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Executive function and attention in patients with stress-related exhaustion: perceived fatigue and effect of distraction

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare D. Krabbe
S. Ellbin
Michael Nilsson
I. H. Jonsdottir
Hans Samuelsson
Publicerad i Stress-the International Journal on the Biology of Stress
Volym 20
Nummer/häfte 4
Sidor 333-340
ISSN 1025-3890
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Institutionen för neurovetenskap och fysiologi
Institutionen för neurovetenskap och fysiologi, sektionen för klinisk neurovetenskap
Psykologiska institutionen
Sidor 333-340
Språk en
Länkar 10.1080/10253890.2017.1336533
Ämnesord Burnout, exhaustion disorder, cognitive function, neuropsychological, tiredness, effort approach, cognitive performance, burnout, failures
Ämneskategorier Klinisk medicin, Psykologi


Cognitive impairment has frequently been shown in patients who seek medical care for stress-related mental health problems. This study aims to extend the current knowledge of cognitive impairments in these patients by focusing on perceived fatigue and effects of distraction during cognitive testing. Executive function and attention were tested in a group of patients with stress-related exhaustion (n=25) and compared with healthy controls (n=25). Perceived fatigue was measured before, during and after the test session, and some of the tests were administered with and without standardized auditory distraction. Executive function and complex attention performance were poorer among the patients compared to controls. Interestingly, their performance was not significantly affected by auditory distraction but, in contrast to the controls, they reported a clear-cut increase in mental tiredness, during and after the test session. Thus, patients with stress-related exhaustion manage to perform during distraction but this was achieved at a great cost. These findings are discussed in terms of a possible tendency to adopt a high-effort approach despite cognitive impairments and the likelihood that such an approach will require increased levels of effort, which can result in increased fatigue. We tentatively conclude that increased fatigue during cognitive tasks is a challenge for patients with stress-related exhaustion and plausibly of major importance when returning to work demanding high cognitive performance.

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