Symptoms of Depression Series: Fatigue

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There are many symptoms of depression and we have talked about a couple of them in depth including hopelessness and feeling numb.   Today we are going to talk about the symptom of fatigue. I am sure many of us have felt that weariness which leaves us lifeless and depleted. We are going to talk about what fatigue feels like, possible causes and what we can do when fatigue interferes with our day to day functioning.

What does it feel like to suffer from depression fatigue?

The thing that some people might not get about depression is that it takes such a physical toll on our body. If you read the many definitions of the word "depressed" even the meanings which are unrelated to mood use adjectives like "flattened," "pressed down" or "lowered to sink." These can also accurately describe the feelings of fatigue one can get from depression. When I am depressed sometimes I feel that I am being pulled low to the ground. My posture slumps. My chest feels heavy and weighted. My movements are slow and purposeless. I don't feel like doing anything. I don't want to go anywhere. I just want to sit and do nothing or sleep. But sleep doesn't re-energize. It is merely a way to escape conscious thought and emotion. One wakes up tired and sometimes more depressed in the morning. The fatigue of depression makes every action, every daily chore or responsibility feel as though it takes a tremendous amount of energy that you don't have.

Whether you are at home or at work, you wonder, "Am I going to make it through this day?" This is what the depression related fatigue feels like for me. What does it feel like for you?

What causes the depression symptom of fatigue?

Here is the tricky thing about fatigue with depression-which came first? It is well known that feeling fatigued can also make you feel depressed. And if you are depressed you may feel fatigued as a result. It is like that chicken or the egg conundrum. There are biological explanations given for the fatigue associated with depression and one relates to an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A, or MAO-A.   According to the scientific literature, this enzyme destroys neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine which are all necessary to regulate both mood and energy levels. MAO-A levels are reportedly too high in persons suffering from depression and this causes the other neurotransmitters to be low. Thus, people with depression may feel abnormally tired as a result.

There is other research which shows an association between depression and fatigue. In a study published in a 2004 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine   researchers found that depression sufferers were more than four times as likely to develop unexplained fatigue. And they also found that the reverse is also true that those who suffer from fatigue are nearly three times as likely to become depressed. So it is clear that one of the risk factors for having depression is that you may also suffer from fatigue.

What can be done to combat the fatigue which quite often accompanies depression?

  • The first thing I would recommend is that you go see your general practitioner and get a good physical. You may not just be dealing with depression as there are many medical conditions which can cause feelings of fatigue. Some of these conditions include: Hypothyroidism, heart disease, diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis to name a few. I would also strongly suggest that you get your vitamin levels checked including Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D. If you are deficient in these vitamins, this too can cause low energy levels.

  • Make sure that you are getting a good restful sleep each night. One of the other symptoms of depression can be sleep problems of either sleeping too much or too little. Any imbalance in the amount of sleep you get can definitely cause you to feel tired the next day. Some people may have more serious sleep issues such as sleep apnea where you have trouble breathing during sleep. You can read more about sleep and depression on Health Central's My Sleep Central.   To help me get to sleep I use a supplement called Melatonin.

  • I know you may not want to hear this as you have surely heard it before but exercise. You may not feel like it but exercise will give you more energy and also help you to sleep better. Here is an article you may want to read, "Fending off Depression Through Exercise."

  • You may want to try a supplement. Rhodiola Rosea or L-Carnitine are supplements reported to increase your energy levels. As with any supplements you want to check with your doctor first to make sure of any possible interactions with your other medications. Vitamin B-12 is energizing as well as Vitamin D.

  • Limit your stressors. Stress sometimes goes hand in hand with depression and when we experience multiple stressors during the day this can zap our energy. You can learn more about stress and how to decrease it over on our anxiety site.

Now it is your turn. How does fatigue interfere with your daily functioning? What does fatigue feel like for you? Do you have any strategies or suggestions for how to combat fatigue caused by depression? If so we want to hear them. Your comment may be the one to change someone's life today. You never know. So please do share your thoughts and stories with us. We want to hear from you