Fatigue – Meaning, Types and Symptoms

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 12: Fatigue and Boredom

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4



Fatigue is an experience of physical or mental exhaustion that results in reduced alertness lowered job productivity and performance. The employee becomes tired of doing the job, which results in poor motivation. 

Offner – “Fatigue is the reduced capacity of our organism to work properly, that capacity is accompanied with some feeling also which is known as feeling of fatigue.”

Paula Ford Martin – Fatigue is physical and / or mental exhaustion that can be triggered by stress, medication, overwork or mental and physical illness or disease.

In the words of Harell, “fatigue, or activity decrement, means a reduce capacity for further work as a consequence of previous activity where a person was trying almost as hard as he could.”

The fatigue may be caused by such factors as understaffing, unpleasant surroundings and high pressure. Fatigue is a major concern in many fields, especially in transportation and production, because fatigue can bring disastrous results. Fatigue is considered an internal precondition for unsafe acts because it negatively affects the human operator’s internal state. Fatigue can be a symptom of a medical problem, but more commonly it is a normal physiological reaction to exertion, lack of sleep, boredom, changes to sleep wade schedules or stress.

For most people, the major cause of fatigue is not having obtained adequate rest or recovery from previous activities. In simple terms, fatigue largely results from inadequate quantity or quality of sleep. This is because both the quantity (how much) and the quality (how good) of sleep are important for recovery from fatigue and maintaining normal alertness and performance. Furthermore, the effects of fatigue can be made worse by exposure to harsh environments and prolonged mental or physical work. 

Types of Fatigue

1. Physical Fatigue

Physical fatigue or muscle weakness is lack of strength. Physical fatigue is the inability to continue operating at the level of one’s normal abilities. For example, a person with physical fatigue cannot lift as heavy a box or walk as far as he could if not fatigued. Physical fatigue may be the result of one or more environmental causes such as inadequate rest, improper diet, work and home stressors or poor physical conditioning or one symptom of a chronic medical condition or disease process in the body.

2. Mental Fatigue

Mental fatigue is the fatigue arising in consequence of mental efforts. Mental fatigue can be caused by continual mental effort and attention on a particular task, as well as high levels of stress or emotion. Basically, any mental process that goes into overload can result in this disorder. Mental fatigue can affect people for both short and long periods of time. The tasks seem much more complicated, concentration is low, and mistakes are made. Likewise, late night spent working or studying can cause mental fatigue, making information difficult to recollect and resulting in mistakes and clumsiness. Mental fatigue rather manifests in sleepiness or slowness. A person with mental fatigue may fall asleep, may react very slowly, or may be inattentive.

Symptoms of Fatigue

A. Physical Symptoms

  1. Yawning
  2. Heavy Eyelids
  3. Eye-rubbing
  4. Head drooping
  5. Micro-sleeps
  6. Tiredness 

B. Mental Symptoms

  1. Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  2. Lapses in attention
  3. Difficulty remembering what you are doing
  4. Failure to communicate important information
  5. Failure to anticipate events or actions
  6. Accidentally doing the wrong thing
  7. Accidentally not doing the right thing
  8. Slower thinking
  9. Poor judgment of distance, speed and time 

C. Emotional Symptoms

  1. Quieter or withdrawn than normal
  2. Lacking in energy
  3. Lacking in motivation to do the task well
  4. Irritable or grumpy behaviour with colleagues, family, or friends

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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