6 Types of Fatigue and How They Might Affect Us

Jessie Ace avatar

by Jessie Ace |

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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. 

Are any of these issues causing your fatigue today? Please share your experiences with fatigue in the comments below.


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Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

When I was first diagnosed with MS my Japanese Neuro said there were not enough words in the english language to describe the fatigue of MS. Of course there are different types of fatigue as you described, that helps.

Jessie Ace avatar

Jessie Ace

Oh wow, a Japanese Neuro? It sounds like they were right!

David Wynsen avatar

David Wynsen

I think (for me) that two of my main hurdles are 1) Having the energy to 'give a damn' and 2) Having the energy and motivation to do something about it.

I haven't given up but it's a constant struggle. I should add that I have an enormous amount of guilt over what I am putting my wife through.

Amy Bell avatar

Amy Bell

I have the same fatigue experiences as you described. It also leads to depression in me and all I want to do is stay in bed at times.


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