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Brain Injury And Fatigue

July 10, 2020

A guest post:

When someone experiences a brain injury, one of the most common yet overlooked effects is fatigue.

 

Fatigue is difficult to define, because the way people experience fatigue can differ from person to person. Some describe it as feeling physically or mentally tired, and others describe it as having low energy, an inability to focus or a lack of motivation. Basically, it’s our body’s way of telling us to ‘take a break’ when we are exhausted.

 

Many of us feel as though we suffer from fatigue from time to time, or even a lot of the time. However, there is a difference between ‘normal’ fatigue, and what is referred to as ‘pathological’ fatigue – the kind associated with an injury or condition, such as a brain injury.

 

It hasn’t been established exactly why or how pathological fatigue occurs in brain injury survivors. It’s been suggested that it could be because the parts of the brain that maintain alertness or cognitive function are damaged through brain injury.

 

The most obvious difference between normal fatigue and pathological fatigue is that normal fatigue usually doesn’t last for very long, and it should improve if you get some rest. Pathological fatigue is a bit different. It can be present for most of the day, and resting might not make it any better. It can stop people from doing things they want or need to do, because fatigue affects both the physical and mental functions we carry out on a day to day basis. It can also make the other effects of brain injury worse, such as short-term memory problems, the ability to speak fluently, and irritability.

 

This can be life-changing for survivors of brain injury. It can affect whether they feel able to do what they want to do, and it can change the way that they relate to their close ones, who may or may not fully understand what they’re going through. This can make survivors of brain injury feel isolated and affect their self-esteem.

 

Sadly, there is still stigma around brain injury. Fatigue is one of the symptoms which is often misunderstood, and its effects on brain injury survivors are underestimated. According to Headway, the brain injury association, in a recent survey of 3,166 brain injury survivors, 75% of respondents said they felt the people in their life did not understand their brain injury-related fatigue, and 69% felt they had been unfairly judged or treated due to this lack of understanding. [link: https://www.headway.org.uk/news-and-campaigns/campaigns/brain-drain-wake-up-to-fatigue/]

 

The only way to break the stigma is to encourage people to speak publically and have open conversations about brain injuries and common effects like fatigue, in the hope that people get a better understanding of these complex injuries and their symptoms, in turn making brain injury survivors feel more comfortable.

 

Ashley Porter, Clinical Negligence solicitor at Lime Solicitors

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