Fatigue And Stress: Common Brain Injury Deficits

After a head injury, one of the deficits that may be seen is fatigue, which may limit functioning, including cognitive functioning, after the injury. Even in normal people, a lack of sleep can affect negatively the ability to process information. In patients with head injuries, their ability to attend to information and concentrate during the day will vary throughout the day based on the level of fatigue.

fatigue and stress

One brain injury survivor references re-learning how to type on a keyboard as one of his sources of fatigue and frustration. Both sleep hygiene and stress management should be worked into recovery plans. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Dushan Hanuska)

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According to Jeremiah, he struggles with fatigue a great deal. He describes his difficulty trying to type again after a brain injury. What used to be a natural task, is no longer natural, and has to be relearned. He calls it “hucking and pecking” at a keyboard whose keys are rearranged each time. He admits that it is tiring but also frustrating.

For Quinn’s wife, she witnessed firsthand the fatigue her husband would experience after his brain injury. Quinn was injured while he was refereeing a hockey game, where he fell with a helmet that was not being worn properly. Quinn’s wife admits that any time he has to physically or mentally exert himself, Quinn will become extremely fatigued and irritable, which causes him to lash out.

Angela was injured in a car accident that caused her to suffer a traumatic brain injury. She also admitted to feeling fatigued, saying she is always exhausted. She admits that she doesn’t know what her purpose or passion is, and this is tiring her out. Her lifestyle also makes her exhausted because she rarely is able to sit down. She doesn’t enjoy the same things that she used to, so she is looking for new ways to bring herself joy, which she admits is exhausting.

Stress is also a factor after a traumatic brain injury. The impact that stress has on behavior is illustrated by a classic bell curve. A particular level of stress is needed to maintain motivation, but too much stress can lead to deterioration of organized function. People with some stress in their lives usually have stress performing a useful function. However, those with head injuries experience more stress than normal as they find out that activities they could normally do are currently impossible. They also have to deal with the personal and financial problems the injury creates. Stress management becomes an important part of recovery.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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