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Is “Ego Fatigue” Sabotaging Your Willpower?

9/24/19. Dr. Dimitriu was published in Psychology on the topic of Sleep and Memory: How They Work Together.

For many people, just getting through the day is a monumental struggle. Those suffering from anxiety, depression, and ADHD must fight to control their impulses simply to function and stay on task through a day of work or school when they’d rather be home in bed or playing video games. Having held it together all day, they then find those impulses even harder to control at the end of the day. Twenty years ago, a series of experiments demonstrated that impulse control is a finite resource that can be depleted – that suppressing impulses and feelings for some length of time can eventually make those impulses and feelings harder to resist. This phenomenon, known as “ego fatigue” or “ego depletion,” is recognized as a problem for those struggling with anxiety, depression, and ADHD as well as for people battling substance abuse and binge eating. The effect is similar to the depletion of physical and cognitive energy at the end of a long, busy day when all you want to do is relax and do nothing. Saying “no” to your urges all day makes it harder to control those urges in the evening when your store of control has been used up.

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