What is fatigue?
Fatigue is such a common complaint. It is one of those symptoms which is too often not getting proper attention.
Everyone has, from time to time, felt overtired. Feeling temporarily fatigued after working too hard for too long is easy to understand and typically resolved with getting proper rest. Most people know what to do about that kind of fatigue.
I want to discuss a different kind of fatigue — that unrelenting exhaustion, that “I’m so tired I could cry” kind of tiredness. I’m talking about the kind of fatigue which isn’t resolved by rest alone. That weariness which has developed over time and seems to sap your energy, your motivation, your concentration. The kind which has got you disconnecting for the world around you and has got you thinking that you are “not fit for human consumption.”
Fatigue has so many causes.
There are many lifestyle factors contributing to fatigue, such as the adverse effects of alcohol, drugs and certain over the counter medications such as allergy medications or cold remedies. Too much physical exertion or, conversely, a lack of exercise are also common causes. The better understood cause of fatigue is, of course, is lack of sleep or a lack of recuperative sleep. Or then again maybe a lack of quality sleep is not that well understood. With our frenetic schedules today we have created a problem by neglecting the need for good sleep hygiene.
A great many health conditions also present with fatigue as one of their symptoms. I won’t list them all. I will draw your attention to the fact that sometimes we attribute fatigue to one cause and we might have missed the culprit, or more likely the combination of culprits.
Another thing to consider when assessing fatigue is that ironically, some of the medications used to treat certain medical conditions cause some fatigue. The intensity of this undesired effect varies widely from person to person. That’s why it is worthwhile to find out if a smaller dose or a change of medication is indicated for you. Going though life feeling fatigued all the time is not ok.
Being a Nurse Practitioner with a practice focussed on mental health and addiction problems, I cannot talk about fatigue without including the fact that many mental health problems present with fatigue. If you’ve experienced grief before, you’ll remember that bone deep fatigue. People who suffer with depression also experience fatigue. So do those with PTSD and anxiety disorders. Many of my patients recovering from opioid addiction started out with and continue to struggle with chronic pain. Chronic pain is almost always accompanied by fatigue.
Why am I writing about this? I know what it’s like. Fatigue is a difficult thing to tackle but I’m a puzzle solver. One of my former, long time patients called me her “health detective.” I hate knowing that many people are out there slugging their way through life feeling tired all the time. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. If you are tired of being tired and you’d like some help figuring out your fatigue puzzle, reach out. I’m here for you.