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How Tired Is Too Tired?

Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue

Symptoms: Sadness, feeling hopeless, worthless, and helpless, fatigue

Sometimes, depression or anxiety is at the root of chronic fatigue. Depression affects twice as many women as men and often runs in families. It commonly begins between the ages of 15 and 30.

Women can get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter, with feelings of fatigue and sadness. Major depression is also one part of bipolar disorder.

With depression, you might be in a depressed mood most of the day. You may have little interest in normal activities. Along with feelings of fatigue, you may eat too much or too little, over- or under-sleep, feel hopeless and worthless, and have other serious symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms may include:

  • agitation
  • difficulty sleeping
  • excessive worrying
  • feeling "on alert" most of the time
  • feeling of impending doom
  • nervousness

If you are depressed or have regular symptoms of anxiety, talk to your doctor and get a physical exam. If there is no physical cause for the depression or anxiety, your doctor may prescribe medication. Or your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a psychological evaluation.

Although the specific causes of depression and/or anxiety are unclear, these are highly treatable medical problems. Medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two can help relieve symptoms. 

Fibromyalgia and Fatigue

Symptoms: Chronic fatigue, deep muscle pain, painful tender points, sleep problems, anxiety, depression

Fibromyalgia is one of the more common causes of chronic fatigue and musculoskeletal pain, especially in women. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are considered separate but related disorders. They share a common symptom -- severe fatigue that greatly interferes with people's lives.

With fibromyalgia, you may feel that no matter how long you sleep, it's never restful. And you may feel as if you are always fatigued during daytime hours. Your sleep may be interrupted by frequent waking. Yet, you may not remember any sleep disruptions the next day. Some people with fibromyalgia live in a constant 'fibro fog' -- a hazy, mental feeling that makes it difficult to concentrate.

Constant daytime fatigue with fibromyalgia often results in diminished exercise. That causes a decline in physical fitness. It can also cause mood-related problems. The best way to offset these effects is to try to exercise more. Exercise has a tremendous beneficial effect on sleep, mood, and fatigue.

If you do try swimming (or any moderate exercise) to ease fatigue, start slowly. As you become accustomed to the added physical activity, you can increase your time in the pool or gym. Set up a regular time for exercise, but watch overdoing it to avoid added fatigue.

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