Dyslexia and Fatigue
The demands, chores and stresses of daily life can be extremely tiring and strenuous. Going to work, attending school, college or university, keeping track of household jobs, maintaining appointments or meetings, shopping for basic necessities and then finding time to relax is enough to wear anybody out. Even when we’ve had a really enjoyable, pleasing and productive day often we just want to crash and relax in our comforting beds. In some previous research into dyslexia I recalled reading about links between dyslexics and increased fatigue levels. Intrigued by these writings, as being continuously tired is a common occurrence for me, I decided to revisit this as its own topic for a future blog post.
Why may dyslexic individuals experience high fatigue levels a vast majority of the time? Firstly, during tasks dyslexics find particularly challenging and laborious individuals have to work harder, and often for longer, compared to others to yield the same results. For example, if a dyslexic person finds reading text or formulating written sentences specifically challenging more concentration, checking and rechecking for errors and processing time is often required. The same can also work vice versa. When a dyslexic individual is extremely tired, stressed and/or confused ‘dyslexic symptoms’ can become more pronounced and amplified. Thus in this way, when a dyslexic returns home after a long day at work, school or university they can be left not just tired but totally shattered and exhausted. This can be the result of tackling and completing difficult tasks for long time periods that require vast amounts of energy, focus and attention to detail. Moreover, high fatigue levels may also be contributed to by a dyslexic potentially trying to hide and mask how much work, determination and stress that has occurred during their day (BDA: Living with a Dyslexic Partner).
Secondly, high fatigue and tiredness levels can be linked to the ‘secondary symptoms of dyslexia’. These psychological factors that go beyond more recognisable language-based indictors, of slower processing speed and difficulties with reading and/or writing, include greater levels of anxiety, stress and reduced self-esteem or confidence. By its very nature, being highly anxious and stressed can be immensely physically tiring and emotionally draining; particularly when present over consecutive days. Notably, dyslexics and other neurodivergents can be more susceptible to stress, anxiety, rumination and feelings of being overwhelmed due to their neurodiversity. Adding this to inevitable tiredness from working extra hard in their daily routine, a real cocktail for tiredness can be made (Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia, 2008).
Thirdly, visual stressors must also be considered in relation to tiredness. Comprised of text moving, blurring or ‘jumping’ visual stress can be common amongst neurodivergents. Due to this unwanted movement of words individuals can struggle to recognise, comprehend and ascertain meaning of written words, have difficulty in concentrating, lose their place in text, and even miss out words entirely. Because of these interferences, reading can take significantly longer and potentially lead to headaches, migraines, eye strain, frequent blinking or rubbing of eyes and, predictably, increased tiredness.
It is a sad reality that so often we hear of dyslexics being called lazy, stupid or not trying hard enough. These statements are extremely misleading, as dyslexics are highly intelligent creative thinkers who excel in multiple areas of life. But, as has been explored dyslexia can be debilitating due to its links with literacy difficulties, processing speed, increased stress and anxiety levels and proneness to fatigue. In order to try to reduce fatigue and increase the wellbeing of dyslexics some tips and suggestions have been outlined. Vitally, recognition as well as praise/rewards for hard work and resilience should be granted due to the sheer amount of effort and diligence that goes into the daily functioning of a dyslexic (Dyslexia is not an Effort Problem, 2014). Setting achievable goals, breaking tasks into manageable chunks, taking regular breaks, accessing reasonable adjustments and seeking the expertise of educational professionals when needed can all be great ways to assist the dyslexic population. In addition, remaining supportive and encouraging, yet also understanding of your dyslexic child, student or significant other (or even towards yourself) is absolutely crucial.
As has been explored, the dyslexic brain can work much harder and so much overtime to process and complete the vast amounts daily tasks it faces. A collage of factors, including tackling difficult and complex tasks, spending time checking and re-checking for errors, battling visual stressors and coping with associated stress can be a real recipe for fatigue amongst the dyslexic community.
https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/advice/adults/living-with-a-dyslexic-partner, accessed 12th September 2020.
https://www.dyslexia.com/about-dyslexia/signs-of-dyslexia/common-characteristics-of-adult-dyslexia/, accessed 12th September 2020.
https://www.noodle.com/articles/dyslexia-is-not-an-effort-problem, accessed 12th September 2020.