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Brain fag

Brain fag is an example of a culture-bound syndrome. Once a common term for mental exhaustion, it is now encountered almost exclusively in West Africa. Seen predominantly in male students, it generally manifests as vague somatic symptoms, depression, and difficulty concentrating.[1] It has similar symptoms to the Trinidadian illness studiation madness.

The term "brain fag" was used in the US as far back as 1852, describing an overworked brain,[2] in 1877 to describe mental exhaustion in professionals similar to neurasthenia,[3] and later in 1919 to describe mental fatigue in the elderly.[4] This American usage declined by the 1950s. The modern African usage was first described in 1960, brain fag (also know as 'brain fog') occurs most commonly in sub-Saharan Africa. The term 'fag' is believed to have been derived from 'fatigue'.

A Nigerian study in 2002 found that proficiency in English may be a risk factor.[5] In South Africa, another large study found that socioeconomic status, female birth order, and depression were linked to the illness. A possible aetiology may be the "cultural clash" between African and Western societies.[6] Brain fag is generally considered to be a depressive disorder, possibly linked with anxiety disorders.[7]


  1. ^ Katona, C & Robertson, M. (2005, 3rd ed.) Psychiatry at a Glance, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-2404-0
  3. ^ John Forsyth Meigs,A History of the First Quarter of the Second Century of the Pennsylvania Hospital,1877
  4. ^ Malford Wilcox Thewlis, Geriatrics ; a treatise on senile conditions, diseases of advanced life, and care of the aged, 1919
  5. ^ Morakinyo, O & Peltzer, K. Psychopathology, 2002;35:362-366
  6. ^ Durst, R, Minuchin-Itzigsohn S, & Jabotinsky-Rubin, K. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 1993;30(4):223-32
  7. ^ Peltzer, K, Cherian, VI, & Cherian, L. Psychol Rep. 1998 Dec;83(3 Pt 2):1187-96
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Brain_fag". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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