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6 Types of Fatigue and How They Might Affect Us

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    6 Types of Fatigue and How They Might Affect Us

    Did you know that there are various types of fatigue, and each makes us feel slightly different than the others?

    A long while ago, I was at an MS seminar listening to a nurse talk about fatigue. She spoke about different types of fatigue and how our symptoms might vary after we’ve experienced each kind.

    She listed six types of fatigue: social, emotional, physical, pain, mental, and chronic illness.

    Of course, this number may vary depending on which source you consult and how each type is classified, but the following is an explanation of the six types of fatigue that the nurse discussed that day.

    Social fatigue

    This is the fatigue one might feel after speaking to a person (or many people) for an extended period. Fatigue might occur after speaking in person, especially when going out or traveling to meet up, which requires more energy.

    Responding to text messages or comments on social media can also cause a person to feel fatigued.

    Additionally, video calls are a new way of communicating and require a whole new level of energy, especially for those who aren’t tech-savvy. Setting up a call and appearing on screen might cause someone to feel stressed.

    Social fatigue can make us feel overwhelmed, stressed, and wiped out, which affects our energy levels.

    Emotional fatigue

    Emotional fatigue entails the times we’ve felt sadness, anger, depression, or frustration for an extended period. It’s like those times when we are sad and cry a lot, and our eyes hurt afterward. The body is affected because so much energy is used to experience those feelings, and it can leave us feeling pretty wiped of energy.

    Physical fatigue

    This type of fatigue follows physical activity. It can come from having a shower, prepping a meal, or going for a run. Many people like the feeling of physical fatigue after doing an activity because it can have benefits, such as better sleep.

    Often with a chronic illness like MS, we can feel exhausted, even when we’re not doing anything. Ironically, more physical activity over time improves fatigue levels.

    Pain fatigue

    Pain may have caused a bad night’s sleep, leading to fatigue the next day. Trying to explain that pain to someone else can be tiring, which can prompt emotional fatigue. Sometimes the mental aspect of having pain can make us feel depressed, and therefore, exhausted. When every movement hurts, it becomes harder and harder to find the energy to move.

    ​​​Mental fatigue

    This comes from expending a lot of mental energy. Examples include doing puzzles, problem-solving, and answering questions. After this type of activity, it’s common to feel more cognitive symptoms such as brain fog. In my experience, if I do these types of activities late at night, my brain sometimes finds it hard to switch off. Then, a lack of quality sleep can cause fatigue the next day.

    Chronic illness fatigue
    Sometimes there is no other explanation for what makes us feel fatigued than chronic illness. Damage to the brain or spinal cord in different areas might result in fatigue. Research using MRIs has shown that people with MS use more energy than the average person because our minds must work twice as hard to find new ways to send messages, which causes fatigue.

    Damage to the central nervous system can lead to what is called primary fatigue. Secondary fatigue, which is caused by factors related to MS, could be to blame for a lack of energy. Bladder problems and incontinence cause us to use more energy to get to the bathroom, especially at night. Muscle spasms, stiffness, pain, or depression also use up energy and may affect our bodies differently. Additionally, medication side effects can cause fatigue.


    Thanks Marco. When working, I struggled with a circular bout of mental and physical fatigue. Since I stopped working, the physical fatigue is better. I guess I now know which was the main culprit - cognitive tasks. It is a balance in trying to challenge myself either physically or mentally, without taxing the other.
    DX 01/06, currently on Tysabri


      Originally posted by Marco View Post

      Physical fatigue
      Ironically, more physical activity over time improves fatigue levels.
      I do not think this is as coincidental.

      More of a concerted physical effort results in overall improvement. Physical effort also moves people to appreciate their abilities both intellectually and spiritually. When you begin to feel your body through using it you can do nothing but reacquaint or even rekindle new feeling, new meaning. Exercise in itself is an education.

      We respond to our body as the gift it is. Everything improves.


        Another type of MS related fatigue is called Motor Fatigue (which affects me the most).

        Motor Fatigue: A type of fatigue that occurs in muscles (most often in the legs or arms) that are not receiving adequate nerve impulses due to demyelination. These muscles may tire quickly with repeated use causing feelings of extreme weakness and recover following a period of rest.

        PPMS for 22 years (dx 1998)
        ~ Worrying will not take away tomorrow's troubles ~ But it will take away today's peace. ~


          I suffer from some of these types...mainly social, motor and physical fatigue, but what has been affecting me more and more this year, is Covid fatigue. Not the fatigue ones get when one is infected with the virus (I haven't), but the emotional and mental drain that can also pose as a health risk.

          Found this article that gives tips for fighting it-
          1st sx '89 Dx '99 w/RRMS - SP since 2010
          Administrator Message Boards/Moderator


            Well, I think we are all experiencing covid fatigue. We are so close to getting vaccines distributed and putting this behind us
            this isn’t the time to throw up
            our hands in exasperation.

            Interesting, the way you described the different finde of fatigue. social, physical and motor. I experience all of those things but there is another fatigue that is harder to define. Cognitive, mental, intellectual and the inability to accomplish tasks that require the navigation of these capacities.


              Thanks, Marco!

              Yeah; chronic illness fatigue is something that, unless you've experienced it, you just don't "get it". My husband tends to think he understands it and gives me useless advice about managing it sometimes. But, it's clear that, although he means well, he simply doesn't have a clue.

              And, Palmtree; COVID fatigue. Yup; we've probably all got that.
              ~ Faith
              MSWorld Volunteer -- Moderator since JUN2012
              (now a Mimibug)

              Symptoms began in JAN02
              - Dx with RRMS in OCT03, following 21 months of limbo, ruling out lots of other dx, and some "probable stroke" and "probable CNS" dx for awhile.
              - In 2008, I was back in limbo briefly, then re-dx w/ MS: JUL08

              - Betaseron NOV03-AUG08; Copaxone20 SEPT08-APR15; Copaxone40 APR15-present
              - Began receiving SSDI / LTD NOV08. Not employed. I volunteer in my church and community.