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Subjective cognitive complaints in patients with stress-related exhaustion disorder: a cross sectional study

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  • Andreas Nelson
  • Hanna Malmberg Gavelin
  • Carl-Johan Boraxbekk
  • Therese Eskilsson
  • Maria Josefsson
  • Lisbeth Slunga Järvholm
  • Anna Stigsdotter Neely
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BACKGROUND: Stress-related exhaustion is associated with cognitive impairment as measured by both subjective cognitive complaints (SCCs) and objective cognitive test performance. This study aimed to examine how patients diagnosed with exhaustion disorder differ from healthy control participants in regard to levels and type of SCCs, and if SCCs are associated with cognitive test performance and psychological distress.

METHODS: We compared a group of patients with stress-related exhaustion disorder (n = 103, female = 88) with matched healthy controls (n = 58, female = 47) cross-sectionally, concerning the type and magnitude of self-reported SCCs. We furthermore explored the association between SCCs and cognitive test performance as well as with self-reported depression, anxiety and burnout levels, in the patient and the control group, respectively.

RESULTS: Patients reported considerably more cognitive failures and were more likely than controls to express memory failures in situations providing few external cues and reminders in the environment. In both groups, SCCs were associated with demographic and psychological factors, and not with cognitive test performance.

CONCLUSION: Our findings underline the high burden of cognitive problems experienced by patients with exhaustion disorder, particularly in executively demanding tasks without external cognitive support. From a clinical perspective, SCCs and objective cognitive test performance may measure different aspects of cognitive functioning, and external cognitive aids could be of value in stress rehabilitation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Participants were recruited as part of the Rehabilitation for Improved Cognition (RECO) study ( NCT03073772). Date of registration: 8 March 2017.

TidsskriftBMC Psychology
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)1-13
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 18 maj 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
Open access funding provided by Karlstad University. This research was supported by grants from the Swedish research council for health, working life and welfare (2009–0772, 2020–01111), the Swedish social insurance agency (REHSAM), the Västerbotten county council and the Graduate school in population dynamics and public policy at Umeå University, AFA insurance and bank of Sweden tercentenary foundation, the Kempe foundation and Lars Hierta memorial foundation. The funding bodies had no influence over the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; nor the writing of the manuscript.

ID: 65655411