How does fatigue affect people with IBD?

Fatigue can have an effect on all aspects of life. Some people find it difficult to function at all when their IBD is active, both because of bowel symptoms, and also fatigue. Research and surveys suggest that fatigue may affect the lives of people with IBD in many different ways.


The low energy levels caused by fatigue can make it very hard to take part in physical activities such as sport. Some people find that they do not even have the energy to carry out everyday tasks such as driving, housework, or collecting the children from school. On very bad days, even walking from one room to another can be too much.


Some people find that fatigue can make it difficult to think logically. You may find that it can affect your concentration and memory. When you are very fatigued, you may feel you cannot speak properly, and may stumble over your words. Some people call this the ‘brain fog’.


Unpredictable fatigue can make it very difficult to take part in social activities. This may mean that you find it difficult to go on holiday, travel, socialize, or even take part in hobbies or interests.


Fatigue can have an effect on your emotions. If you cannot do as much as you would like, you may feel frustrated and angry. Some people may feel isolated and lonely if they find it difficult to get out and socialize with friends. This can lead to depression and low confidence.


Some people find that fatigue has a negative effect on their relationships with friends and family. For example, some people may feel that, because their condition cannot be seen, their family does not appreciate how fatigued they are. You may find that you feel guilty if your partner or family have to do extra things to help, or if they miss out on doing things together. Talking about this may be helpful in this sort of situation.


Fatigue can have a direct effect on employment and education. Whereas some people with IBD fatigue may be able to manage a full-time job, others may struggle with such a commitment. Some experience fatigue so badly that they have to give up work. Working part time or reducing the number of hours worked can sometimes help manage fatigue. However, this can have major financial implications. Students with fatigue may find studying difficult, and may worry that their fatigue has limited their achievements and job aspirations.