Pathological fatigue brought on by traumatic brain injury

This blog is part of a brain injury series and looks at pathological fatigue brought on by traumatic brain injury.

What is pathological fatigue?

Fatigue is unfortunately a part of everyday life – we might experience fatigue after a hard day at work or after a long journey. However, this should be distinguished from “pathological fatigue”, which can interfere with a person’s ability to go about their everyday life and to do the activities of daily living. Over 70% of traumatic brain injury survivors complain of having excessive mental fatigue.

What causes pathological fatigue?

The causes of this fatigue are not fully understood. Some people think that it comes from the extra effort it takes to do things after your brain injury. Many everyday tasks can take more concentration. Others think that because, particularly in the early stages after the injury, the brain is focussing on healing, it may have less reserve for other activities.

Often, the fatigue can be exacerbated by other head injury effects, such as sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression and pain.

Pathological fatigue can impact upon other brain injury symptoms such as irritability, slurred speech (known as dysarthria), impaired attention and reduced motivation.

What can you do about brain injury related fatigue?  

In some cases, the fatigue improves over time, but this is not always the case and brain injury survivors may therefore need to find strategies to deal with it.

Sometimes the pathological fatigue can be helped by cognitive behavioural therapy provided by a neuropsychologist. A neuro-occupational therapist may be able to recommend strategies such as pacing yourself, planning your day so that you do not take on too much, sleep hygiene and paying attention to what may trigger your fatigue. The trigger can be different for different people and may include finding yourself stressed or irritated by particular things (for example, being in a busy, crowded place or working on a computer). I am not a doctor myself and unable to give medical advice, however I have seen doctors recommend that mild daily exercise can help to reduce levels of fatigue.

There are numerous organisations out there who may be able to provide advice and support. These include Headway, as well as (for younger people) The Child Brain Injury Trust.

How Moore Barlow can help

Matt Tuff is a senior associate in the Major trauma service department at Moore Barlow. As well as recovering compensation for our clients, Matt places particular emphasis on securing rehabilitation for them at an early stage. He have extensive experience of working closely with expert case managers and rehabilitation companies to secure this goal.

Please visit the major trauma website page or contact Matt Tuff.