Depression Fatigue: Causes, Symptoms, & Solutions

Ashley Cardwell

There are significant links between depression and exhaustion. If you are living with depression, feeling too tired to do anything is probably a common occurrence. When you are depressed, your energy levels tend to decline, with symptoms such as sadness and emptiness further exacerbating feelings of fatigue.

In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of depression and tiredness as well as why depression causes fatigue. In addition, we’ll highlight some of the predominant symptoms of these conditions. Next, we’ll provide some actionable tips for dealing with depression fatigue, which will hopefully help you to feel less tired and sad all the time.

What is Depression?

Depression can be defined as a mood disorder that leaves you feeling sad, disinterested in things, depressed and tired. Also called ‘clinical depression’ or ‘major depressive disorder,’ depression impacts how you think, feel, and behave, leading to a range of physical and emotional problems.

While the exact cause of depression is difficult to pinpoint, several factors can contribute to the condition’s development. Clinical depression often results from a combination of events and personal characteristics, including:

Life Events
Challenges such as long-term isolation, prolonged work stress, long-term unemployment, abusive relationships, and loneliness can contribute to feelings of depression. This can lead to a state of depression exhaustion, in which even small tasks can feel overwhelming. Although long-term life events contribute to depression, one-off, tragic events can trigger a depressive state, too.

Personal Factors
Many personal factors can cause depression, including:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Personality
  • Genetics/family history
  • Serious medical conditions/illnesses
  • Changes in the Brain

Changes in the Brain
The links between depression and chemical imbalance inside the brain have been subject to research for many decades. However, the brain is a complex organ, and research is still ongoing into the root causes of depression with regard to brain chemistry.

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is an overarching term used to describe a lack of energy or feelings of tiredness. It’s different from feeling sleepy or drowsy. When you feel fatigued, you feel symptoms of lethargy, depression and no energy. Being tired or sleepy can be symptoms of fatigue, but they’re not the same thing.

Fatigue is a common symptom of multiple medical conditions ranging from mild to severe. It can also be the natural result of negative lifestyle choices.

There are many causes that can trigger fatigue including:

  • Medical Causes
  • Diabetes, heart diseases, some forms of cancer, and thyroid disorder can all contribute to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue.
  • Lifestyle-Related Causes
  • Obesity, drug abuse, alcohol dependence, high stress levels, lack of exercise, and lack of adequate nutrition can lead to feelings of depression fatigue.
  • Workplace-Related Causes
  • High levels of workplace-related stress can trigger feelings of fatigue.
  • Stress and Emotional Concerns
  • Fatigue is one of the leading symptoms of mental health problems, such as grief and depression. Depression fatigue can have other symptoms and signs, including lack of motivation and irritability.

Note that fatigue can be caused by several of these factors working together.

Why Does Depression Cause Fatigue?

According to data gathered in 2018, over 90% of people living with depression have symptoms of fatigue. Other symptoms of depression include concentration issues, withdrawal, and low mood.

One of the reasons that depression and fatigue are related is that depression impacts the neurotransmitters associated with alertness and our reward systems. Therefore, the condition has a physiological impact on our energy levels.

Depression also has a negative effect on our sleep, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, not sleeping as deeply, or waking up too early.

Then there’s the toll that depression takes on our level of motivation. Simple tasks can become both physically and emotionally draining. Greeting co-workers, getting ready for work, or buying groceries can feel like tremendous fears for someone living with depression. Additionally, depression can cause a state of ‘brain-fog’, making it difficult to make decisions or focus on tasks.

When you combine some of these symptoms, it’s no surprise that thousands of people are living with depression fatigue.

Are You Suffering From Depression and Fatigue?

The primary difference between depression and fatigue is that depression is mostly a mental health disorder, whereas chronic fatigue syndrome is primarily a physical condition. That said, there is often overlap between the two.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Lack of motivation and disinterest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Constant feelings of emptiness, sadness, or anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Difficulty focusing or making decisions
  • Overeating, under-eating, or binging on sugary snacks

There are also physical symptoms that are linked to depression. These include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Cramps
  • Other pains throughout the body

A cumulation of these symptoms can have a significant impact on your ability to sleep through the night, leading to a state of exhaustion.

When it comes to chronic fatigue syndrome, people often report physical symptoms that aren’t commonly linked to depression. These include:

  • Joint aches and pains
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Tenderness in and around the lymph nodes

Chronic fatigue syndrome and depression impact people differently during their daily activities. People living with depression often report feeling constantly tired, with little interest in undertaking activities, regardless of the amount of effort or task required. Those who have chronic fatigue syndrome are usually enthusiastic about engaging in activities but have no energy to get started.

Consult your doctor to obtain an official diagnosis for either condition. Your doctor will examine you physically and ask questions to understand your mental health condition, potentially ruling other conditions with similar symptoms. If your doctor believes that you have depression, they’ll probably refer you for an evaluation with a mental health expert.

Tips for Dealing With Depression Fatigue

There are several ways that you can manage depression fatigue:

Exercising regularly helps to minimize feelings of fatigue as it promotes healthy sleep patterns. Research has shown that performing over 20 minutes of exercise at a low-to-moderate intensity can reduce fatigue and increase energy.

The current physical activity guidelines in the U.S recommend that adults exercise for 150 minutes each week at a moderate intensity level. This figure can be divided to suit your timetable. For example, five 30-minute sessions or 15 sessions of ten minutes would suffice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people follow these exercise guidelines as best they can. They also suggest completing muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

Speak to a Doctor
One of the best ways to cope with depression and fatigue is to talk to a doctor as soon as possible. While there are some coping methods that can provide relief, professional diagnosis, and treatment are essential for accessing the right treatment plan.

Your doctor will be able to assess whether or not your fatigue is related to another medical condition or if it’s a side effect of your antidepressant medication. If it turns out that medication is causing your fatigue, your doctor will help you switch to an alternative antidepressant. They may also recommend undergoing psychotherapy to help manage your condition.

Improve the Quality of your Sleep
Practicing healthy sleep habits can help you to alleviate symptoms of depression fatigue. Healthy sleep habits involve implementing certain daily practices that will work to promote quality sleep.

Healthy habits include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding eating large meals close to bedtime
  • Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day
  • Limiting screen-time in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Limiting naps throughout the day
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime
  • Keeping laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic devices outside the bedroom
  • Eat a Balanced Diet
  • Poor appetite and low motivation can make it challenging to eat healthy foods. However, a significant intake of sugary and processed foods can make depression and fatigue symptoms much worse.

Try to eat foods associated with increased energy levels and regulating mood as this will help reduce your fatigue. Some of the best foods to eat include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Green tea
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Whole grains

Foods to be avoided or ate in moderation include:

  • Processed foods
  • Foods or drinks with added sugars
  • Foods with saturated fats
  • Red meat
  • Processed meats
  • Processed carbohydrates

The best foods you can eat are rich in antioxidants as these can help boost your physical health and reduce your risk of depression.

Treat Depression Fatigue with Citron Hennessey Therapy

If you are experiencing fatigue linked to depression, you should talk to your doctor immediately. If your fatigue remains untreated, it can lead to further complications, including withdrawal from social commitments and work responsibilities.

Doctors can help to treat fatigue and depression. They can also advise on lifestyle changes that should help to alleviate your symptoms. Our team of professional therapists is devoted to assisting people in managing depression and related symptoms. As a result, we also offer some of the best therapists for anxiety as well as New York psychotherapists that can treat a variety of mental health conditions.

Contact us to find local depression therapists in NYC.

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