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Brain Fag[edit]

A culture bound syndrome characterized by a social environment filled with uncompromising intellectual pressures. It was originally also referred to as mental exhaustion. Brain fag has come to be known as a common disorder among African American male students in high school and univeristy settings. This disorder causes problems with concentrating and thinking.[1]


Brain fag or mental exhaustion correlates to much of the studies of Neurasthenia.The study of Brain fag can be dated all the way back to the 1850s. The syndrome was initially characterized my severe headaches from people overworking.[2] In the late 1800s and early 1900s the study looked mainly at the most educated and cultured of society because of unexplained conditions that were causing unexplained deaths among them. It also examined retired elderly individuals.[3] The symptoms included migraines, poor digestion, fatigue, depression, and even complete mental collapse. In the 1950s, a more clinical approach was taken on brain fag while studying in West, East, and Central Africa. Raymond Prince, an M.D. certified psychologist started studying Nigerian students and defining and describing their symptoms of brain fag. In his premise, he describes the symdrome as he sees it: 1. Occurs Nigerian students, teachers, and other intellectual workers 2. Its associated with studying 3. Complaints are also referring to some form of mental impairment.[4] Since then, "The conceptual history of BFS is divided into four major perspectives: Traditional medicine, Psychoanalysis, Biopsychological and Transcultural psychiatry." This has help psychologist to note whether this is a phenomenon or whether it is just a mixture of multiple disorders in one.[5]


Common causes of brain fag for African American male students can be contributed to social and economical issues while trying to embrace Western styles of education and living. Common social issues can be social standing and pressures to live up to expectations. Many students have reported being stressed from expectations and maintaining certain roles in society that can be permitted upon them by family and other similar situations. Economically, intellectuals who have dealt with economical hardships, generally suffer. These students are not as privelaged and have to deal with school as well as monetary issues that often causes them to fall victim to brain fag.[6]


The common symptoms associated with Brain fag are:

  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Paresthesias
  • Headache
  • Pain
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Unhappy facial expression
  • Breathing problems
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremor
  • Sensation disorders
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus


In recent times, Igbokwe developed a propensity scale to help in the use of measuring the symptoms of brain fag among these students. Since it has only tested a small sample, the actual worth and value of this scale is still optimistic, but committees and groups have been formed to test the accuracy of the scale. This scale could possibly be useful in time.[7] Government analysis have also been performed using random students chosen to show a true presence of the syndrome. In the results of the study, 25% of the students that were tested were said to have suffered from brain fag syndrome.[8]

  1. ^ Stressed-out West African students: Psychiatrists claim "brain fag" outdated. RC Psych Online. The Rocyal College of Pschiatrists 2 July 2008 [1]
  2. ^ [The Encyclopedia Americana: a library of universal knowledge, Volume 24]
  3. ^ [Neurasthenia.]
  4. ^ [Mezzich, Juan Psychiatric diagnosis: a world perspective]
  5. ^ A Psychophysiological Theory of a Psychiatric Illness (the Brain Fag Syndrome) [2]
  6. ^ [Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Brain fag symptoms in rural South African secondary school pupils.