Depression and Fatigue: Why It Happens and How to Cope (2022)

Tired. Low energy. Exhausted. Lethargic. These are some of the ways depression might make you feel.

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Of the many feelings depression can cause, fatigue is one of the most common. Fatigue occurs in over 90% of people who are experiencing depression.

If you’re currently experiencing depression fatigue, know that millions of people are in a similar situation. It may not feel this way, but you’re far from alone.

Aside from fatigue, depression is often associated with:

  • persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • hopelessness
  • a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy

But the good news is that there are strategies for managing your feelings of exhaustion and low energy.

Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between depression and fatigue. What, exactly, is the link?

There’s no single answer to this question — depression and fatigue are associated in many ways. Depression might directly cause fatigue, but it also has indirect effects on our sleep, diet, and exercise that can drain us of energy.

Depression can cause you to feel low-energy in many ways:

  • It may make it more difficult to sleep.
  • It can affect your eating habits.
  • It can disrupt your exercise or workout routines.
  • It can cause general stress in your life.
  • Cutting back on pleasurable activities can increase fatigue and lower motivation.

When depression takes away the fun activities and lowers your motivation, this creates a vicious cycle of depression. It can be hard to break, but breaking it is possible — especially using behavioral activation (which we’ll discuss below).

Again, getting a solid understanding of your own experience of depression fatigue is a great first step in managing it. Here’s a more in-depth look at the ways depression may be causing your fatigue:

(Video) Burn Out to Brilliance. Recovery from Chronic Fatigue | Linda Jones | TEDxBirminghamCityUniversity

You don’t sleep as well

Depression may be disrupting your sleeping patterns in some way. About 80% of people with depression, for example, experience insomnia.

But it’s not just a lack of sleep that causes tiredness. Oversleeping, which is also a common symptom of depression, can cause similar feelings of fatigue over a period of time.

These kinds of sleep irregularities are among the biggest causes of fatigue in those who experience depression.

Depression affects your diet

When you’re feeling depressed, you might have less of an appetite, skip meals, or have an overwhelming desire for sweet foods that have less nutritional value.

Large quantities of fat and sugar can make you feel groggy and tired.

Nutritious foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide healthy antioxidants and nutrients with energy-boosting effects — and these are the foods that we tend to put to aside when depression arises.

It’s harder to exercise when you’re depressed

Exercise is a great source of energy, but feelings of depression might make it harder for you to want to work out on a regular basis. Depression can cause you to experience a lack of motivation in many aspects of life, and this can channel into a lack of desire to exercise.

But don’t think that this lack of exercise is because of laziness. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Summoning the motivation to exercise is already hard enough. But feelings like reduced self-esteem and pessimism are specific depressive attitudes that research suggests may be interfering with your exercise.

It’s completely understandable that you might not be working out as much as you used to or would like to. Recognizing that these thought patterns are a result of depression means you’re better equipped to deal with the challenge of motivating yourself to exercise.

Depression is stressful

Keep in mind that depression can increase chronic stress, and stress can lead to depression. No matter which one occurred first, they’re closely related. Depression-linked stress can lead to a loss of energy and exhaustion.

An inability to manage stress can play a major role in developing and maintaining depression.

An overactive amygdala, which is the part of the brain associated with anxiety, stress, and fear, creates a cognitive (thinking) bias towards interpreting the world and the self negatively. These are feelings associated with depression.

Simply put, depression-related stress might be creating overactivity in your brain that’s making you feel drained.

(Video) Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Somewhere between 80 and 90% of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.

Almost all people who choose to treat their depression gain some relief from their symptoms.

What are my options?

Since depression is at the core of your depression fatigue, it’s important to look into ways that you might want to treat your mental health above anything else.

There are many options, and each type of treatment can offer a different approach in helping you to deal with the challenges (like fatigue) that come as a result of your feelings of depression.

Here are two main treatment options to consider:

Therapy

Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is an umbrella term for many therapeutic methods.

The following therapies all seek to treat depression, but do so in distinct ways:

Of course, therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all. Don’t be discouraged if one or even a few modes of therapy don’t work for you. It may take time for you to find the therapy and therapist that are most effective in your day-to-day life.

With patience and commitment, you’ll likely see the benefits of therapy.

Medication

If you’re experiencing ongoing depression, you may want to consider medication for it. Antidepressants are the most common medication prescribed to people who experience depression.

To ensure your safety, a doctor will assess a variety of factors before prescribing an antidepressant. These factors include your:

(Video) Lift Depression With These 3 Prescriptions- Without-Pills | Susan Heitler | TEDxWilmington

  • medical history
  • personal history
  • family history
  • possible co-existing mental health conditions

If a doctor thinks antidepressants could be right for you, you’ll discuss receiving a prescription. It usually takes over a month to begin experiencing the effects of antidepressants.

While this may seem like a bit of a process, medication can be effective in treating depression. It’s an option to consider, even while going to therapy or implementing different management habits in your everyday life at the same time.

Because treating depression is a journey with no exact timeframe, it can be helpful for you to consider ways to directly address your depression fatigue in the meantime.

Here are some of the ways that you might consider alleviating feelings of low-energy and exhaustion:

Prioritize getting good sleep

Since depression may be causing you to have disordered sleeping habits, it can be helpful to develop better sleep habits.

“Sleep hygiene” pretty much just means “good sleeping habits.” Here are some ways of implementing sleep hygiene:

  • Be consistent with sleep and wake times. Try going to bed at roughly the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. This way, your body becomes accustomed to a certain routine that optimizes healthy sleeping.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. You can experiment with different room temperatures or try out a white noise machine. With patience, you might discover the best room environment to promote sleep.
  • Remove TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom. This may seem like an impossible task sometimes, but avoiding harsh blue light will help you fall asleep faster.

Try eating a few more nutritious foods

Depression disrupts eating habits, which in turn can cause feelings of fatigue. Like implementing better sleeping habits, developing a more nutrient-rich diet can improve fatigue and exhaustion.

Some foods might help with depression, and a balanced diet helps to boost energy. This typically includes a range of unrefined carbs, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on veggies, whole grains, and healthy oils.

Aside from just the types of food you should aim to eat, it also might be better to eat small meals and snacks every few hours than three large meals a day. More frequent eating, as opposed to a food overload in a few sittings, may result in more sustained fuel for your body.

Make an effort to connect with loved ones

It’s not always easy to reach out, but it’s important to have a support system. Because depression can cause you to feel isolated or alone, it can be especially comforting to connect with loved ones who care about you.

Practice self-care

As cliché as it might sound, self-care is of the utmost importance when addressing depression fatigue.

(Video) How Depression Affects The Brain - Yale Medicine Explains

Remember to prioritize your own needs whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to take personal mental breaks or time-outs when you really need to. Pay better attention to how you talk to yourself. Learn to recognize and heal your relationship with yourself.

Aim to exercise more, and start small if you need to

Though depressive attitudes may make it harder to work out, implementing an exercise routine that’s realistic and attainable in your everyday life can ease depression fatigue.

Exercise has the added benefit of improving your sleep, too.

It’s OK to start small — even just walking for 30 minutes a day will likely boost your energy and mood. Exercise is truly an organic and reliable way to help address your depression fatigue.

Think about new hobbies

Some hobbies can help you express your emotions in a healthy and cathartic way. Creative expression, such as journaling, painting, drawing, or instrument playing, may be useful hobbies to take up as a way of channeling and managing your depression.

By incorporating certain self-healing hobbies in your routine, you may begin to alleviate your feelings of depression and fatigue.

Try increasing your activities

It can be hard to find the motivation to do pretty much anything when you’re depressed. And when your activity level drops, you might feel even less motivated and more tired. This leads to a vicious cycle.

With physical tiredness, you need to rest. But with depression, it’s the opposite. Sleeping and sitting around often make you feel more tired and also gives you time to sit with depressive thoughts, which can make you feel worse.

One way to break this cycle is to start gently increasing your activities. This is a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) technique known as behavioral activation. The theory is that doing things will help give you the energy to do more things.

Again, start small, and prioritize manageable, reasonable activities that bring some enjoyment, or activities that provide a sense of achievement.

Here are some ideas for gentle activities to try:

  • Go for a small walk, and smell the flowers that you pass on the way.
  • Watch birds in your local park.
  • Make a playlist of upbeat music.
  • Move your body in a way that feels good.
  • Research a topic that you’re interested in.
  • Do a jigsaw or a crossword puzzle.
  • Make a warm drink.
  • Light a scented candle.
  • Rewatch a favorite movie.
  • Have a spontaneous picnic.

For more ideas and for a worksheet to help you monitor your activities and mood changes, you can check out the Behavioural Strategies for Managing Depression worksheet from the Center for Clinical Interventions in Australia.

Recap

(Video) This could be why you're depressed or anxious | Johann Hari

Depression and fatigue are closely related. Most people who experience depression also report feeling fatigue. So if you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone.

After recognizing this, you may want further information and tips about depression and fatigue. For more support, you can read more here at Psych Central or visit:

FAQs

How do I cope with fatigue? ›

Self-help tips to fight tiredness
  1. Eat often to beat tiredness. ...
  2. Get moving. ...
  3. Lose weight to gain energy. ...
  4. Sleep well. ...
  5. Reduce stress to boost energy. ...
  6. Talking therapy beats fatigue. ...
  7. Cut out caffeine. ...
  8. Drink less alcohol.

What causes fatigue and tiredness? ›

Most of the time fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines, particularly lack of exercise. It's also commonly related to depression. On occasion, fatigue is a symptom of other underlying conditions that require medical treatment.

What is the difference between fatigue and depression? ›

The main difference between these conditions is that chronic fatigue syndrome is primarily a physical disorder while depression is a mental health disorder. There can be some overlap between the two. Symptoms of depression can include: continuous feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness.

Is fatigue a side effect of depression? ›

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of depression. There can be physical effects (lack of energy), emotional effects (apathy), and cognitive effects (difficulty concentrating).

What are 3 types of fatigue? ›

There are three types of fatigue: transient, cumulative, and circadian: Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days.

What is the difference between fatigue and tired? ›

Medically speaking, tiredness happens to everyone -- it's an expected feeling after certain activities or at the end of the day. Usually, you know why you're tired, and a good night's sleep solves the problem. Fatigue is a daily lack of energy; unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness not relieved by sleep.

How do you beat chronic fatigue? ›

12 Diet Hacks to Reduce Chronic Fatigue
  1. Ditch inflammatory foods. ...
  2. Stay hydrated. ...
  3. Keep a food and symptom journal. ...
  4. Don't cut it all out. ...
  5. But do experiment with your diet. ...
  6. Limit your caffeine intake. ...
  7. Try smaller, more frequent meals. ...
  8. Pay attention to sugar.

Which foods cause fatigue? ›

Examples of foods that could increase fatigue throughout the day include:
  • sugary foods, including syrup and honey.
  • white bread.
  • baked goods.
  • high caffeine drinks.
  • heavily processed foods, such as potato chips.

What does fatigue feel like? ›

Fatigue is a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness and can be physical, mental or a combination of both. It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life.

Why do I have no energy or motivation to do anything? ›

Avolition is often a symptom of schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects how you think, feel, and act. It can also be a sign of severe depression or a side effect of certain medicines. If you don't get treatment, avolition can affect every part of your life, from your relationships to your job.

What are the most common causes of chronic fatigue? ›

Causes of ME/CFS
  • viral infections, such as glandular fever.
  • bacterial infections, such as pneumonia.
  • problems with the immune system.
  • a hormone imbalance.
  • your genes – ME/CFS seems to be more common in some families.

Does stress cause fatigue? ›

Decreased energy and insomnia

Prolonged stress can cause chronic fatigue and disruptions in sleep, which may result in decreased energy levels. For example, a recent study of more than 7,000 working adults found that fatigue was “significantly associated” with work-related stress ( 3 ).

Does anxiety cause fatigue? ›

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with anxiety, panic disorder, chronic stress, depression and other mental health disorders. Chronic anxiety leaves the body and mind in a constant state of tension and high alertness.

Is Chronic Fatigue a mental illness? ›

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a physical disorder, not a psychological illness, panel says - The Washington Post.

What Vitamin Helps fatigue? ›

Vitamin B12

Along with the other B vitamins, vitamin B12 helps transform the food you eat into energy that your cells can use. It also keeps your body's nerves and blood cells healthy and helps prevent a type of anemia that can make you weak and tired ( 22 ).

What is the best vitamin for tiredness? ›

The 5 Best Vitamins for Energy & Tiredness
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) ...
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) ...
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) ...
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) ...
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

What drink will give me energy? ›

Energy drinks that contain ingredients like green tea, coffee, and guarana can help provide a quick boost of energy when you're feeling fatigued. Sipping on an energy drink can help you feel more alert and may even improve your mood ( 4 ).

What are five 5 practical tips for avoiding fatigue? ›

Before you drive:
  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Avoid driving at night when your body will naturally want to sleep.
  • Arrange to share the driving.
  • Avoid long drives after work.
  • Plan to take regular breaks from driving (use rest areas)
  • Catch a cab or public transport instead.
  • Ask someone for a lift.
22 Jan 2015

What deficiency causes extreme fatigue? ›

Possible culprit: A vitamin or mineral deficiency

One possible reason for feeling tired, anxious, and weak is having low levels of iron, vitamin D, or B12. Many experts believe that a significant percentage of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D.

What is psychological fatigue? ›

Specifically, psychological fatigue is described as a subjective unpleasant symptom which incorporates the total body feeling, ranging from tiredness to exhaustion, creating an unrelenting overall condition which interferes with physical, cognitive, and emotional performance, as well as with individuals' ability to ...

How do you know if you are mentally exhausted? ›

Emotional symptoms related to mental exhaustion:
  1. Feeling a lack of interest in normal activities.
  2. A lack of motivation at work and in your personal life.
  3. A sense of languishing or lack of purpose in life.
  4. Moodiness and irritability.
  5. Getting easily annoyed with others.
  6. Cynicism, doubt, and pessimism.

When should I see a doctor about fatigue? ›

Call for an appointment with your doctor if your fatigue has persisted for two or more weeks despite making an effort to rest, reduce stress, choose a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.

What is classed as extreme fatigue? ›

When is fatigue considered extreme? There is no good criteria for assessing the level of fatigue — it depends on the person. However, most people know when their tiredness is more than a lack of sleep.

Does Vitamin D Help Chronic Fatigue? ›

The prevalence of low vitamin D is high in patients who present with fatigue and stable chronic medical conditions, if any. Normalization of vitamin D levels with ergocalciferol therapy significantly improves the severity of their fatigue symptoms.

What fruit can give you energy? ›

Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, may be a good energy boosting food when the body is craving something sweet.

What is the best thing to eat first thing in the morning? ›

While breakfast options abound, the best choices are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Many nutritious, healthy foods and drinks are also easy to prepare in the morning. These include fruit, whole grain toast, eggs, green tea, coffee, and protein shakes.

Do bananas cause fatigue? ›

Bananas. While bananas are highly nutritious, especially post-workout, their levels of tryptophan, potassium and magnesium all work together to relax our muscles and reduce anxiety. These results are beneficial for our wellbeing, but it can make us feel a bit tired if eaten in excess.

What medicine helps with lack of motivation? ›

Ritalin works by increasing the amount of dopamine released in the striatum, a key region in the brain related to motivation, action and cognition.

How do I wake up happy and motivated? ›

Bring back some morning motivation into your routine
  1. Exercise. ...
  2. Don't snooze. ...
  3. Set an alarm to something you enjoy. ...
  4. Turn your light on straight away. ...
  5. Dress in something you feel good in. ...
  6. Have a good breakfast. ...
  7. Music. ...
  8. Drink water.

Why am I feeling lazy and unmotivated? ›

There are scientifically proven reasons why you feel tired and unmotivated. We're all dealing with anxiety, stress, sadness, uncertainty, and helplessness—and we can't even rely on our normal routines for comfort.

What are the 4 types of fatigue? ›

She listed six types of fatigue: social, emotional, physical, pain, mental, and chronic illness.

Does chronic fatigue ever go away? ›

There is no cure or approved treatment for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). However, some symptoms can be treated or managed. Treating these symptoms might provide relief for some patients with ME/CFS but not others.

What doctor can diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome? ›

Doctors might refer patients to see a specialist, like a neurologist, rheumatologist, or a sleep specialist, to check for other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. These specialists might find other conditions that could be treated. Patients can have other conditions and still have ME/CFS.

What does fatigue feel like? ›

Fatigue is a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness and can be physical, mental or a combination of both. It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life.

What is the best vitamin for tiredness? ›

The 5 Best Vitamins for Energy & Tiredness
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) ...
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) ...
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) ...
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) ...
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

How do you beat chronic fatigue? ›

12 Diet Hacks to Reduce Chronic Fatigue
  1. Ditch inflammatory foods. ...
  2. Stay hydrated. ...
  3. Keep a food and symptom journal. ...
  4. Don't cut it all out. ...
  5. But do experiment with your diet. ...
  6. Limit your caffeine intake. ...
  7. Try smaller, more frequent meals. ...
  8. Pay attention to sugar.

How can you get B12 naturally? ›

To increase the amount of vitamin B12 in your diet, eat more of foods that contain it, such as:
  1. Beef, liver, and chicken.
  2. Fish and shellfish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish, and clams.
  3. Fortified breakfast cereal.
  4. Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  5. Eggs.
16 Dec 2020

What vitamins help with depression and fatigue? ›

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

How much B12 should I take daily for energy? ›

B12 for improved energy

However, B12 supplements have been found to improve energy levels in those who are deficient in this nutrient ( 17 ). One review recommended that those with vitamin B12 deficiency take 1 mg of vitamin B12 daily for a month, followed by a maintenance dose of 125–250 mcg per day ( 18 ).

What is the difference between tiredness and fatigue? ›

Medically speaking, tiredness happens to everyone -- it's an expected feeling after certain activities or at the end of the day. Usually, you know why you're tired, and a good night's sleep solves the problem. Fatigue is a daily lack of energy; unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness not relieved by sleep.

What illnesses can cause extreme fatigue? ›

In most cases, there's a reason for the fatigue. It might be allergic rhinitis, anemia, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease (COPD), a bacterial or viral infection, or some other health condition. If that's the case, then the long-term outlook is good.

How do you know if you are mentally exhausted? ›

Emotional symptoms related to mental exhaustion:
  1. Feeling a lack of interest in normal activities.
  2. A lack of motivation at work and in your personal life.
  3. A sense of languishing or lack of purpose in life.
  4. Moodiness and irritability.
  5. Getting easily annoyed with others.
  6. Cynicism, doubt, and pessimism.

What Vitamin gives the most energy? ›

Vitamin B12 along with B6 are best for energy. Almost every cell in the body uses B12. Besides helping form red blood cells, B12 converts fat and protein to energy. A B12 deficiency causes tiredness and anemia.

What foods do you find B12 in? ›

Sources of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products [5]. In addition, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified nutritional yeasts are readily available sources of vitamin B12 that have high bioavailability [12,13].

Does vitamin B12 give you more energy? ›

People who are concerned about their low level of energy should be advised that unless they already suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, there is no strong evidence to support the notion that taking large doses of vitamin B12 will increase their energy levels.

Does Vitamin D Help Chronic Fatigue? ›

The prevalence of low vitamin D is high in patients who present with fatigue and stable chronic medical conditions, if any. Normalization of vitamin D levels with ergocalciferol therapy significantly improves the severity of their fatigue symptoms.

What medication helps with energy? ›

Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and the mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) are also prescribed to treat fatigue.

Videos

1. What is depression? - Helen M. Farrell
(TED-Ed)
2. How stress affects your brain - Madhumita Murgia
(TED-Ed)
3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Persistent Fatigue
(Doc Snipes)
4. Depression and Sleep
(Psych Hub)
5. #Tired all the Time? Common Lifestyle and Health #Causes of Fatigue
(LetsGetChecked)
6. How to cope with anxiety | Olivia Remes | TEDxUHasselt
(TEDx Talks)

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