Cognitive Fatigue and Depression ……………

fried brain

I’ve always been a bit snippy about depression, having been lucky enough not to have suffered with it even when things are bad. I have been guilty of dismissing it and thinking people have a choice about how they react to given situations. I realise this is a lazy and incorrect assumption but I’ve been guilty of feeling like that in the past.

I was doing some research on fatigue for an article recently and was reading about depression in MS and the penny finally dropped for me! This bitch of a disease can alter our personalities and affect our moods.

Primary fatigue occurs as a direct result of MS, slowing the body’s reaction times due to damage to the central nervous system. This can take the form of “lassitude”, an overwhelming sense of tiredness unrelated to the amount of activity or our bodies can “short-circuit” in small muscle groups due to damage following repetitive movements.

If you think about repetitive movements done by our brains throughout the day it’s no wonder we suffer from cognitive fatigue as well as the physical kind.

When I’m at the end of a busy day at work my brain feels fried and I find it hard to concentrate or take things in. Conversation becomes more difficult and I feel the need to rest my head by sitting in a darkened room with no stimulation!

This is rarely possible as family life takes over when I get home and I have to concentrate on the children and hearing about their day.

Today I could barely answer my husband as he talked about our new duvet covers and making a decision about which one to choose was beyond me! The children were chattering away and the TV was on in the background and I could imagine the steam coming out of my ears! I found it so hard to concentrate on anything and found myself staring at my son, unable to answer his question as my brain couldn’t focus.

This is when cognitive fatigue can lead to feelings of being unable to cope and ultimately to depression. It can also make us snappy, irritable and bad tempered. It can make functioning difficult, especially as this is all going on invisibly inside our heads. This can alter who we are and affect our relationships but I’ve only just figured it out!

I don’t get depressed about my physical disabilities and limitations as they are what they are and I can count my blessings easily but this storm going on in my head could cause my moods to deteriorate if I’m not careful!

What to do then? Resting as much as possible is important. Don’t try and focus on 20 things at once! I’d love to hear hints and tips from other MSers on how to minimise cognitive fatigue?


6 thoughts on “Cognitive Fatigue and Depression ……………

  1. Nothing is worse, for me, than cognitive fatigue or brain fog — but lately I’ve had WAY less of that, to the point that I’m able to actually work on writing when I get home from work, something I could never do before. It may be my imagination, but I think things started to improve when, after a debilitating bout of fatigue this summer, I took a close look at what I do in my “day job”.

    I knew “multi-tasking” was one of the culprits, so I sat down and (over the course of a few days) mapped out all the tasks — what needed to be done for which program, and by what date — on an Excel spreadsheet. Because I work on an academic calendar cycle, I created a tab (worksheet) for each month of the year in the spreadsheet and used conditional formatting to change the colors of the “date due” column depending on whether the date was occurring next week, this week, or today (that one gets outlined in red). Every day I check that spreadsheet and do each task that needs to be done, one by one. I also have a column that indicates whether the task can be done by a student assistant — then it becomes *their* deadline. It took a bit of work to set up, but I swear my cognitive load is less. I don’t catch myself doing that MS memory-scramble so much: “Did I do this already? Was I supposed to do this? What am I forgetting???” Unfortunately I still do that in my home life! 😉

  2. Well, not as an MSer, but as an MNDer, I can totally relate. For me, my body (legs first and foremost) have a definite limit. Once I’ve reached it, I feel done for the whole day–no matter the hour or what else remains to be accomplished. As soon as my body hits that wall, my mind goes there too. So frustrating! I haven’t quite figured this out yet, but I have to stop what I’m doing, rest, and re-prioritize what is VITAL for the day and what can wait.

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