s society, we have to take in, process and handle a lot of information, which may be too taxing for those suffering from mental fatigue.

When discussing with other persons, those suffering from the condition have to register and process information including signs, gestures, and hidden meanings. The focus of the conversation may also shift between different subjects. For those suffering from mental fatigue, it can be taxing to read a book or to watch television. Reading requires quick decoding of the written words and simultaneously the energy must be focused on the content of the text. The same applies when watching television programmes. Rapid changes between pictures, contents and facts may be hard to follow. Even shopping can be difficult. The mental fatigue can appear rapidly and almost paralyse the person’s thinking and mental ability.

It can be difficult for people who have not themselves experienced mental fatigue to recognise and understand the problem. This particular kind of fatigue can easily be mistaken for laziness or unwillingness. This is unfortunate as these persons in most cases want to be able to accomplish more than they are actually able to.

Mental recovery

A common symptom of mental fatigue after suffering a TBI, stroke or other CNS disease is a prolonged time for recovering one’s mental energy. It is important to be aware that if the mental recovery time is prolonged, the mental fatigue may increase over time, i.e. more than a day and sometimes for longer periods of time.

It is vital to consider the extended recovery time necessary for persons suffering from mental fatigue. It is crucial for the person to reserve extra time for rest, and most importantly, not to plan too many activities. It may also be particularly advisable to rest before any activity.

It is essential to consider the extended recovery time with regard to working capacity. Persons suffering from mental fatigue are usually able to perform most tasks, but their patience is often limited. It is therefore sometimes difficult to understand that a person who is normally able to perform like any other person, is unable to perform persistently over a prolonged period of time.

The figure shows how mental fatigue can vary in the course of a day. Mental fatigue is low for healthy control persons (green line). Those who suffer from mental fatigue (blue line) often experience varying degrees of fatigue during the course of a day. Many persons may feel rather fit in the morning, but as the day passes, the fatigue increases and becomes more prominent.

Page Manager: Birgitta Johansson|Last update: 8/25/2010

The University of Gothenburg uses cookies to provide you with the best possible user experience. By continuing on this website, you approve of our use of cookies.  What are cookies?